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How to Find Joy When Life Gets Tough

It is no secret that life is a little strange right now. The world as we know it has been turned upside down and people are running into hardships they may not have encountered otherwise. In an uncertain environment, how do we find joy in our daily lives? It’s helpful to understand what the definition of joy actually is. Joy is a strong, long-term state “… that results in feelings of inner peace and contentment.” Those who live a joyful life have been shown to have lower heart rate and blood pressure and stronger immune systems. They’re also shown to have less illnesses and longer lifespans. Sounds like a pretty ideal state of being to me! Unfortunately, while feelings such as happiness are relatively easy to manufacture (as they’re more short-term emotions), joy takes a conscious effort and time to cultivate. So what are some ways to begin cultivating joy in daily life? Just look below!

Find Meaning

In difficult circumstances, try to focus on what you can learn from them. No experience is meaningless, there are always lessons we can learn and new knowledge we can obtain, but sometimes it takes effort to find the meaning within. 

Focus on the Little Things

In the age of social media, it’s so easy to focus on things that we don’t have. Often times, the things we don’t have may not even be things we want. Instead of thinking about all of the things we don’t have, try shifting your perspective to focus on the things we do have and the small important moments in each day. Ultimately, these small moments and this shift in perspective will build to create joy within the life you’re currently living. 

Slow the Spiral

How often do we become upset about one thing and 10 minutes later have found ourselves in a deep spiral going back to things that bothered us when we were toddlers. When we become upset with one thing it triggers us to then think about everything else that may be “wrong” in our lives. Of course, this is not a productive way of thinking so how can we shift our thoughts? Creating the intention to practice gratitude daily is a greatly effective way to offset the negative spiral. It’s helpful to pick a daily activity, showering, making dinner, commuting to work, as a designated time to think of a few things you’re grateful for. “It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us joyful.”

Discover Interests

It’s easy to get buried under the to-do lists each day and forget to make time for things that excite us. It’s important to set aside time each day to do something you’re passionate about or begin to explore a new interest. “Your joy comes from what you feel passionate about, and your passion is your purpose.” 

Set Goals

If you start to feel as though your life is on a loop or you’re sleepwalking through the day-to-day, it’s time to set a new goal outside of your comfort zone. Working towards something and achieving minor goals along the way leads to a feeling of accomplishment and moving forward. 

Practice Mindfulness

We often spend most our time reflecting on the past or planning for the future. How frequently do we take the time to exist and ground ourselves in the present? If the answer is rarely, joy will be hard to find as “finding joy can only truly exist in the now.” Practicing mindfulness and/or meditation is a great way to begin grounding yourself in the present moment. 

Be Yourself

One of many struggles that comes with social media is consistently comparing ourselves to others. Social media is very performative with users putting the best versions, or fake versions, of themselves out there. Ask yourself, are you working to please others or yourself? It’s important to work towards being as authentically yourself as possible. That is where you’ll find joy. 

Get Outside

Since shelter-in-place began, the importance of getting in touch with nature became incredibly clear. Individuals that spend more time outside have been shown to experience less anxiety, rumination, and negative effects in general. 


While this may seem self-explanatory, “when we laugh, we release endorphins into our body that can offer natural pain relief…” as well as reducing stress and boosting our immune systems. Laughter is some of the best medicine we can find. The best part? It’s free. 

Surround Yourself with Positive People

It’s very easy to be in a bad mood when surrounded by negative people. While venting to friends can be beneficial, it’s counterproductive to end up in a contest of who can be the most pessimistic. Instead, surrounding yourself with individuals that can see the upside to things and find gratitude and positivity within their lives, will allow you to begin to adapt a similar mindset. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling to effectively manage your mental and physical health, it may be useful to try in-person or online counseling in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our talented licensed therapists today!

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