Become A Joy Detective

Do you find yourself dreaming of a circuit breaker? A tropical holiday, a silent retreat, a hike through pristine wilderness? Anything to chase that elusive feeling of happiness and joy?

Dreams are lovely but often feel out of reach, or come around too rarely to sustain your joy levels. How then can you help yourself out of the ‘rut of doom’ you find yourself in? Experts suggest the answer might be in becoming conscious of the small moments of joy that exist in everyday life.

Joy is a tricky thing to define. It is often fleeting and is different for every person. Some consider joy to lie somewhere between happiness and ecstasy. Others say joy is a sense of wellbeing, of hope.

Joy is closely linked to the things that are important to us. For some, joy can be found in the feeling of the sun on their back on a winter’s day. It might be comfortable socks, the first bite of a peach, the opening notes of our favourite song. Joy might be walking in nature, patting a dog, the soft curl of a child’s hand reacting into your own.

What all these different experiences have in common is that they are often the quiet moments in your day that get missed when you are worried or rushing.

Author and mental health expert, Robyn Haney Dafoe, writes in Psychology Today, ‘Cultivating joy is a (re)learning how to foster a feeling of ease and a sense of hope, even when things might still be uncertain.’

This reminds us that bringing joy into our life is not about creating big moments, it is about finding joy where it already is. Becoming joy detectives.

Focusing on joy does not mean you deny things that are hard in your world. But it opens you up to see that both can exist at the same time, that there is room for joy in your life. Over time, your brain will more naturally tune into joyous moments, allowing you to experience happiness and hope more often across more of your day.

Another reason joy feels so good is that it brings energy and connection. Oxford University philosopher and leading joy researcher Matthew Johnson wrote in the Journal of Positive Psychology, ‘joy… is energising, joy is motivating’. He also describes joy as ‘a gathering emotion’. Harnessing that shared positive energy can help you keep going, even when things feel hard.

So perhaps rather than waiting for a grand expensive holiday, start now. Start small, start simple, look for the moments that bring an exhale, a drop of your shoulders, the ‘eye sparkle’ smile, the warm lift to your heart. Find the joy that is already there, waiting for you!

Finding joy

Try these tips to add more joy to your daily routine.

1. Get curious and creative.

It may be a while since you have thought about what makes you feel joyous. Instead of feeling daunted, get curious and creative! Try listening to different types of music, going for a walk, do a taste test of different foods to see what brings that smile to your face. Focus on the fun in the small things.

2. Do more of what feels good

Once you know what brings you joy, do more of it and give yourself time to savour the experience.

3. Think gratitude

Yale-Professor Laurie Santos teaches that joy is connected to appreciating particular things. Remembering to ‘count your blessings’ helps focus on the good things in your life that brings joy.

4. Be mindful

Slow down, connect to the moment, and adjust your expectations around what joy is. If you are only looking for grand moments, you will miss all those beautiful tiny daily bits of joy life gives you.