4 Ways To Embrace Every Day With Joy, Despite The Sadness Around You

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woman embracing joy and happiness
Self

Let’s be honest. It can be hard to find the spark of joy when faced with the uncertainty of a pandemic, ongoing life stressors and the awareness of the sadness around you.

A recent poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that happiness in the United States is at the lowest since the poll began in 1972, with only 14 percent of Americans indicating they are "very happy."

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If you're empathic, you're likely to feel not only your own grief and pain, but that of others, as if you are  carrying the weight of the world. You may even worry that if you feel content, you're selfish or unkind.

However, owning your good is not only uplifting for yourself, but also to those around you. And during these times, it’s even more essential to purposefully cultivate a sense of inner contentment.

Even though this may seem easier said than done, there are intentional steps you can do to foster joy.

Here are 4 ways to increase your joyfulness and spread your radiance.

1. Honor your feelings.

If you're finding it hard to find your joy, you may need to first allow the feelings that are present to be felt and honored. In other words, feel “the feels.”

Arthur C. Brooks, professor at Harvard Business School, who writes and teaches about happiness, shared that it’s important to identify the “sacredness of suffering,” stating, “When people have bad experiences, that tends to be the time they find the greatest meaning and purpose; it’s an inflecting moment of their lives.”

Seeing your “sacred suffering” from this perspective can allow you to find the greater meaning behind your pain and find the good in what appears to be bad.

Acknowledge any sadness, hopelessness, fear, or anxiety you're experiencing at this time. Find a way to express those feelings and give them a voice, so they can move out from you rather than remain restricted within your body.

You can journal, dance, sing, or create art to give a voice to the difficult feelings. Give yourself space and time to process how the current crisis is affecting you emotionally.

Find a trusted person, such as a family member, friend, therapist, or spiritual counselor to share those feelings with in a safe and caring environment.

While giving attention to hard emotions may not seem to foster joy initially, working through these feelings opens space for the joy to come over time.

2. Savor the small wins.

When you think of joy, you may picture an over-the-top feeling of elation, akin to a unicorn dancing in a dandelion field. In truth, what brings you pleasure is unique to each person and often less dramatic than you may first imagine.

Researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania measured happiness experienced as a result of extraordinary moments, versus more ordinary experiences.

The result of their finding indicated that small moments, like sharing coffee with a loved one, or enjoying the smell of fresh-baked bread, resulted in greater joy over time than major events.

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Set an intention to recognize and savor the small wins. Look for what's going right in your day, whether it be gazing at your cat sleeping, having a nice encounter with a grocery clerk, or taking the first bite of your favorite dish.

Allow yourself to focus your full attention on the moment and let it in, free of mental and external distractions. As you come to treasure the seemingly insignificant, you just may be surprised to discover what truly holds joy for you.

3. Be of service.

It's natural to find it hard to feel positive emotions when things feel out of our control. One way to increase a sense of control is to serve others, or something bigger than yourself.

The sense of purpose and meaning being of service provides not only contributes to a greater sense of self-efficacy, but also frees you to experience more uplifting emotions.

There are many opportunities to be of service, whether it be to support struggling businesses, providing food to healthcare workers, or to check in on an elderly neighbor.

Take this opportunity to explore what way of serving is natural to you. Connect to that part of you that naturally knows the joy serving provides.

Ask yourself, “In what way can I be of service at this time?” Notice what arises. Then make a commitment to seek out opportunities to serve in your unique way. The gift you give will spark joy to others as much as to yourself.

4. Have a good laugh.

Do you know the feeling of exhilaration a good laugh provides? Laughter is known to increase dopamine, the "feel good" hormone in your body.

This is why seeking out joy and humor is such a great way to lighten your mood when it all seems to be too much to handle. Finding intentional ways to add humor to your day is a great way to increase a sense of joy.

Seek out moments in your day that can give you a laugh, and make it a mission to find the humor in the mundane.

Whether it’s that funny look on your dog’s face, that misspelled text you accidently sent, or even a tree that looks like it’s had a bad hair day, there are so many opportunities for humor to be found in the simplest of moments.

Spread the joy by adding humor to the lives of others. Make a silly joke at the checkout stand. Find cute, quirky videos and make it a habit to share those.

I highly recommend goat pajama party. Yeah, it's a thing and I promise once you start watching, you won’t be able to get the smile off of your face.

So, intentionally start building humor into your day and see how many smiles you can spark along the way.

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Angela Luna, LMFT, is a seasoned trauma-informed expressive arts therapist and creative wellness coach who uses an integrative approach to support clients in transforming old patterns into new possibilities. If you're ready to access your joy and well-being, sign up now for a free discovery consult with her via email.