How to Find Your Joy

Sonja Flood, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker. She serves as a Senior Director for Inova Behavioral Health Services.

There are many terms for the sense of chronic, overarching stress so many of us are feeling these days:

  • Existing, not living
  • Languishing instead of flourishing
  • Overwhelmed
  • Numb

The combination of major life challenges and everyday stressors can cause people to get into a rut, just walking through life without making the most of it. Making a change from just “getting through” things to really thriving and flourishing requires you to align what you do each day with what you truly want your life to look like. But how do you do that? By finding what brings you joy – and then orienting your life around that joy.

Benefits of finding joy and purpose in life:

  • Focusing on joy and purpose can decrease stress and boost your mood.
  • When you’re feeling well and happy, your body benefits physically as well.
  • It also helps build resilience. When challenges come your way, you already have a firm foundation in place, a full well to draw from.

Defining joy

The phrase “find your joy” may seem vague to many people. What is joy? Whereas happiness is a fleeting feeling (the opposite of sadness), joy is a longer-term feeling, a deeper sense of purpose and lasting happiness and contentment. It comes into your life when you find your passion, identify what inspires and motivates you, and align your life with that feeling.

When you align your life with your purpose, you find your joy. That alignment and purpose, in turn, helps you persevere through challenges, improving your life in times both good and bad.

Tips to help you identify your purpose and find joy

We’re all unique. That means what brings one person joy is different than what brings another person joy. Defining what brings you joy isn’t necessarily a quick process, particularly if you have fallen into the “existing, not living” rut over the last few years. Finding the things that we can do to bring more joy into our lives is a journey – but that journey is one that can transform our lives and our experience of living each day.

How do you get started identifying your purpose and finding your joy? Here are some tips to help:

Step 1: Take a personal inventory – Over the next few weeks, take time to notice what parts of your life energize you. What are you drawn to? What brings you a positive feeling of happiness? What do you look forward to doing? Write them down.

Step 2: Review your personal inventory – Review your list of experiences that stood out to you over the past few weeks. What do they have in common? Are there certain people, activities or goals that appear in several of your happiest moments over the last few weeks?

Step 3: Invest in those activities – Once you’ve noticed patterns or common ground in your personal joy inventory, it’s time to invest in and expand those things. How can you incorporate more of these moments into your life?

Step 4: Define your purpose – As you’re expanding the energy you invest in the parts of your life that bring you joy; you’ll eventually be able to define your purpose: the unique blend of strengths and experiences that you have to offer the world. Defining that purpose enables you to act on it, bringing your life into alignment and unlocking the deeper, lasting joy you deserve.

Bonus tip: If defining your life’s purpose feels overwhelming at first, try setting your intention for today. What is your purpose today?

Step 5: Check in and correct course – Make time each day to check in with yourself, evaluate how you’re experiencing joy and assess whether your daily activities are aligned with bringing joy into your life. What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of? Daily meditation, journaling or a simple gratitude practice can all be great ways of doing this.

No matter where you are in your life’s journey, these steps can augment the positive feelings in your life. By following these steps, you’ll be continually investing in what brings you joy – and what you invest in grows. When you look back a year from now, you may be surprised to find how much more joyful your life is. That is my wish for you.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Learn more about Inova Behavioral Health Services or about Inova’s adult mental health inpatient services specifically.

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