Finding Joy in Your Life Right Now Isn’t Indulgence, It’s Survival—Here’s How to Do It

Photo: Stocksy / Nemanja Glumac / W+G Creative
With so much going on in the world, it can be hard to know how to find moments of joy in your life. Many people are experiencing hardship while others may feel guilty to experience happiness when so much of the world is hurting. No matter what you're going through, happiness  experts agree that it's okay to feel joyful right now. At our most recent (virtual) Well+Good TALK on finding happiness amid a global crisis, Lia Avellino, LCSW, a relationship psychotherapist and director of head and heart at The Well, explained that joy and sorrow aren't mutually exclusive.

"There's this idea that joy and sorrow are really inextricably linked to each other," says Avellino. "We can feel a lot of pain for the death, for all of the ways that COVID-19 is affecting our friends, our families, and communities near and far, while also being able to experience some joy or release around the great pause. We have the opportunity to maybe turn inward when we can't go outside."

Below, interior designer Ingrid Fetell Lee, optimism doctor Deepika Chopra, PsyD, and Avellino explain how to finding joy in life under extraordinary circumstances.

How to find joy in life amid a global crisis

1. Practice positive survival

Dr. Chopra explains that trying to feel joy right now is more than an indulgence, it's a necessity.

"I like to call it 'positive survival,' and the smaller the moment, the better," says Dr. Chopra. "If something is making you feel good, or bring you joy, or give you a little laugh, or whatever it is, as long as it's not harming you or anyone else, please just do more of it now. If it's pouring a cup of tea in your favorite mug, dancing to music for 30 seconds, or whatever it is, if anything brings you joy, just give it to yourself more. This is actually part of survival."

2. SCHEDULE TIME TO WORRY and to dream

Avellino says that right now is the time to redefine self care to meet you exactly where you are instead of creating huge expectations that could in turn cause more stress. A good way to do that is to schedule time to worry and to dream.

"I do 15 minutes of worry time a day. I set my clock for that time, and I just let it rip, and just see what comes up so that I'm actually giving some of the fears that my body is holding the space to come out," she says. "Some of them are insignificant, but some of them I write down and I really can see what's weighing on my heart. And then the second thing I do is 15 minutes of dream time. That's later in the day, because I noticed in the afternoon I need a little bit of a pick me up, and that's when I just allow my imagination to wander."

When we're in times of intense reality, there's so much that we can access through imagination, says Avellino.

3. Experience nature

Whether you have access to a hiking trail, or just a Spotify playlist with nature sounds, Lee says you should make room for nature in your life.

"If you can get outside and you can get into nature, please do it," says Lee. "It's great if you can do it safely. But if you can't, you know, there are other ways bring greenery in." Try bringing in a potted plant, watching the birds, or burning a scented candle that reminds you of nature. "There's research that shows that when we go out into nature, it quiets a part of the brain [with] a tendency to ruminate or brood over problems. So if you're finding that that anxiety is just sort of spinning, nature is a really good way to calm that."

4. Get uninterrupted sleep

Clients always ask Dr. Chopra what the magic pill is for developing more happiness. Though she says there isn't one, getting uninterrupted, good-quality sleep comes close.

"As humans, we have periods of wakefulness all the time, we go in cycles. And if you have a period of wakefulness middle of the night, and then you reach over at your phone, you've stimulated your brain,"says Dr. Chopra. "And now you're really awake and it's an interrupted sleep. Doing something like keeping your phone at enough of a distance away from your bed that you'd actually have to physically get up to get it, you're a lot less likely to do that. Don't sleep with the TV on. The happiest people, research has shown, get on average, six and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep."

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