Finding joy during the dark winter

The top four headlines at 4 p.m.
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 4:10 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hi, Alaska. Let’s talk. How are you doing? Emotionally, let’s touch base.

This can be a hard time of the year for many. It’s dark, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all of us, and these are stressful times.

This past Tuesday the U.S. surgeon general warned that young people are facing “devastating” mental health effects because of the challenges of their generation and the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Vivek Murthy said in an advisory that the pandemic intensified mental health issues that were already widespread by the spring of 2020. Additionally, the report says, symptoms of anxiety and depression doubled during the pandemic, in a country where depression and anxiety have already been on the rise.

It can be hard to find joy. But it is out there.

Here are a few ideas we’ve collected that could bring you some happiness.

1. Order a hot chocolate. Make sure you get the cute holiday cup, and walk to see Star the Reindeer on the corner of 10th Avenue and I Street.

Star the Reindeer takes a walk
Star the Reindeer takes a walk(Nick Swann)

2. Visit the dog park to see the magical Christmas tree in the woods.

3. Stand outside on a cold night and listen to the quietness of winter. Take a deep breath in, focus on your center, and then breathe out. Expand your awareness to the space you are in now and live in this moment.

Christmas lights in the darkness
Christmas lights in the darkness(Eric Sowl)

4. Ring a bell for the Salvation Army. There are 19 communities in the state that collect donations in the iconic red kettles. But this year, according to Jenni Ragland, service extension director for the Salvation Army Alaska Division, there are significantly fewer people volunteering this year.

Bell ringers are needed for the Salvation Army
Bell ringers are needed for the Salvation Army(Marie Hopkins)

5. Buy a small Christmas tree and decorate it however you want. Do you want pink lights? Do it!

6. See the holiday lights at the Alaska Botanical Garden. It’s typically about an hour walk on a 1/2 mile loop trail. There are ice luminaries and trees strung with lights to guide your journey. Tickets cost $10 for non-members and $7 for members. Children six and under are free. The event is every evening from 5-8 p.m.

Holiday Lights “An exciting winter walk amongst the glowing Garden. Explore light installations...
Holiday Lights “An exciting winter walk amongst the glowing Garden. Explore light installations along the ½ main loop trail. Features include a designated kicksled trail, a model train inside the Greenhouse, an expanded ice luminaria display, and a firepit to help you stay warm!”(Alaska Botanical Garden)

7. Run, or walk, around Lake Hood when the sun rises. It’s about 4 miles from start to finish. Expect the sun to start glowing bright pink and orange around 10 in the morning.

Sunrise at Lake Hood
Sunrise at Lake Hood(Rebecca Palsha)

8. Find one thing that brings you joy every single day. Let it spark happiness in your one of your five senses: touch, taste, smell, feel, see. Your joyful experience may not be something big, it can be as simple as a listening to ice creak, crack, groan as you walk on hard snow, or maybe it’s your early morning tea.

Ice lanterns dot Westchester Lagoon
Ice lanterns dot Westchester Lagoon(Rebecca Palsha)

9. Meet a good friend at a restaurant to gossip, catch up and share appetizers. Talking about your feelings helps you feel less alone.

Friends share oyster's on the beach in Homer
Friends share oyster's on the beach in Homer(Rebecca Palsha)

10. Be kind to others and to yourself. The Mayo Clinic says it’s good for your health.

“Kindness has been shown to increase self-esteem, empathy and compassion, and improve mood. It can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. People who give of themselves in a balanced way also tend to be healthier and live longer,” the Mayo Clinic’s website reads.” Kindness can increase your sense of connectivity with others, which can directly impact loneliness, improve low mood and enhance relationships in general. It also can be contagious.”

A stranger leaves a note on a car after filling the car tires.
A stranger leaves a note on a car after filling the car tires.(Rebecca Palsha)

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