By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
What is the opposite of depression? Happiness, money, love? Apparently, it’s none of these.
While many of you are planning to celebrate this upcoming holiday, there are those who are facing their toughest life challenges. So this blog is dedicated to the struggling folks.
“The opposite of depression is not happiness, it is emotional resilience,” wrote Peter Kramer, a psychiatrist and author. Kramer’s wisdom lies in the fact that we have to look within ourselves. Only you can find the solution yourself if you want to. Only you can heal yourself if you so desire.
Resilience has to do with finding joy in the midst of darkness. Telling yourself no matter how bad it is, you have the ability to cope with it. You can adapt. Adaptability is the key for survival. I didn’t think I could survive the pandemic, but I did. My family did. And many of my friends did. Our newspapers did, too. There were more miracles during the pandemic than I have ever witnessed in my life.
What I learned is, it isn’t a secret to find joy. It’s not complicated. All I have to do is recognize the pith of life through beauty, goodness, nature, inspirations, and miracles in my daily life not through big accomplishments, but tiny incidents, moments, people, and things…which sounds minor to others, but significant for me to share these examples. And when it comes as a surprise, it‘s even more joyable. I do hunt for “those suckers” though, and write them down diligently for my own sake.
That’s what I do every day. It takes experience to recognize when these tiny moments and events unexpectedly dance before your eyes. They thrill me like a child getting her first lollipop. Sometimes, before you know it, they are gone.
Inspiration from giving back
As hundreds of people were queuing up next to a row of homeless camps in Chinatown-International District (CID) the day before Thanksgiving, curiosity pushed me to walk up to see what’s going on my way to the library.
A woman shouted at me, “Get in line.”
Suddenly, I remembered. People were waiting for Costco chicken. It’s Jerry Lee’s idea to donate hundreds of chickens to the ACRS food bank for seniors for their Thanksgiving dinner, which we have published before. Chicken is a universal food for Asian celebrations.
Thirteen years ago, Lee and his friends donated money and labor as well. They bought chickens, delivered and served those chickens, and brought other Asian goodies to the food bank in person. The number of friends who joined in the cause has almost doubled, as well as the donations. And the donations which Lee collected grew as much as $10,000. His actions have inspired others to do good deeds. And it has spread like wildfire. Now, the program has been expanded to include SouthEast Seattle Senior Center on Holly Street for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.
Because of the pandemic, Lee and his tribe didn’t volunteer to hand out the goodies. But something new was added this year—each received a red envelope with a quarter inside, to symbolize good luck. Everyone who received a red envelope appreciated the gesture. There were toys for kids, too. It was so well planned and thought out.
“We love the smiles on the many faces and this has become such a heartfelt tradition,” said Lee.
“If you want to help yourself, help others,” said psychiatrist and physician Dr. Daniel Amen. Studies have found both givers and recipients increase their happiness afterwards. Random acts of kindness can lift our brains. It makes us focus on others rather than ourselves.
Jerry, thank you for your inspiration to give back.
Capture beauty on your camera
“Believe none of what you hear and believe half of what you see,” Benjamin Franklin said. This is particularly true when it comes to weather forecasts. Instead of a rainy forecast last week spoiling our daytime activities, showers mostly occurred at night while we were asleep. Yet, a few late mornings, the sun lit up and the sky was clear. I was in awe of a sunny Thanksgiving and the spectacular sunset.
Watching the sunset is one of my favorite pastimes. It touches my heart. I prefer the sunset more than sunrise. Sunset colors are more vibrant and diverse, while sunrise is merely brightness, which sometimes blinds my eyes.
But I like watching the sunrise, too, if I were in the right place at the right time. Nature is your best ally when it comes to healing. The Thanksgiving sunset lasted less than 10 minutes. I was blessed to catch it on time and captured it in my camera. Whenever you feel joy with someone, a scene or object, take a picture. It reminds you of happy times. It also highlights your blessings. Also, write down your blissful moments. You build up your own happiness by discovering your own well for happiness. So keep a journal of your feelings, thoughts, and events every day. Studies have found that journaling enhances your mental health and also improves your memory.
Another healing method for depression and insomnia is to get enough sunlight. Seattle is not the best place for sunlight. If you expose yourself to sunlight or stay outdoors during the day for at least half an hour, it may be able to make a slight difference in your sleep.
Most businesses were closed on Thursday. For stores that were open, business was usually slow.
Fortunately, Lam’s Seafood was open so we could buy things that we had forgotten to buy before Thanksgiving. To my surprise, Lam’s was packed. The energy inside was amazing. I loved the scene of the shoppers who hauled so much stuff in their carts. Then I looked up and saw the beautiful Lunar New Year merchandise. It may be too early for Lunar New Year, but the Year of the Rabbit will be on Jan. 22. So it might be sound to warn shoppers. These decorations welcome fortune and happiness for you and your family and are relevant for both Lunar and Western New Year.
At the end of the day, my heart was full of gratitude for the good weather, the beautiful sunset before our sumptuous Thanksgiving feast prepared by my daughter-in-law. What else could I ask for!
Black Friday was a success. Should I get credit for shopping that day? In my five decades living in the United States, I never shopped on Black Friday. This year, I decided to break the tradition to support downtown Seattle businesses. Novelty can bring us joy. And I got deals like 50% off for my cosmetics. We also went to Uniqlo, a new casual wear shop downtown, where Macy’s used to be. Uni (short term) is a Japanese company, which I had bought merchandise from before.
Lots of young people came and explored. My husband bought a hoodie. I definitely would go back to shop in the future.
We also visited Bellevue Square to see its holiday decorations. It lifted up my heart to see festive Christmas decorations. It’s magical. I love all the creativity. It’s also a chance for me to wish strangers and workers at the information booth a Merry Christmas.
If you’ve read this far, you might think everything has been smooth in my life. On the contrary. A family member’s health challenge has impacted me. But looking for joy in all areas of life such as watching Team USA’s win against Iran, and Japan’s victory against Germany during the World Cup, was inspirational, exhilarating, and fun. And I am grateful for those hopeful and stellar moments that lower my stress when I need it most.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.