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Finding Joy in Anxious Times

anxiety joy stress relief Nov 02, 2023

Life can be stressful and overwhelming, especially during periods where uncertainty is off the charts, when fear is escalating, and when every day brings more stories of suffering.  This blog is a reminder that we are not stuck there.


While the experience of happiness is often dependent on external circumstances, joy is an inner state of being that can be cultivated no matter what is happening around us. It’s a feeling of peace, contentment, gratitude, and connection that comes from within. Finding joy in anxious times takes some attention, but it’s entirely doable. Today, we cover 5 science backed ways to get to a better state. Let’s dive in:


 Be here now. Though it’s normal to worry about the future, there’s power in reeling ourselves back to the present. One day at a time, or one hour at a time – you decide. Try to focus on the present moment and what you can control. You can use mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises, to reset. The box breath is proven to help with mental clarity and dealing with stress and anxiety. Watch this.


Express gratitude.  It helps us appreciate what we have, rather than what we think we are missing. It also helps us cope with stress by reminding us of the good things in our lives. One counterintuitive way to tap into gratitude is to imagine yourself in very dire straits – then realize you are actually not. If you really go into it, feelings of gratitude will arise naturally. You can also practice gratitude by writing in a journal, saying thank you to other people (maybe stretch outside your comfort zone while you’re at it), or simply by noticing the beauty and wonder around you. Savor the small stuff, a cup of tea, the sunset. Go for a walk in nature, and slow down  - you will see things with fresh eyes.


Connect with others. Especially in anxious times, people may tend to retreat into a lonelier place. Do the opposite. Connecting with others who share our values, interests, and challenges can provide us with support, comfort, and joy. You can connect with others by reaching out to your friends and family, joining a community group or club, volunteering for a cause you care about, or simply smiling at a stranger. Talk to a good friend, or a therapist – sometimes we need some support; sometimes we are the one to give it. Check in with friends and family regularly.


Be creative. Creativity is a catalyst to tap into joy. It opens the door to enter a flow state, when we are so immersed in something that hours feel like minutes. Anything can bring us there, to that feeling that we are in the zone. Listening or dancing to music, painting, writing, gardening, solving a problem, like a puzzle, a challenge; or simply dreaming in something new… Our issues dissolve as we merge into what we are creating. 


Move your body to reset your mind. It’s so important to move the energy in our bodies, not just to get stronger and more fit, but to release blocked energy. According to the NIH, “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.2 Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.” By activating the endorphins, we have more access to joy. Even a few minutes can elevate our mood.

This is by no means the whole list, but it’s a great starting point. Choose 2 or 3 to play with. And notice the changes you feel.


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