Ten Ways to Create Joy Without Going Anywhere

For hundreds of days out of the 3 years I had ME/CFSa debilitating neurological and metabolic condition, I lacked the cellular strength to walk outside my house. I originally wrote this post with people with moderate to severe ME/CFS in mind and those recovering from a post-exertional crash.

However, now that all of us are hunkered down at home, I hope this post can be helpful to anyone looking to have a good time without going anywhere.

1. 10-minute happy phone calls

Reach out to your loved ones and schedule time to chat with them for 10 minutes on the phone this week.

Lay down some rules: No disease talk, no politics, no intense drama.  

Talk about: Hypothetical adventures in 2021, your love life, share ideas for creating fun at home, talk about your favorite memories together.

The “10-minute phone call” helps avoid any pressure on the other person, can help protect your energy, and is something for both parties to look forward to. I got this idea from my new friend Adriane, on the road to recovering her health.

For those who don’t currently have the strength to hold your phone while you FaceTime: get a phone stand, stand your phone up in a mason jar, FaceTime through your laptop, or just do a voice-call on speaker with your phone next to you.

2. Read or listen to a good book

I enjoy funny books, educational books, self-help books, and spiritual books. Here are some of my current favorites.

Funny – Less by Sean Arthur Greer (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

Educational – Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (there are a some disturbing parts of this book, but I enjoyed it overall and learned a lot)

Self-Help – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson

Spiritual Books – The Vortex: Where The Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships by Abraham Hicks, as well as The Energy Codes by Dr. Sue Morter, and last but not least The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

3. Watch a feel-good movie or TV show

My taste in TV has completely changed after realizing the effect it was having on my limbic system, the part of our brain that regulates our fight-or-flight response.

I no longer watch the news or shows like The Handmaid’s Tale. Instead, my taste is much more cheesy, and I have no intention to go back, for the sake of my brain.

Some of my favorite shows include Schitt’s Creek (featured in the tweet below), Fresh of The Boat, and Parks and Rec. I’ve recently gotten into the Golden Girls, a show about single grandmas in the late 1980s who were way ahead of their time. I also enjoy a good nature documentary or house remodel show on occasion.

Two of my favorite feel-good movies that I’ve recently enjoyed are The 100-Foot Journey and Blinded by The Light. 

What are some of your favorite feel good shows and movies?

4. Write about what (who) you’re grateful for

This is something I do every morning. For me, it’s the people who love me. It got me through many difficult days and has been grounding for all the good days. 

5. Go through old photo albums and remember the happy moments 

If you don’t have many, consider asking family to scan old photos and email them to you if that’s an option.

kindergarten pic

There’s me on my first day of school. My dad every Friday emails “Friday favorite family photos.” Last year he did “Dad quote of the week.” I’m going to make that its own post. There are some gems.

6. Plan an imaginary vacation (or recollect a favorite adventure)

I’ll dream up an imaginary vacation set in the near future. I’ll feel the warmth of the sun and the gentle ocean breeze and imagine how wonderful my body is feeling. I’ve gone paddle-boarding at sunset many times, I’ve skipped on the hillside in the Alps like Maria in The Sound of Music, I’ve gone on breathtaking safaris, and have danced the night away at a tiki bar on an island with my best friends  all in my mind.

Making happy visualizations come to life in my imagination and reliving favorite memories (I’ll often speak them aloud) has been beneficial to my health recovery by helping build positive neural pathways. It’s one part of a brain neuroplasticity program that has been key for my recovery (among other things), which I began after addressing my environmental healing blockers.

It’s a fun exercise. However, I’ve found that when I’m stressed, it’s less easy to “go there” to my happy place. That’s why I started to record my imaginary health visions, so I can replay them if needed (like now).

If you have a spouse, roommate, partner, parent, or children who live with you, it’s twice as fun to imagine adventures with others. Let your imaginations run free!

7. Order funny cards and send them to people you love

Funny Keanu Thinking of You Card

Coming soon to someone I love.

8. Listen to relaxing, empowering, and uplifting music (and dance, for those who can)

Relaxing classical. Robyn. Bruce Springsteen. Frank Sinatra. I do it my way. I found classical music to be supportive of my healing during my recovery journey, and find it very calming now during this chaotic time.

Now that I’m back in full “shimmy strength,” I am grateful I can dance once again in my mirror and feel good the next day. For fun, I like to dance around my house like everyone’s watching. Sometimes, I’ll recruit my husband from his study, and we’ll dance together.

9. Listen to an educational podcast

Overlooking the shirtless cover photo, Shawn Stevenson is actually a humble guy with an excellent and positive health-focused podcast, featuring many top experts like Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Mark Hyman. I enjoy episodes on brain health and preventative health the most. 

Instead of looking at my screens before bed, which can elevate cortisol and block melatonin keeping me wired at night, I often turn on a podcast, lay back, and listen.

10. Play a physical boardgame

Scrabble Board Game What To Do Instead of Watching TV at Night

My husband is Belgian, yet he was able to beat me this one time at Scrabble, documented above, with the word ‘Zesty.’ Playing Scrabble with someone who is ESL is quite interesting, on what words they think are words — and what words they don’t know. Like emu. My husband has lived in the US for half his life, but never heard of an emu until last night. 



I didn’t do some of these during the first years of my health journey, because I hadn’t considered them or because I was physically overwhelmed by my health situation. 

Cultivating moments of joy was a factor in my upward trajectory back to health (after many previous dips, dives, and turns) and has promoted my continued wellbeing a year later. I don’t have a medical degree, but I know personally that going online into a disease forum or news click hole isn’t going to help my health.

While we’re all isolating at home, we can only make the healthiest, happiest choices we can.

Final note 

I hope you found this post helpful and uplifting. To those not familiar, for over 25% of people with ME/CFS, “quarantine” is their daily reality. Many dream of simply being able to walk in their grocery store. Some lack the stamina to look at screens or speak. If you found this article helpful, please donate $5, or whatever you can, to the Open Medicine Foundation, the leading charity for pioneering research. (This blog is independent and not affiliated with any organization.)

If you’d like practical and uplifting health recovery information, please sign up for our newsletter below. This blog is not medical advice nor meant to contradict what you have discovered yourself to be true. 

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