Mental Health

Why I’m scheduling joy into my life – and how you can too

Thelma Mensah on scheduling joy and why it’s important to have something to look forward to through midlife and beyond.  

What have you done for you lately? No, seriously. Take a couple of seconds to pause and process that thought. I’m not talking about holidays with your family, partner, or things you do with your children. I’m talking about joyous things for yourself that you’ve planned, scheduled, and put in your self-care toolkit. That stuff.

The thing about us midlife women is that, for the most part, we’re so busy catering to everyone else’s needs that we often neglect our own. That’s a problem because of all the happiness we’re potentially missing out on for ourselves.

One lesson that I learned from Covid is that life is unpredictable and every day should be celebrated. I drastically had to change my mindset after the pandemic, experiencing the death of my mother and cousin who both died within months of each other. This was quickly followed by my family arguing over my mother’s estate, which led me to completely cutting off all contact from my family of origin.

I can say with absolute certainty that it’s one of the most traumatic things I have ever been through. I am better now, but the trauma will never fully leave me, and my body lets me know that every day. This is why I’m a massive advocate of healing by bringing more good vibes into my life and you can do the same.

How to schedule in joy

The first thing you need to do when scheduling joy is to get your mind right. Months of therapy have taught me to drop the guilt around putting my feelings and wellbeing first. Another was for me to acknowledge that none of the things that happened to me in the past were my fault – hurt people, hurt people. I had to bring more joy into my life to counter the dark days from my trauma.

In the New York best-selling book, The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin cites creating rituals that support your happiness goals as one of the top 10 lessons to cultivating happiness and joy.

“You need to establish routines that support your happiness,” she says, adding that daily habits can provide structure, consistency, and a sense of purpose. It’s something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

How I found time for more joy

I started my joyful journey by carving out time for small things like going for walks. I live by water and the scenery is lovely – why would I not take advantage of that? Pitching up to my favourite spot that faces the river, I put on my headphones, listen to a podcast and let the world go by.

Another thing I like to do is plan a good date with my friends or sometimes I go solo. I am a big foodie, so will plan a trip to a nice restaurant or farmers market weeks in advance. I love the fact that I have something to look forward to. It gives me time to sort out childcare and save up if it’s somewhere really fancy.

Planning joy might feel forced at first, especially if you’re somebody that rarely plans things for themselves or does not feel worthy. I am here to tell you that, once you start to prioritise yourself and practice healthy rituals, your mind, body and soul will thank you. Once you let yourself savour all the feelings from those amazing experiences, not only will it become second nature to put them in your planner, but you’ll start to wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. They don’t have to be big things either. Do what works for you.

Why scheduling joy matters

Mental health should be a non-negotiable priority for midlife women. A survey of 2,000 women commissioned by the House of Commons women and equalities select committee inquiry into menopause at work last year found 69% reported feeling anxious or depressed – not to clinical levels, but enough to reduce concentration and confidence in their workplace.

This is why, for midlife women (and particularly those transitioning through menopause), the need to take extra good care of ourselves is huge.

Ageing parents, bereavement, empty nesters and not being in control of our ever-fluctuating hormones can play havoc on our wellbeing.

Having systems in place that can help mitigate those issues will serve us well in the long-term. Midlife is a time for practising radical self-care – revaluation, and ridding ourselves of things that no longer serve us is paramount during this phase.

We can’t be passive about bringing joy into our lives either – we need to be intentional about it. It all starts with acting the way we want to feel. Ask yourself what you can do right here, right now to start scheduling joy.

Making time for hobbies, the things that we really enjoy, is key. And remembering to enjoy those moments – being fully engaged and invested in our wellness. This is a big one for me. My mum used to say ‘don’t put off the things you have always wanted to do’.

Make time for YOU. Only you can start that process now. Take a clean sheet of paper and jot down at least three things that bring you joy. Put them in your diary and give yourself a pat on the back for completing your first challenge into wonderful world of scheduling joy. You might be amazed what follows!

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