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Cultivating Joy

Date: 05/01/23

Have you ever felt like all you do is work? Even before the COVID pandemic and the resulting increase in remote work, many people found it hard to find the right balance between work life and home life. Now, as our work lives change and more of us work from home, it can be harder than ever to separate the two.  

What is joy and how is it different from happiness?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.[1]


 That may seem like a lot of words to define what most of us know in our hearts. While joy is similar to happiness, they aren’t quite the same. Happiness can happen quickly, with a feeling of pleasure, excitement, and satisfaction. Joy, on the other hand, is a stronger, ongoing feeling of peace and contentment. It takes time to develop.[2] Joy is a state of mind that can be cultivated and encouraged, even in very difficult times.[3]

How can you increase the joy you feel?

There are times in your life when you just don’t feel happy. It isn’t unusual to feel less joy when going through tough times like breakups, losses, or disasters, or during a mental illness like depression. But doing things that create the right conditions to feel joy can help to level out some of those ups and downs.2 Here are some ideas for creating the right environment:23

  • Get active. Physical activity releases feel-good hormones that act on the pleasure centers of your brain. These effects last long after you’ve finished exercising.
  • Do things for others. Research shows that volunteering and doing kind things for others produce more joy than focusing on yourself.
  • Do something new. Finding something new that we enjoy helps to refocus energy and find purpose.
  • Pay attention to what’s good. Look for the positive things in each day and notice them. You might even want to write a journal entry about them.
  • Limit negativity. If there are people or situations that are negative in your life, try to set some limits. Step away from social media, say no when you have to.
  • Be present. Pay attention to now. You can’t change the past, and the future will happen without you worrying about it.

What are the benefits of being more joyful?

Finding greater joy in your life can have health benefits. People who are more joyful have lower levels of stress hormones, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and stronger immune systems. They may also have fewer aches and pains.

Your EAP can help

These are just suggestions, and they may not work for everyone. If your lack of joy persists, contact your EAP. We can help you with referrals to therapists who can help, at no cost to you.

As always, if you are afraid that you might hurt yourself or others, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Using 988, callers nationwide can reach compassionate, accessible support for mental health-related distress for themselves or loved ones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


[1] Joy Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

[2] 12 Best Ways to Find Joy in Everyday Life - How to Find Joy (

[3] How can you find joy (or at least peace) during difficult times? - Harvard Health