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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Pollard, MSW RSW

7 Ways to Rediscover and Reconnect with Joy

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Several colourful ballons floating in the sky

When was the last time you jumped for joy or excitedly announced ‘this is the best day ever’? For some of us, it might have been some time in our childhood and for others, it might be never. Experiencing pure joy can be hard when we feel weighed down or overwhelmed. Allowing ourselves to fully embrace and express joy often requires being in the moment and letting go… both of which are hard as adults. This blog shares 7 ways* I learned how to rediscover and reconnect with joy in my life, and I hope it helps you do the same!

1. We need to ‘live in the moment’ to notice joy. Joy is believed to be automatic, momentary (like a spark) and provides intense delight and happiness. It provides the release of both serotonin and dopamine, which elevates our mood. Joy might spread throughout body like a warm sensation that brings energy (hence the desire to jump!) and provides both release and relief. When we’re stuck in our own thoughts, busy with responsibilities or distracted by our devices, it’s hard to notice the simple joys around us. To find joy, we need to pause and pay attention.

2. We need to hold onto joy. Our brains are wired to have a negativity bias for survival, which is why psychologist, Rick Hanson, suggests we ‘tilt towards’ good feelings and experiences (like joy) and hold onto it for at least 20 seconds so it ‘sticks’. I’ve found it helpful to take a couple of deep breaths when I notice joy and to later record it in my journal.

pink, purple and blue sprinkles

3. Joy can be both discovered and created. After listening to Ingrid Fetell Lee’s TEDtalk “Where joy hides and how to find it”, I understand more about the neuroscience behind the aesthetics of joy and how we can seek it and create it in what we wear, how we decorate and what we notice around us. Ingrid described how there are universal patterns of joy, such that people tend to prefer circles, pops of color, and things in abundance. This helped me understand why I love polka dots, sprinkles, balloons, and rainbows.

4. Joy can be found in both ‘joining in’ and ‘missing out’. There can be many barriers to giving ourselves permission to ‘join in’ on activities that are likely to bring joy. We might feel self- conscious or feel weighed down by hurts, worry, loss, or by too many things to do. I’m learning the value of joining in by intentionally pausing in my ‘adulting’ and fully participating in moments of fun, such as playing at the park, doing crafts, playing games, and engaging in silly dances while singing at the top of our lungs. (In my family, this is often to songs from Mama Mia or the new Barbie movie). Moreover, joy can be found in missing out, also known as ‘JOMO’. Sometimes missing out on a potentially enjoyable activity or event is intentional (it’s good to say no to what is not right for you!), but other times it may be due to our responsibilities, lack of finances or simply not being included. Give yourself compassion for all the feelings this triggers AND allow yourself to enjoy what you already have within you and around you.

5. Joy does not need to be pure or perfect. It can be complicated and mixed with other emotions without being diluted. Let yourself be joyful AND tired, sad, silly, busy, or frustrated.

sunrise over a field of yellow sunflowers

6. Joy can happen after big, meaningful events or successes AND small, unexpected moments in our day. Both deserve recognition and celebration. So often we keep looking ahead to what needs to be done next, rather than allow ourselves to fully appreciate the joy that comes from acknowledging progress and growth. In the busyness, we might also miss the joy that comes from the wet kiss of our furry friends, the contagious laughter of a baby, the beautiful colours in the sky at sunset, and the magic of a field of sunflowers. Give in fully to the feelings of joy with small and big moments!

7. Joy takes courage, compassion and connection. In the book Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown, describes a condition called ‘foreboding joy’, which is the fear of leaning into the pleasurable experiences and then feeling the loss. She states, “No emotion is more frightening than joy, because we believe if we allow ourselves to feel joy, we are inviting disaster” (p. 215). Fear does not protect us from pain, it prevents us from resting and recharging, so we have the strength to tackle future challenges. Think of joy as the ultimate way to charge that internal battery. Be brave: find the joy, feel the joy and jump for joy!

*If joy is missing from your life, the reasons underlying it are likely to be complicated and not solved in 7 steps or less. Joylessness can be rooted in unhealthy beliefs and (big and small) trauma that is best explored in therapy. If you’re searching for more joy or need support, please contact me or the mental health professional of your choice.

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