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  • Writer's pictureAnneka Barrett

How to find joy!

Joy is a wonderful feeling. Joy is elation. It’s so many memories of my family, of friends, of my children. When I think about my joy I feel my lips begin to move into a smile. I feel joyful tears in my eyes and my chest could burst because the feelings are too wonderful to contain. At the same moment I am aware of a calmness, a contentment and a gratitude to my joy. That’s the thing about joy is it is simultaneously as intense as a storm and as calm as a summer's day. It is a beautiful state to be in, and one which we can cultivate by understanding how we find it, how we feel it and nurture it.

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably but are in fact two different emotions, understanding the difference is the first step on your journey to joy. Happiness in one's life is usually tied to external factors and is a fleeting emotion. It is often a condition we put on meeting a goal. Think about the number of times you have said, ‘I’ll be happy when I ….’, for example, I’ll be happy when I lose two pounds, I’ll be happy when lockdown is over’. We often seek happiness through other means such as alcohol, drugs, food etc. Our happiness therefore becomes conditional on external factors and influences.

Joy however is not conditional; joy is a deeper feeling. Joy is cultivated, it can therefore be a choice. Somewhere you can come back to, reground and find light.

How do you find your joy? Understanding the science of joy is a wonderful way to bring awareness to how you experience joy in your body, grounding it in the present. There are three easy ways to frame this.

  1. In the brain!

Joy is in our neurotransmitters. These pass tiny chemical messages in our brains. When you think about things that bring you joy your brain releases the chemicals serotonin and dopamine, two feel-good chemicals. In fact, in those who are depressed the level of serotonin is often low, so getting those feel-good chemicals into your head will help you stave off feeling low.

  1. In your blood!

Think of something joyful, now, check in with your body. Do you feel as if your heart is going a little faster? That’s because it might be, just a little. Feelings of joy do make your circulation perform better, sending blood through your body with a little spring in its step. Think about the cliche of the blushing bride. It is the joy she is feeling that has sent that glow to her cheeks.

  1. Your nervous system!

With all that blood pumping and that joy flowing you may notice you have a little more energy that wants to burst out! It does. Joy prompts you to move. Think about how it makes you smile, to do a little dance, to literally jump for joy!

Now we know the thoughts inspire joy, and how we feel it, the next step is to understand how to cultivate it.

  1. Remember, joy and happiness are different, happiness comes with conditions and joy is a choice. Focus your energy on what makes you feel joyful.

  2. Seek out joy. If your family brings you joy, spend time with them, remember the feeling they give you, find a dog to pet or arrange a call with friends. Whatever you think of when you think of your joy, seek it out.

  3. You can trick your body into feeling joyful. You can create some of those biological responses to joy. The simple act of smiling can release that magic serotonin into your bloodstream.

  4. Be grateful. We are often more grateful for the things that bring us joy. A daily practice of gratitude is a wonderful way to cultivate your own joy. Try writing down three things you are grateful for everyday when you wake up.

  5. Last but by no means least, cultivate your joy. You must make a commitment to nurturing your joy. Remembering daily, the memories, the feelings and the choice to operate from a place of joy.

“I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank

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