What is Joy?
Joy is an embodied feeling of being open and alive. And it’s not necessarily connected with anything going on, like perfect weather. Instead, it’s just because … because you’re feeling it in that moment.
Sometimes, you need to jumpstart a little spark of joy, especially in the middle of one of those yucky, inevitable times of darkness when life feels terrible and impossible.
Even in the best of times, joy and happiness can seem elusive, a little bit like “Oh, there it was; That was it!; I missed it,” rather than something that’s our go-to place most of the time.
And when too much stuff is hitting the fan in your life, when you’re so caught up in struggling to get through one more day, joy can sound like a foolish, even disrespectful idea.
Note: these strategies could feel shaming to someone who’s suffering from clinical anxiety and/or depression. Sometimes you can’t just “get over it” or “let it go.” If you have a history of clinical anxiety or depression, please get professional help. You don’t have to suffer alone.
Why is Happiness Important Even in Dark Times?
Happiness is another word for joy, in my opinion. I’m talking about the happiness that’s deep and true, based on living from our values as much as we can, helping others as we help ourselves grow into our best selves.
You’re here to experience being fully alive, learning …
- how to stay connected with your values,
- where you find meaning and purpose,
- what true intimacy with others feels like, and yes,
- to experience joy.
How to find joy in dark times isn’t aways an easy thing to do, no doubt about it. But in the trying, in the desire to be a part of this world, you’re making a contribution.
As Jack Kornfield, the Buddhist psychologist, teacher, and author, put it:
Our gift to the world comes as much through our being and presence, our smile and touch, our sense of possibility and the mystery of human life, as it does in the specifics of what we do. Wherever we go, we can be a beacon of well-being, love, and care that not only touches but uplifts those whom we encounter.
How to Find Joy in Dark Times — 11 Tips
1. Accept that dark times are part of being human.
You didn’t do anything wrong if you’re in one of those inevitable times in life that NO ONE wants to be in, like … ever. You’re human. Life happens. It’s not your fault, nor are you a victim.
And yes, it’s possible to find joy in dark times.
2. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling.
Did you know that trying to resist painful emotions increases psychological suffering?
So many people are taught that only a few emotions are “acceptable.” That’s absolutely not true.
Emotions and feelings are part of who you are. The more you can feel and name your emotions, the healthier you are.
Be careful, though, not to fall down the rabbit hole of thinking this will never end, that you’re never going to feel OK again, and everything will stay messed up forever and ever (see #5).
3. Make a little Joy List for yourself.
Quietly sit with yourself for a few minutes, maybe with a journal, and ask yourself to remember things that can elicit that feeling of joy for you.
The sound of the birds in the morning, the colors of the sunrise or sunset, the smell of that beloved first cup of coffee or tea, that photo of a beloved and that time you were together on the beach or in the forest or at a celebratory feast? There’s your joy.
Those birds sing their morning songs every morning. Finding joy in dark times can be as simple as listening to them to their thing for just a minute or two.
Give yourself five minutes a day to try and experience, to feel into something on your Joy List.
4. If you’re someone who prays or creates positive affirmations, do that.
Asking for help from the Divine can help you feel less alone. Prayer can help. Feeling connected with a Higher Power, God, the universe, the Great What-Ever … it’s one of the foundations of the science of happiness and joy.
And if traditional prayer isn’t your thing, that’s OK. Go outside and stand with your bare feet on the earth and ask for healing and release. Or simply stand there and sob, knowing that Gaia will hold everything with you.
If you’re creating affirmations for yourself, keep the sentence in the present tense (it’s happening now) and positive (rather than I don’t want, I’m not, I won’t). Examples of affirmations include:
- I’m good at handling my emotions.
- I can feel both sad/angry, and joyful.
- Joy and happiness are good.
- I’m OK; I’ve got this!
5. Pay attention to your negative thinking and what you’re telling yourself about what’s going on.
One powerful way to do that is to process journal — let yourself spew all over the page. It’s like an overflowing septic tank — all that stuff, that energy, those emotions inside you have gotta go somewhere.
Once you’ve spewed — and of course you’re thinking dark thoughts, you’re in a dark place! — know that you’ve just opened up a little bit of space for a little bit of joy.
6. Help someone or something else.
Helping other people or a cause that’s important to you has been proven over and over again to help us get out of our little minds and egos and into something more important. Something that actually matters, rather than the non-stop ruminating monkey mind thing.
Helping others can catalyze an unexpected moment of joy to spark into life when you’re least expecting it to happen.
7. The right other people can make a positive difference when you’re in a tough place. Right, meaning supportive, caring, kind folks who can let you be you. One person you trust to hold your energetic heart with you can make all the difference.
This is another simple way to find a few moments of joy in dark times.
If you need more help, if everyone’s trying to tell you what to do or if it feels too hard, please get help from a psychotherapist.
Whether that nature is in your backyard with the birds and your favorite tree or a solitary wilderness retreat — there’s lots of evidence that nature is a powerful healer.
In Japan, there’s a super popular thing called forest bathing, which is basically taking a walk in the woods or spending time in any beautiful, natural setting.
Another way to find joy in dark times is to put your hands in the dirt. Seriously, there’s new scientific evidence that good things happen when you do something like gardening, including having your hands in the some soil.
9. A little bit of innocent fun can help re-set your nervous system
Mike Rucker has a lot to say about how important fun is to our emotional health and wellbeing. I got to talk with Mike about it on Living From Happiness, my public radio show on KSFR 101.1fm. I learned a lot, including that I haven’t been having much fun lately (and I’ve gotten a bit ummm, boring as a result).
I’m taking some of Mike’s advice and upping my fun game. Instead of taking one more boring walk around the same old neighborhood, I joined an inexpensive online dance studio with tons of fun teachers and cool music. Fun!
And because of that little habit change, I’m now working out harder during physical exercise. I also get to pretend that I’m not really working out, and I’m laughing a lot more than I do when I’m doing the same old boring neighborhood walk.
10. 3 Good Things
This good idea for an easy nervous system re-set is one of my favorite things to do. I learned it when I was in UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center’s free 8-week Science of Happiness course. (Did you catch the “free” part?!)
It’s easy. At the end of your day, as you begin winding down for bed, sit with a journal or a pad of paper and a pen, and list three good things that happened to you that day. That’s all.
Three good things can be super simple, like your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Or the cashier at the grocery store who made you smile. Or that now, you’re done with your day, you made it through.
Everything counts as a good thing if there’s something the tiniest bit positive about it for you.
This is a wonderful way to help re-set your nervous system, balance out your brain’s built-in negativity bias, and remind your brain that even when times are dark you can find a little spark of joy in simply being alive.
11. Make yourself a happiness playlist.
And then? Listen to it :-). Dancing to it is even better. Because music has the power to shift your nervous system into a more positive joyful state very quickly.
Also, physical movement is significant to help move the challenging energy out of your body and help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
I dare you to watch Pharrell Williams performing Happy or Sara Bareilles and her crew on YouTube singing and dancing to Brave, and not feel a tiny bit of joy.
How The Santa Fe Therapist Can Help You Find Joy in Dark Times
I’m Melanie, the Santa Fe Therapist. Over the years, I’ve helped so many women who are struggling to find themselves again. One thing I’ve learned is that profoundly positive things begin happening when you understand how to manage your emotions and learn how to calm down your nervous system.
And when you’re experiencing dark times in your life, it can seem hopeless.
Together, we’ll figure out what’s going on and what you need to begin feeling more in control and have developed the neuroscience strategies to help you find your joy again.
One of the most powerful ways to do that is to understand how your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are connected. When you learn how to …
- make friends with your feelings,
- manage your thoughts,
- gently explore where to find your joy again,
- your life will begin changing in positive, healthy ways.
The dark times won’t feel so dark and isolating, and you’ll start believing in yourself again.
In balancing the science of therapy with the art of healing, I’ll create an innovative program for you that sets you on a path of success from the very first session.
You can learn to not be afraid of how you’re feeling, and how to begin feeling satisfied with life and looking forward to your future.
Neuroscience, Eastern Wisdom, & Earth-based Practices
My compassionate, creative approach weaves together my ability to hear below the surface of the words, advanced degrees, years of specialized training, professional experience, and my own personal healing around anxiety and overwhelm.
One of my specialities is giving women the tools to cope with intense emotions. I use the latest neuroscience findings, and combine Western systems, Eastern wisdom, gentle Earth-based practices, as well as creative, innovative ideas to help you feel better as quickly as possible.
If you’re interested in working with a spiritual therapist, I can help you.
My clients usually work with me weekly for 6 to 12 months. As we work together, you’ll be getting tools for long-term success and learning and using strategies and techniques to serve you for many years.
You’ll work hard for sure. But won’t all be horrible and terrible! I love sharing ideas about good books and films and laughing together once in a while.
My hope for you is that you’ll feel safe every step of the way.
How to Get in Touch With The Santa Fe Therapist, in Santa Fe, NM
You don’t have to struggle alone anymore with feeling overwhelmed, irritable, cranky, constantly worrying, too restless to be quiet and calm, or sleepless nights.
Counseling for anxiety can make a world of positive difference in your life. When you reach out for anxiety help in Santa Fe NM, you’re making an investment in yourself that can change in your life in the best of ways.
All you have to do is send me an email to schedule a free, 15-minute phone consultation: email@example.com. Let’s get you feeling better as quickly as possible.
The Santa Fe Therapist Offers Online Counseling in New Mexico
Online therapy helps busy women find the time away from day-to-day pressures to calm their nervous systems. It also makes it easy and convenient to process emotions and learn new neuroscience techniques to cope with challenges, heal the past, and begin building your future.
I strongly believe in the power of online counseling. Along with the research that proves its effectiveness, I see the positive benefits for clients every week. Click here if you’ve got questions about online therapy.
Online counseling from anywhere in New Mexico, including Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, Los Alamos, Pecos, Las Vegas, Tesuque and El Dorado.
Other Services From The Santa Fe Therapist
The Santa Fe Therapist specializes in several areas of health, wellbeing, healing and recovery. I know that one size never fits all. My services are individualized to each client, and are based on your values, your needs and desires, and your goals.
I offer individual adult counseling and guidance in Santa Fe NM for:
- dealing with overwhelming angst and despair
- anxiety help
- depression help
- emotional and spiritual healing
- processing grief
- overcoming low self-esteem
- learning how to make peace with the present
- PTSD and CPTSD/trauma
- helping you manage stress
- online therapy