Helping others live a more joyful existence in spite of life’s circumstances has come up in a lot of my counselling sessions lately. For many of us, the past few years have prompted discussions around how to navigate multiple life challenges while staying grounded and healthy. And finding ways to be more joyful can help us do just that.
Finding Joyful Moments in Personal Stories
Supporting others to live a more joyful life can improve their own mental wellness and nurture their relationships. But it’s about more than carrying an abstract or intellectual belief in joy as a personal value. Finding joy really gains potency when we help the person recognize joy as something active – that they need to intentionally do so it becomes more alive and prevalent. Joy is a powerful active ingredient for building vitality both individually, relationally, and as a collective group.
Supporting others to live a more joyful life can improve their own mental wellness and nurture their relationships.
In a recent session, a client I’ll call Anne was exploring her persistent anxiety and general sense of overwhelm. She was questioning what she could rely on to guide her through these feelings. So we started investigating her sense of internal values as something that keeps her anchored or grounded.
I asked Anne what she learned about emotions and stress from her family growing up. We also discussed who and what some of her teachers for navigating life and finding her values were.
Anne paused at this and closed her eyes. She gave a soft smile and started recounting a story of her grandfather. He would read stories to her on the couch. She described his low voice, soft beard, and her favourite scratchy sweater that he would often wear.
When I asked her about a detail that stood out from this memory, she named his laugh. She said it was “rumbling” and described how it made his belly bouncy as she leaned against him. This would calm her, help her relax, and she remembered feeling peaceful, safe, and like life was full of possibility in those moments. I asked her what word she’d use to capture what she felt with this, and she said “Joy.”
Finding joy really gains potency when we help the person recognize joy as something active – that they need to intentionally do.
She described joy as a teaching she learned from her grandfather. He actively taught her to use her favourite stories to remember this part of her life. Reconnecting what she learned from this experience and what it means to her helped Anne feel more anchored in her own story. It helped her connect to a part of her history that she wants to carry forward.
Anne’s story carries helpful teachings for finding joy. It’s not only possible as a fleeting response to an experience – it’s a quality we cultivate that nurtures our own wellness and helps us connect more deeply with others.
Here are some ways you can help others connect to joy:
Encourage them to actively create space for joy.
So much of life can feel busy and reactive. Encourage those you support to slow down or pause between tasks on their to do list. Explain that these are opportunities to connect with an intention and nurture even small moments or qualities they want more of in their life. Identifying joy as a value they want to nurture makes the intention more powerful.
Help them practice noticing the joyful things.
In moments of pause, we can choose what we pay attention to. Have your client ask themselves, What is joyful to me right now? This will help them find joy in their daily lives, no matter how small or large the moment. And there may be related emotions or qualities that help connect them with more joy. For example, times of peacefulness, vibrancy, gratitude, hopefulness, or clarity.
Have them imagine their own joy story.
Having your client actively recall a story about joy can help them get more in touch with the unique ways in which they experience joy. This can be an actual memory like Anne’s story of her grandfather, or it could be a newly imagined experience. The very practice of visualizing and describing this experience creates the actual state of joy in their nervous system, body, and mind.
Help them notice the feelings of joy in their body.
Encourage your client to take time to savour the sensory details of their experience of joy. Get them to take note of what they see, hear, feel, smell, and taste – and let it come alive in their imagination. This creates a deeper “sense memory” which will be more easily accessed in the future.
Encourage them to practice finding joy.
Help them notice their own steps toward joy by asking the following questions:
- How can you apply these steps in other areas or times of your life?
- Is there an image or phrase you can bring to mind in times of stress or worry?
Finding joy means noticing opportunities to actively be joyful when in connection with others. It can be a catalyst for sparking joy in others, and it allows us to collectively expand our own experience.
Have your client ask themselves, What is joyful to me right now? This will help them find joy in their daily lives, no matter how small or large the moment.
Helping your clients identify joy will help them feel grounded, strong, and balanced, pointing them in the direction of strengthening these qualities. Joy is one example of an experience that can seem fleeting and unpredictable at times. But joy is also something you can foster in your clients by encouraging them to make it an active and intentional experience. Being more connected to our own joy creates more connection with our strength, and with others – multiplying the joy itself.
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