Every year millions of people experience awful tragedies in their lives, or in the lives of those they love. After a trauma it can seem like it will be impossible to ever feel joy again.
If you've known a moment of despair that seemed so heavy even Hercules couldn’t lift it, hang on. Science proves that the brain can rewire, which means you have the capacity to feel joy again - you just might have to work a little for it.
Joy is, actually, a terrific experience to help your brain cope with and heal from trauma, depression, anxiety, panic, fear, helplessness, hopelessness and other mental health issues. Out of practice? Try these ten tips to get your happiness machinery moving again. The goal isn't to feel joy all the time but to develop the capacity to feel it some of the time (even if that's just for 10-20 seconds which is how long it takes the brain to encode an experience) and then build up from there.
Let yourself dream ~ Your brain looks for proof of what you tell it. Begin telling it about joy and it will begin looking for it. Spend some time imagining what joy would feel like, how you would experience it, and how it would rock your world.
Give yourself permission ~ It’s very easy to put off the experience of joy. Your world is busy, your mind may be cluttered; there are a ton of things to do. The longer you deny yourself joy, the longer it will be before you feel it. Practice giving yourself permission to have it now.
Get a puppy ~ Sorry cat, fish and iguana lovers, puppies hold the title for most joyful pet! With their infinite energy, constant exploration and playful spirit puppies can tap into that part of you that just likes to have fun, which makes them the perfect conduit to joy.
Do something creative ~ Expressing your vision and who you are feels good. Whether you like to write, paint, sing, sculpt, crochet or any other activity that conjures something out of thin air, developing a skill that applies your imagination can access a well of pleasure in who you are and make you feel meaningful delight.
Do something you used to love as a child ~ Your core personality develops by the time you’re seven. The things that brought you delight back then can still bring you pleasure today. Think back to what used to bring you happiness, then go experience it all over again.
Challenge yourself physically ~ You feel pleasure keenly in your body. Find some physical activity that challenges you to use your full body for a sustained period of time. In addition to the endorphins that physical activity releases the mind/body connection you build can amp up your joy experience.
Stimulate yourself mentally ~ Your mental participation is part of what creates your experience of joy. Read, talk, research, do puzzles — there are a slew of ways to wake up your mind. Engage in as many as possible so that your brain remains active and nimble enough to sense and enlarge joy when it appears.
Open yourself emotionally ~ Surrounding yourself with other joy seekers vastly improves the nearness of joy in your own life, which makes it that much easier for you to access.