The SWC Wellbeing Theme for July and August: Joy & Playfulness

Puzzle spelling "Joy"

Dear Dartmouth,

The rhythm of our work as a wellbeing team is shaped by a progression through a series of monthly themes that we have developed to connect with different times of the year. As we roll into the heart of the summer, the thematic lens for our work is shifting to focus on a new theme:

Joy and Playfulness

I’m curious about your reaction to those words. What thoughts and feelings do they stir in you at this moment in time?

Take a moment to check in with yourself and see what is happening for you right now.

I can say that for our team, our initial discussion of whether to stick with this topic was one of marked uncertainty. Given the shared experiences of biological (COVID-19) and social (racism) disease that continue to impact each of our lives, we found ourselves acknowledging a number of different questions:

  • Is joy an accessible emotion for all members of our community right now?
  • Is it appropriate to encourage joy and playfulness in the face of such serious threats to our wellbeing?
  • How can these capacities enhance the wellbeing of the people who make up our community at this particular moment in time?

Perhaps these questions will inspire some reflection and dialogue for you as well during the months of July and August. Our hope is that in exploring ways to integrate joy and playfulness across various dimensions of our lives, each of us might be lifted up in a way that can help to sustain us in all of the challenges we face – both individually and collectively. My colleague LB, who first envisioned our thematic framework, adapted our initial description of these topics for 2020:

“As a theme, ‘joy and playfulness’ is all about opening to the possibility of light-heartedness and delight, even if only for a moment or two.  For many, the very thought of feeling anything like joy right now might seem near impossible, but we invite you to observe where there may be cracks in your day to let the light in: to bask in a favorite activity, to savor a moment ordinarily taken for granted, to allow yourself to be silly, and to recognize that it’s both okay and even helpful to feel joy – perhaps especially amidst hard times.”

Over the next several months, we’ll delve into these topics in a variety of ways. We’ll consider ways to access joy in the face of competing emotions and discuss the connections between joy, meaning, playfulness, and flow. We’ll look at strengths and values, and how they inform and are informed by experiences of joy. We’ll look at examples of leaders who have drawn upon both joy and playfulness to help them shoulder the heavy burdens of confronting the challenges of their times. We’ll share ideas and resources, skills and practices that can help you to access these states and emotions. And with your help, perhaps we can collectively lift one another’s spirits as we struggle together for a better world.

As we embark on this journey, here is some food for thought from Ingrid Fetell Lee:

“Joy replenishes our energy so that we can be more effective in our defense of what really matters. But more than that, joy also reminds us what we’re fighting for. It gives us glimpses of what makes life worth living. If we only have anger, then the risk is that we’re defending the boundaries of a hollow country, and even if we win, we may return from battle to a place irreparably scarred by perpetual war. But if we make space for joy alongside our fury, then we are cultivating a deep well of power.”

Take a moment right now to reconnect with experiences of joy from your past and your present. What were these experiences like? Who has been present in those moments of joy? What elements of those moments do you carry with you? How have they empowered you? And how do they remind you, even now, of what makes life worth living?

Wishing you joy, today and always,