‘Tis the season to be joyful! We all know this, as we get told by every store, advertisement, and card. Many of us feel the joy… and many of us don’t feel it. For some, holidays are actually more the season to be stressed, overwhelmed, and irritable than the season to be joyful. I am here to say- that is okay. This time of year is often full of obligations, deadlines, events, travel, expenses, family dynamics. It’s completely understandable that this time of year can bring angst. So let’s start with just acknowledging and accepting those less joyful parts of the holiday season.
Even with accepting the challenges of the season, it’s totally normal to still wish to enjoy more joy. So what should you do if you actually want to cultivate more joy in your holiday season? The optimistic news is that we all have the tools we need to do that. We have the best technology available to us that will allow us to infuse our season with joy. That technology is our own brain and our own heart!
The most direct way to awaken joy within us is with a thankful heart and mind. Science shows us that regularly reflecting on what we are thankful for and appreciating it in the moment actually enhances our joy. Neuroscience research indicates that the pleasure/reward parts of the brain activate when we bring attention to thankfulness in our lives. So one way to cultivate joy this season is simply being mindful of even the smallest things you feel grateful for during the holidays.
Taking this one step further, research supports the notion that shared joy is the most powerful kind of joy. When we share with another what we feel grateful for and what brings thankfulness into our lives it actually enhances our emotions associated with gratitude. Researchers have found that people tend to feel more joyful and satisfied with life in general when they regularly tell loved ones about all the goodness in their lives, about the reasons they are thankful, about any positive events that have happened recently. So if you want to increase your joy, noticing moments of gratitude and then recounting them out loud to another will give you the most effective immediate boost!
Recap of the top two ways to cultivate joy in our lives this season:
1. Fill you heart and mind with thankfulness. Taking a mindful pause to reflect and notice what you are thankful for is the best way to awaken the heart with joy. This simple act turns our brain towards gratitude and opens our hearts to joy.
2. Share your gratitude and happiness. The simple act of sharing out loud your own feelings of gratitude, happiness, excitement, or accomplishment has a multiplying effect on the level of joy you feel. Share your joy to feel more joy!
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