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This Year, I'm Filling Downtime With Joy Using A Hat-Pulling Practice

Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen, the co-author of "The Spirit Almanac," and the author of "Return to Nature" (Spring 2022).
(Last Used: 1/14/21) This Year, I'm Filling Downtime With Joy Using A Hat-Pulling Practice
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In 2021, we're focusing on joy. After the year we've had, cultivating and celebrating small moments of happiness as they come has never felt more cathartic, life-affirming, and essential to lasting well-being. In the last few weeks, we've shared a bunch of practices in the name of laughing, experiencing new things, and revamping stale aspects of daily life. Today is the last day of our series, but we put all our "Resolution Joy" installments in one place so you can revisit them and keep the fun going all year long.

The hardest part of my pandemic experience has been the "in-between" moments. You know, the ones after work but before dinner, when you're not really sure what to do with yourself. These quiet pauses are when fear and sadness like to pay me a little visit, reminding me of all that's still uncertain in this weird world.

This year, instead of letting these in-between moments fall to unhelpful thought loops, I'm using them for something else: a practice that I like to call the Happy Hat.

Why I'm pulling joy out of a hat this year.

It may sound a whole lot like a children's rhyme, but the Happy Hat is actually a slightly—slightly!—more adult version of kids' playtime.

The premise is simple: Fill a hat, jar, or vessel of your choosing with tiny pieces of paper. On each piece, write down an activity that you know will bring you a quick hit of joy and reacquaint you with the stuff that makes you smile.

Every time you pull a paper, you have to do the activity that's written on it! That's it. That's the whole shebang. There's something about the physicality of this practice that makes it so helpful. Once I see something written down, it feels less like a suggestion and more like a directive—and one that I'm always glad I did afterward.

Especially on weekdays when downtime tends to get gobbled up with anxiety, mindless scrolling, or just more business, filling those little spaces with a pull is my way of reclaiming a minute of joy.


Here's what's going in the hat.

Here's what's on some of the cards in my hat these days. I'd like to offer a literal hat-tip to mbg's Resolution Joy series, which provided ideas for a lot of them. They range from mundanities that I find weirdly soothing to more universal pleasures. The underlying theme is that they can all be done relatively quickly and without much effort, at any time of day, with things I already have lying around.

There are infinite ways to spin the Happy Hat. You could fill yours with the names of things in nature (trees, flowers, clouds) and pull before heading out on a walk. Whatever you pull, be extra mindful of it on your outing. Or it would be fun to fill your hat with dishes that you want to make, then let your pull determine what's for dinner that night. Fearless chefs could even write down the name of a cookbook and a random page number—whatever is on that page, you cook! When workouts get stale, fill the hat with names of moves, and pull a few for an ad hoc movement routine. However you fill yours, I hope it serves as permission to take moments to yourself as they come this year.

We may not be able to pull all the answers out of a hat right now, but in the meantime, I'll take a few dance parties.

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