by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I recently felt frustrated by my efforts to practice social distancing and isolation to keep others safe when I looked around to see that many aren’t taking these same precautions.
Our community and country are divided on the issue of wearing face masks as a way to protect others from the risk of getting Covid-19.
There has been a striking difference between those who continue social distancing versus those opting for family holiday gatherings. There are dramatically differing political views and varied approaches to protecting others that stem from completely opposing perspectives. I noticed how this prompted my aggravation and how this could easily lead to becoming angry and stressed.
A friend pointed out that anger toward those who don’t take the pandemic seriously is a righteous kind of anger because it’s about justice and equal care for all. I agree.
But I also sometimes feel my anger toward those with opposing opinions about the pandemic risk treads a fine line toward my becoming disparaging and judgmental. This kind of negative thinking can harm your well-being because it causes stress. Stress causes mental and physical anguish.
As I continue praying about this during my daily Buddhist chanting routine, I’m awakened to the importance of forging respect for the life of every living being regardless of opposing ideologies. I work to steer my thoughts away from a ‘them versus us’ mentality.
As I let go of anything I have no control over, I release negative energy from my heart. I focus instead on what I can do; continue social distancing to protect my elder mother, myself, and others. I focus on how I can positively contribute to the situation. This change of heart helps me cope with my stress.
And it leads me to keep looking for a silver lining in pandemic life.
When I refocus my energy toward the positive within any situation, I become more capable of enduring difficulties with a more cheerful spirit. Doing this inner work is meaningful for me because when I feel better, I treat others better. When I can treat others better, we all feel better.
This long year of social distance and isolation has motivated my practice of gratitude. During this incredibly challenging year, I have learned to develop my sense of appreciation no matter what. I find that actively seeking things, people, and circumstances to appreciate is good for my mood and significantly impacts my day.
If we had gone through this pandemic crisis 20 years ago, the impact of our isolation would have been so much worse. I’m thankful this pandemic didn’t happen until 2020 because now we have the fortune of technology as a way to connect.
Fuel For Deeper Spiritual Practice
Another thing about this quarantine life that I am grateful for is that the stress of this situation has fueled my Buddhist practice of daily chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I’ve begun using my spiritual practice to go inward for deeper work, reflection, and rejuvenation.
Whether you use prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, reading, or a combination of these, carving out spiritual time for yourself has a positive impact. Self-care effort is an antidote to the frenzied habit of being constantly busy. It also counters the negative aspects of our excessive social media activities.
Center Yourself On Positivity
Speaking of gratitude, another thing that helps me navigate the challenges of pandemic life is to list three things I appreciate each morning and again each evening. This practice helps me center myself on positivity, regardless of what’s happening around me or in the world. It also raises my life state no matter what my obstacles may be.
Use Restrictions As Creative Fuel
I’m learning to put a favorable twist on social restrictions, too. Limitations push me to look for a new way to do things outside my typical habits or routine. These challenges provide an opportunity to spark innovative thinking, which research proves is good for mind, body, and spirit.
We can’t visit our elders or family members because we don’t want to risk getting or spreading the Covid-19 virus. This constraint has prompted us to find other ways to connect, like visiting elder relatives through the window while using a phone call to speak. When I took Mom to visit my nearly 90-year-old aunt, we stood outside her window singing Merry Christmas via a phone call to my cousin, who was inside with my aunt.
The quarantine has also prompted us to use FaceTime and Zoom for family holiday activities, write holiday cards and letters, and send old-fashioned thank you cards. The calm of writing holiday cards and thank-you letters and the joy we send through these messages bring us a boost in our mood, too.
Transform Old Traditions With A New Approach
These social barriers have provided us with new ways to revisit nostalgic traditions like driving separately to see holiday light decorations while social distancing to protect those at risk. Or parking in front of holiday light displays while chatting with loved ones by phone or FaceTime to share the moment.
Since our family opted for a family Zoom instead of a face-to-face gathering on Christmas, I created videos and photos of my elder Mom’s gift-receiving process. I posted these photos and videos on Google drive for the rest of my family to enjoy. You could do the same or upload the videos and photos onto another cloud service like Amazon, YouTube, or Vimeo! This frees us to focus on heart-to-heart connections during our family Zoom without the distraction of opening holiday gifts.
Online videos and photos can become treasured collections, along with recording legacy stories by your elders for future preservation. Create a digital movie that may be shared online with a simple link (and stored on an external hard drive for use during a future event once the pandemic is behind us).
More Nature Connection
Pandemic 2020 has motivated my nature connection. Nature immersion has become an even more meaningful treasure as well as spiritual and physical replenishment. Plus, it’s free!
My nature walks always inspire my creativity. I often take nature photos and create my products from these, along with positive affirmation statements. I've also written a photo essay series featuring my nature photos here. My nature visits have inspired me to create nature calendars. You can find these and many more of my nature-inspired products here. Nature inspires me to write poetry, blogs, and even dabble in a bit of painting and seasonal projects like leaf art!
Boredom Propels Movement!
The lack of structure from quarantine life has brought boredom, but this has sparked a greater interest in getting more exercise. Exercise outdoors in secluded parks and neighborhoods and even online for changing it up on rainy, snowy, cold days has broken up the boredom of seeing the same walls through work and personal life.
The benefits of exercise decrease stress and regulate hormonal balance. Exercise lowers stress hormone production and boosts physical, mental, and creative energy. So, thank you, Pandemic 2020, for the motivation to get up and move!
Games For Staying Sharp & Quality Downtime
Another perk of pandemic life has been finding new things to keep us both social and cognitively sharp. Game playing has become a way for more quality-based social connection for my elder Mom and myself during this shutdown. As an online business owner, games have also forced me to take much-needed technology and social media breaks and get some quality downtime.
Learning new games pushes us to develop our cognitive skills and grow new neurological pathways. Isn't this way better than becoming a useless couch potato?
I hope these ideas have given you something to appreciate in this challenging year. Leave a comment letting me know. Explore and offer your answers to these questions:
What has the pandemic caused you to appreciate?
What advice do you have for someone to see the silver lining in the pandemic?
How can you use the difficulty of pandemic life as fuel for creativity, gratitude, or connection?
What ideas do you have to improve your quarantine brain?
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How To Live A Life of Joyful Creativity Part 2 | YourCreativeChord Podcast
How To Live A Life of Joyful Creativity: An Interview with Ryan Hargrove On Creative Process Part 1 | YourCreativeChord Podcast
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MY NATURE-INSPIRED PHOTO ESSAY SERIES:
Keep Looking For Moments Like These To Celebrate & Appreciate
How To Use Difficulties To Inspire Appreciation & Creativity
What Kind Of Intent Is In Our Heart?
How To Use Nature To Reinvigorate Your Spirit
How To Nurture Yourself For A Positive Impact On Your World
How To Open Your Heart To Find Beauty Within Suffering & Loss
How Do You Find Hope To Create Positive Value?
Belief In Your Own Creative Vision
How To Connect To Ignite Positive Power
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I had a great discussion (via the Zoom conferencing app) with friends recently that encouraged me. They reminded me that if I want to change my environment, I must first change my heart.
This year has challenged the best of us; pandemic restrictions and their toll on wellness, our nation’s clear divisiveness, and the economic and physical suffering for our entire planet have brought the reality of our shared troubles in this world front and center.
My discussion with friends illuminated my need for pausing to uncover what this situation is teaching me and how it can serve me to change something in my life, my perspective, and my actions. Taking responsibility is a strong catalyst for making things go more smoothly and improving or finding meaning in a problem.
We shared how our daily rhythm with self-care and personal growth efforts help us see solutions more readily when facing turmoil.
Our world mirrors us. It’s sending a clear signal we need more effort toward growing ourselves, overcoming our negative impulses, and taking care of our mind, body, and spirit. Taking care of ourselves allows us to be better for those we care about and build peaceful, prosperous communities.
A GOOD ENDING LEADS TO A GOOD START
How we end things this year will lead to what kind of start we’ll have in the new year. We cannot avoid the sufferings of our world. Burying our hearts and trying to ignore or deny the fierceness of our collective challenges creates nothing.
But we can make the causes for future victory and look forward to the new season of spring by facing ourselves and our challenges with courage and compassion. Doing this with perseverance brings hope into our hearts.
BEGIN WITH A SMALL SHIFT
It can happen with a seemingly small, insignificant shift in our hearts.
Facing relationship issues or communication problems?
Redirecting my heart toward finding an outcome best for everyone—can help move the dialogue in a more positive direction. When we strive to put aside our ego and our feelings for the greater good, a miracle happens: we create a bridge!
LOOK FOR A NEW WAY
In this weird holiday season when many of us are unable to hug our loved ones, especially heart-wrenching for our elders, those grieving a loss, and those struck with Covid-19, we’re given a beautiful opportunity to find the value and potential in this situation.
Creative solutions arise from limitations and even problems. Humans are innately creative. This skill or process is not reserved exclusively for artists. We each have the power within us to look outside the box to find a new way or a new perspective for this unique moment in history. This practice of gratitude lifts the heavy heart and brings its own reward.
When we can’t see eye to eye with someone, for example, we have the chance to look for the best in that person as valuable and good, instead of equating the worth of that person with their behavior in the moment or argument.
Difficulties—again—are mirroring exactly that we need to change something in our lives for the better. And to use them as a springboard with that intent.
REMEMBER THE KEY TO VICTORY
The point is that you and I can transform anything. Don’t get discouraged by this year’s depth of problems for us and the rest of the world. Instead, remember that how we face each moment right now becomes the cause for the seeds of our bright future.
Remember that the key to any struggle is perseverance. Let’s look to the new year of 2021 by first taking care of our spiritual wellness. Then, let’s set new goals and move forward toward our new victory.
Transforming our hearts first will lead us to improve ourselves, the situation, and encourage those around us to find hope. Our ability to win over our struggles becomes our mission for empowering others to do the same.
During this pandemic holiday season, I will be taking care of myself including mind, body, and soul. I'll be planning for the 2021 new year.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you.
This week, some of my group members gave video presentations about grief support during the holidays. Click here to join the group and see these comforting tips.
COMING SOON: Watch this space for new ebooks, products and courses for nurturing creativity and inspiration!
In my INSPIRATION blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.