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How to Experience More Joy

How to Experience More Joy


What is daring greatly? It is being willing to show up in your life, be vulnerable, and to fully participate in what is going on around you. Part of that is showing up in your own emotional life. In order to do this, we need to be able to identify and experience emotions and this can be difficult to do. Think of the many emotions you may experience on a daily basis- sadness, anger, guilt, shame, and joy. Which of these emotions is often the most difficult to connect and sit with? For many people, it’s joy.


Joyful Moments Can be Difficult and Scary


Interestingly, joy is one of the most vulnerable emotions we can experience, meaning that it can make us feel exposed…like we are on the edge of feeling or expressing too much. Why can joy be so difficult to tolerate? For one thing, it can feel scary or unfamiliar if we are not used to attending to it. Another reason that joy can be difficult to tolerate is that we often believe that joy is too good to be true or that it won’t last. We think that there are other, less pleasurable emotions headed our way. So it doesn’t make sense to jump into this particular joyful experience. For example, “If I am joyful now, guilt or feeling bad must be right around the corner.” Some of us fear joy because we know that it won’t last forever, and sometimes after experiencing it, we have an even harder time letting it go.


According to Dr. Brene Brown, joy is the scariest emotion to experience, because if we allow ourselves to experience it, we are also inviting disaster in. We swear that we will not be blindsided by something bad happening to us in the moment. We must practice tragedy by being prepared and armored up. There is no fully experiencing joy. There is “Wow, my daughter is dancing beautifully on the stage and following her routine” but then also “I am so scared she is going to fall off of that stage… What am I going to do when that happens?” When doing this mental preparation work for possible tragedy, we “squander joy.” We do not keep joy around long enough to participate in the amazing benefits it can bring- resilience and strength and the added beauty it can bring to our lives. There are beautiful things happening around us that can bring us joy on a regular basis.


Daring Greatly and Leaning Into Joy


Learning how to fully experience joy is one key way in which we can dare greatly in our lives. It can be very empowering to feel joyful and know that you are able to fully participate in the moment. Because of the very important role joy has in allowing us to lead meaningful lives, Dr. Brene Brown has done extensive research to learn more about the practices of people who are able to experience joy. She found that they had one thing in common: they practiced gratitude. Instead of rehearsing tragedy or immediately replacing joy with anxiety, they leaned into gratitude practice instead. We can learn to do the same. In our daily lives, this can come in the form of -- appreciating someone that we care about, taking a moment to consider what is happening in or around us, or noticing something beautiful that catches our eye. The individuals who were able to experience and lean into joy also made practicing joy and gratitude a regular part of their routine.

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Joy + Gratitude = Daring Greatly


Now that we are aware of the important connection between joy and gratitude, let’s explore some ways to practice both of these together. By doing so, we will be jumping into our lives and participating in them in a new way. In her book Daring Greatly (2012), Dr. Brene Brown shares some useful ideas of how to integrate this practice into our daily lives.


  1. Do your best to attend to ordinary moments and not always be looking for something extraordinary. Social media and societal pressures may make it seem like we need to be looking for a big, wonderful thing that will bring joy to our lives. It turns out joy is found in things we do everyday. It’s important to attend to these things and appreciate them- having a hot tea on a cold winter day, smiling at someone on the street who you may not know, listening to one of your colleagues laugh at work. Noticing these, without shying away from them, and realizing how frequently they happen in our lives can be a powerful way to grow joy.

  2. Be willing to appreciate what you have, even if other people don’t have it. When other people have experienced loss or difficulty, it is often difficult to claim and feel our own gratitude about what we have. We can feel guilty or undeserving, or at worst, even shame ourselves because we have it “better” than someone else. If someone ends or loses their relationship with their closest friend, it can be hard for us to own and appreciate the fact that our relationship with our closest friend might still be intact. Practice celebrating that you do have this relationship and identify what this friend brings into your life that is so special. Notice the moments when you are with your friend and when you experience joy.

  3. Don’t keep prepping for loss or tragedy. There is no way we can possibly prepare ourselves for the many challenges we will face during our lives. If we experience joy and immediately turn to preparing for another emotion to come or something bad to happen, we lose out on this experience. Having and participating in joy actually helps us to build resilience over time- when bad or challenging things do happen, and they will, our experiences with joy will make us stronger and better able to manage them.


Try to pick one of these ideas and practice each day: attend to ordinary moments, appreciate what you have, and try to not prepare for loss or tragedy. Over time, you will experience more joyful moments and build more resilience in your daily life.


Interested in experiencing more joy in your own life? Making joy and gratitude a regular practice is something we will work on together during our Daring Women: Daring Greatly 8 week group beginning January 22, led by Dr. Jessica Renz, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate (CDWF-Candidate). Contact us today to learn more.


Further information is available at www.thedaringway.com.


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