These days, there’s a lot of talk about finding joy. Hah! you say. That is easier said than done, especially in the middle of a pandemic. How do you define joy? To me, joy is that peaceful, contentment that resides deep within us.
Try some of these tried and true strategies to help you find your joy.
Appreciate what you have
Take time to make a list of all the things in your life that are going right: your family, your friends, your health, your job! Look at the big items and look at the little items. Every morning when you wake up, take a few moments and think about three things you appreciate. Do you love your pillow? Write it down. Do you appreciate your cup of Starbucks and your egg white bites? Write it down. And every night as you settle to go to sleep, write down three things for which you’re grateful. Did your coworker tell you a really funny joke? Write it down. Did you see the first daffodils come up? Write it down. Develop the habit of looking for things that make a moment just a little bit better.
Practice positive thoughts and squash negative self-talk
We are our worst enemy. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to our friends. Learn to be your own best friend. If you squeeze into your skinny jeans for the first time since the start of COVID, tell yourself, “Lady, you are hot!” And if nothing in your closet fits, don’t beat yourself up. What would you tell your friend? You would be encouraging and empathetic. “COVID has been tough. Today, I will take care of me. I’ll get this body back in tip-top shape in no time. I’ve got this!”
Connect with the earth and not Facebook
Nature is everything. Spending time outdoors improves our mental and physical health. There is a whole movement calling grounding which is the theory that barefoot contact with the earth can produce changes in a variety of physiological measures. Check out these 10 reasons why nature is good for you. On the other hand, there is a growing body of evidence that social media such as Facebook and Instagram increase stress and deplete our reserves of joy. So turn your phone off and go take a walk.
Breathe! Laugh! Connect!
Breathing exercises can help you relax, lower your blood pressure, calm your nervous system, reduce depression and set you up for finding joy. For 1000’s of years, yogis have enjoyed the benefits of various breathing techniques. Here are 10 to get you started.
That old adage, “laughter is the best medicine” has never been more true. “Laughter sends a wave of electricity that sweeps the entire cerebral cortex” and it “releases endorphins in the brain, causing a feeling of happiness” or joy.
Sometimes we must connect with friends. Just last week, I spent all week feeling sad and rejected. I could not get over my pity-party. One good evening with my friend laughing over everything and nothing at all, and I have a whole new outlook on life. Laughter with her really did “spark joy” in my soul.
Find your passion and make room for it
So often in life, we just get too busy. And the first thing we let go by the wayside is our passions. Don’t do it. Make time in your life to try new hobbies, foods, people, music, etc. One of these might become your next great passion. Pursuing our passions results in increased satisfaction overall, expands our comfort zones and empowers us. I have a very good friend that loves Ancestry. She loves the history of tracking down her heritage. She loves the problem-solving of finding the links. When she talks about this passion, she is filled with joy. It doesn’t matter what else is happening in her life, a few hours on Ancestry and she is one happy camper. (I unfortunately do not share this passion, so I must be patient when she talks about it so as to not squash her joy.)
Set goals and work towards them
When we set goals and work towards them it gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. According to Carri Vacik, there are two types of goals: intrinsic and extrinsic. “Intrinsic goals include self-acceptance, forming social connections, studying further and physical fitness. Extrinsic goals are focused on attaining rewards and/or praise from others. Researchers speculate that intrinsic goals lead to greater happiness because, in the pursuit of these goals, people have positive experiences along the way that support their happiness.” So go ahead, set a goal. Make it something simple and work towards it everyday. Let’s say you want to lose weight. Make your goal to get healthy instead. Every day do SOMETHING, ANYTHING that will help that goal. Develop the habit and don’t judge yourself on what you do each day. Simply, focus on developing the habit. And over time, you will start to inch your way towards your goal. And the empowerment that comes with your success will create an inner joy in you that will keep you moving in the right direction. Keep your focus on the process. Every day is an opportunity to do a little bit better than the day before.
Study after study has shown that giving of our time, talents and treasures is much more rewarding than receiving. If you are feeling down and depressed simply start to look outward. Ask yourself, “How can I give joy to someone around me?” I have been blessed with a number of teens in my life. All of them come from situations of abuse, poverty and life being tough. All I do is show up for them. I support them. I mentor them. I listen to them. Occasionally, I buy them lunch or Starbucks. Over the course of time, just showing up has enabled me to help them achieve their joy.
I have a high school senior as an intern. She’s a beautiful, young, smart Latino woman. COVID has been tough on her. In order to support her family during COVID, she has had to work full-time in order to keep food in the house and a roof over their heads. Before COVID, she was a fantastic student. She was having a tough time staying on top of her studies and she was so demoralized that she wasn’t getting her college applications completed. I was able to harass and encourage her to get them done. I was able to get her to stay in school just by showing up for her. Just last week, she showed me her college acceptance to letters to study electrical engineering. She will be the first in her family to attend college. The smile on her face and the hope in her spirit brought me more joy than if I had won the lottery. Give without thinking about the return and I assure you that somewhere down the road, you will be rewarded with an unspeakable joy.
Reach out to God
Whatever your spiritual belief system, I believe a connection with a higher power is the ultimate source of joy. It provides us with a strength, a contentment and a support that can not be experienced in any other way.
I find it helpful to keep use a digital journal such as CaseKeepers in my quest to find joy. I use it to track my thoughts, moods and feelings. I use it to set goals and track daily habits needed to work towards my goal. I use it chronicle my daily gratitude. I use it to practice positive self-talk. I use it to organize my life. I encourage you to try it for free.