The first moment of genuine joy is the moment of commitment to the human experience. Joy is what makes us human. When we deny that, when we push joy off to the margins, when we say it’s extraneous, or it’s a luxury, we lose a piece of our humanity.

Ingrid Fetell Lee

Welcome to Day One of Say Yes to Joy

Joy is a deep well of feeling that surpasses language. It contains part happiness, part contentment, part elation — with dashes of play, surprise, and even transcendence in the mix. It can be a response to peak experiences, those moments in our lives when we describe ourselves as overjoyed, and it can be felt as a quieter but abiding sense of well-being. Joy can also, at times, feel far out of reach. When the weight of our sorrows becomes heavy, joy can seem impossible and perhaps even unjustified. And yet, joy persists in both small moments and grand occasions, in solitude and in community, in the best moments of our lives and even amidst our hardships. 

This first day of Say Yes to Joy offers a grounding in the essential relationship between joy and gratefulness. From there, you’re invited to experiment with the simple practice of attuning to the joy that is alive and well in the world — to remove the blinders we can all develop and to open your senses to joy.  This practice of noticing and naming joy is an essential first step for the rest of the week’s journey. And the best part? It’s a quick way to access a little more joy, right now, today.

To get started, watch this inspiring conversation in which researcher and storyteller Brené Brown explains to Oprah Winfrey why she will never again talk about joy without talking about gratitude. “For twelve years of research,” she shares, “I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude.”

If you live outside the US you may need to access the video with this link.

After you’ve watched the 6-minute video, reflect on the following:

  • In what ways do you see a connection between gratefulness and joy in your own lived experience?
  • Do you resonate with Brené Brown’s research that really leaning into joy depends on actively practicing gratitude? If so, when have you experienced this in your own life?

Today’s Practice

To begin today’s practice, listen to this 3-minute guided visualization that invites you to recall an experience of joy and to remember what joy feels like in your heart, body, and mind.

Click here for a transcript.

After you’ve completed the visualization, you’re ready to schedule three appointments with joy! By intentionally making time for joy, you will likely find it beckoning you in the everyday world of people, objects, pets, art, music, and nature. 

  • Pick three times today when you know you can spend 3 to 5 minutes on this practice. Set your alarm or find some other way to remind yourself that you have three appointments with joy! 
  • During each of these “appointments with joy,” look around and identify one source of joy offering itself to you — a photograph, a song, a neighbor, a plant, a book, a meal, the blue sky!
  • For each round, jot down your source of joy and how it feels to pause and savor it, to let it in.
  • If possible, photograph one or two of your joys and share them with others. See today’s Deepening Resource for inspiration.

At the end of your day, take stock of any benefits that arose from going through your day with the intention of noticing and creating joy. How did it impact your mood or sense of well-being? Was there anything challenging about the practice? How might you adopt some part of this practice for your daily life going forward? What role did gratefulness play in noticing and experiencing joy?

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the Community Conversation space where we we invite you to share your reflections.

Deepening Resource

How Do You Take a Picture of Happiness?

The team at NPR’s health and development blog, Goats and Soda, invited photographers to submit photographs of happiness from around the globe. While there are distinctions to be made between happiness and joy — often summarized as happiness being a temporary experience and joy an abiding state of mind — these photos certainly tap into joy and its many manifestations. Allow them to serve as inspiration for your own practice of finding joy in a complicated and challenging world.

Research Highlight

In three studies of the relationship between joy and gratitude, research revealed that joy and gratitude have a reciprocal relationship.

“Not only does gratitude promote joy…over time dispositional joy predict[s] enhanced gratitude,” creating an “intriguing upward spiral.”

In other words, gratitude begets joy begets gratitude. 

Watkins, Emmons, Greaves, and Bell (2017) in Journal of Positive Psychology

Photo by Alex Alvarez