5 Ways to Cultivate Joy


Posted By: Envision2bWell

5 Ways to Cultivate Joy

5 Ways to Cultivate Joy

By Ally Vastano, Content Writer, Envision2bWell


Joy is an essential component to life. Without joy, life loses its luster, its spark. A joyless life can also lead to complications such as declining physical and mental health, as well as increased risk for substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors.


Joy vs. Happiness

The number one difference between joy and happiness is that joy is cultivated internally while happiness is tied to something external. Thus, happiness is fleeting (and somewhat out of our control) and joy is more constant – something that can be nurtured and made stronger with intention.

While joy and happiness are not the same, they are very much connected. A person who actively cultivates joy will naturally experience more feelings of happiness. This is the reward for cultivating joy, along with inner peace and contentment.

Here are five ways to cultivate joy:


heart ornament that says "I am grateful"Daily Gratitude Practice

It sounds cliché, but studies have shown that people who take the time to count the positives in their life tend to be happier and less depressed. One of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, Robert Emmons, believes that gratitude has two key components. First, the affirmation of the goodness and positives in one’s life, and second, the recognition that “the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people- or even higher powers if you’re of a spiritual mindset – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

A daily practice of gratitude focuses the mind on the good in your life, rather than what is not going right. This is an important mental muscle to develop because it is very rare to have everything in your life going well simultaneously. This is not to say you neglect what’s going wrong, but rather that you don’t let it get you down too much by keeping it in perspective.

A great metaphor for this is to imagine yourself walking down the road on a beautiful, bright sunny day – one of those perfect days that just makes you glad to be alive. All of a sudden, you trip and badly stub your toe. After the initial sting of it, you have a choice. You can either put your focus back onto the beautiful sunny day, or keep it focused on your throbbing toe. Daily gratitude practice primes your mind to focus on the positive side of life.


Daily Meditation

There is a lot of research out there about the benefits of meditation. It’s helpful to think of daily meditation as priming the mind to cultivate joy as opposed to fear, anxiety, or other negative emotions. For example, a study conducted at Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreased activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). Your DMN is the part of the brain that is most active when you are not focused on the outside world, such as when you are daydreaming, future tripping, or revisiting past events. An overactive DMN network is associated with lower levels of happiness because of its tendency towards excessive worry and ruminating over the past/future.

Meditation has also been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, which can derail the cultivation of joy when they get out of control. There are many resources out there to help support you in your meditation practice, including guided meditations. You can follow along our guided meditations here or inside the EnvisionWell mobile platform.     


Hand making a heart shapeDaily Acts of Kindness

We don’t really need science to know that doing kind things makes us feel good. We’ve all experienced the feelings of joy we get from giving a loved one a gift or meaningful card, or when we help a person in need, or pay it forward in some small way. Yet, it turns out that recent scientific studies on the effects of kindness on our brain support what we all know intrinsically.

Research suggests that random acts of kindness give our oxytocin hormones a boost. Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the ‘love hormone’ and plays a crucial role in creating human connection and bonds. Research has also linked random acts of kindness to higher levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, both feel-good brain chemicals.

What is important to note, however, is that the effect of one act of kindness is temporary. The only way to make the effects long-lasting and permanent is to make kindness a daily practice, whether through kind words, random acts, paying it forward, or volunteering. Actively choose kindness every day to help cultivate joy.


Daily Connection

We are genetically hard-wired for human connection. It’s in our DNA, coded over thousands of years to survive and thrive. It is impossible to cultivate joy without human connection.

Human connection is not about likes on social media or a random text here or there. It’s about human-to-human, substantive connection and bonding. This doesn’t mean that ALL of our connection has to happen face-to-face, although we do need some of that type of interaction as we all learned during the COVID-19 pandemic shut down. Virtual connection / phone calls / and even genuine texts can supplement face-to-face time.

Relationships bring us some of our greatest joys, as well as our greatest sorrows when we don’t take care of them. Tend to the relationships that matter to you and reach out to make new connections if you feel lonely or isolated. Volunteering is a wonderful way to build human connection and relationships, both with fellow volunteers and the people you are helping.


adult hand holding child's handStay Present

Not being present hinders joy, for there is joy to be found in even the most mundane and simplest of moments – that first sip of coffee in the morning, the smell of your partner when they lean in for a hug, the feel of your child’s hand holding yours, the sound of laughter, a really good meal, your best friend’s smile, a funny joke, a silly face, or anything you might find in the breathtaking beauty of nature that surrounds us.

These are the moments we will miss the most when we are gone – not the big, splashy moments we fool ourselves into thinking are so important. Our lives are filled with these tiny moments that can bring us so much joy if we just stay present to them.




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