If you are committed to growing mentally, emotionally and spiritually, you might be REALLY good at identifying what’s wrong. You notice your shortcomings, take responsibility for your part in any conflicts and are probably very sensitive to all of the suffering in the world. You are constantly looking for ways to improve and grow, and that often includes a harsh assessment of what you can do better. But it’s important to remember to make room for joy!
When you are going through a tough time, navigating the dark murky waters of grief or dealing with physical or emotional pain, you want to be able to express and name your feelings so that you can move through them and find your way out the other side.
If you are in the mental health or helping professions, you get really good at normalizing pain, grief and unpleasant emotions. You want people to feel safe processing and expressing those emotions and are very comfortable talking about difficult, sometimes horrible things. You want people to open up about their deepest, darkest fears and experiences. And you talk about those things like it’s the most natural thing in the world. You feel the emotions, but stay strong because your job is to help.
Sometimes I have a week where I am so mired in the pain and suffering, so focused on normalizing and processing the tough feelings and challenging the dark thoughts, I look up and realize…I forgot all about joy!
We can’t have only darkness without light, face challenges without strengths, or feel sorrow without hope. We need to remember to cultivate joy.
8 Things You Can Do Today to Cultivate Joy
1) Start a self-compassion practice.
Every day for 3 minutes when you wake up, imagine yourself surrounded in safety and comfort. Breathe in and out easily. Repeat a mantra to yourself like “I am happy and well; I open myself to joy”.
2) Replace negative thoughts with abundant ones.
As humans, especially as Americans, we are wired to focus on what we don’t have. There is never enough time or money, we are never smart enough or thin enough. When you catch yourself thinking thoughts like this, replace them with positive ones. “There’s not enough money” becomes “I am grateful for the money that I do have”. Instead of “my body isn’t good enough”, try “my body allows me to experience life, including joy”.
3) Get your heart pumping.
Exercise works just as well as medication for mild- moderate depression. according to research. But even if you can’t sweat it out at the gym, a nice brisk walk in the neighborhood will get your heart rate up and release endorphins, opening you up for more joy.
4) Listen to upbeat music.
Like exercise, music that helps you feel happy is proven to release endorphins which can ultimately lead to an increase in Serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness and well-being.
5) Start the day with a gratitude practice.
Every morning, write down 5 things you are grateful for.
6) Spend 15 minutes in nature.
Nature is shown to decrease blood pressure, improve mood and promote a sense of calm and joy.
7) Spend time with people who make you feel good.
Call that friend who makes you laugh, gets you out for adventures or is your biggest cheerleader. Spending time with positive people is good for you!
8) Watch uplifting shows and movies.
I like to watch positive or uplifting shows that help me escape since my work day is often filled with heavy topics. Grey’s Anatomy and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are two of my favorites.
Start making these activities a regular part of your daily routine, and make it a point to focus on uplifting and positive people, media and activities in order to cultivate joy in your life!