Is joy feeling like a foreign experience? Are you feeling guilty when joy comes naturally because you know others are suffering? Or because you are suffering or grieving?
Experiencing joy is an important part of emotional well-being. When joy does not come easily, or does not come at all during difficult times, we need to cultivate it. We need to find it. We need to create it.
People often have resistance to finding joy. Excuses such as, “I’m too busy,” “I have too much homework,” “There’s no time to do what I really love,” “I don’t even KNOW what brings me joy,” and “That’s selfish. I’ve got kids who need me.”
During times of crisis, grief, or tragedy, people feel that they do not deserve to experience joy. They think it is selfish, hedonistic, or inappropriate. They may feel guilty when they experience it. However, it is during these times that we need joy the most.
Doing what brings you joy or makes your soul happy actually makes you the best version of yourself. It makes your interactions with all of those around you more loving and pleasant. It makes you a better friend, mother, wife, etc. Doing what brings you enjoyment elevates mood, and that elevated mood in turn affects your behavior and interactions with others. Think of it as your positive mood being contagious, because science demonstrates that it is! So if you still are struggling with the idea that doing what you love is selfish, think of it as one way that you can give to others by “contaminating” them with your better mood, and giving them your best self.
It is also important to remember that there is only one person in charge of your life, of your happiness, and that is YOU! You have choices, and you can choose to engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. No one else can do that for you. It is up to YOU to make the time for it.
And if improving your emotional health is not sufficient reason for you to engage in doing what makes your soul happy, remember that it also benefits your physical health. Engaging in enjoyable activities reduces stress, and we all know that reduced stress means reduced physical illness.
Being too “busy” with school, work, and/or parenthood are the main reasons I hear why people are not doing what brings them joy. One way to address this is to make an appointment with yourself. Yes, that’s right. Make an appointment with yourself. Put it in Google Calendar, or write in on the paper calendar. And then KEEP this appointment. Block out the time and write “me time.” Make a weekly appointment with yourself to do what makes your soul happy. Block out a half day every now and then if you can.
Paradoxically, the “busy” person who takes time out for joy is more energized and productive.
It is also important for “busy” people to find enjoyment EVERY day. This need not involve a lot of time, but it is important to engage in something enjoyable every day.
There will be times in your life when finding joy and doing what makes your soul happy seems impossible, or not even desirable. When the demands of a job and/or parenthood are simply too time consuming and exhausting, or when a loved one is sick or has died. It is possible to find joy, even during pain, even during exhaustion, even during crisis. During these times, you can make it a goal to seek joy in daily, mundane tasks. You have to do them anyway, so why not make the best of it? Sing while doing the dishes. Play loud music while cleaning the house. Focus on what you are grateful for or what is going well when feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
There will also be times that a life crisis is so heavy and sad that it paralyzes you. Even during these times, it is possible to find joy. When you are having difficulty finding joy on your darkest day, look for love. What love can you find around you? What love are you giving? What love are you receiving?
Finding joy and doing what makes your soul happy need not be extravagant. It can be a simple enjoyment. In fact, during a time of crisis, simple may be better. It is possible to find joy in awful situations. Sometimes, it is the only thing you can do to move through.
Finding/creating joy on a regular basis is one enJOYable way to take care of your emotional well-being and mental health. You will not only feel good in the moment while engaging in your enjoyable activity, but you are nurturing your long-term well-being.
Here is a downloadable worksheet that I developed for my therapy clients and members of “Feeling Good with Dr. Peggy” that I am making available for you, too – for you to utilize to help you experience more joy.
If you’d like to check out the membership, you can do so here – Feeling Good with Dr. Peggy: A Community for Seekers of Joy, Gratitude, Meaning, Resilience, Love, and Fulfillment.
And if you’d like a wearable reminder, you may be interested in these bracelets: