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Experiencing joy and feeling sick every single day – that sounds like a huge contradiction right?
You’re right, there’s nothing fun about chronic illness. Being exhausted and in pain, having serious symptoms, not being able to do the things you love, it all sucks the joy right out of your day.
And yet, joy is a more powerful emotion than we give it credit for.
When you’re having fun, feel passionate or burst out laughing, your brain receives a signal to release dopamine and serotonin. These ‘happy hormones’ causes reactions in many other parts of your body, like a racing heart from excitement or butterflies in your stomach. Through this chemical process, joy boosts your immunity, reduces stress and pain, improves your heart health and makes it more likely to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Studies show that even a fake smile can trick your brain into a better mood and lower stress levels.
So when you think of it, you actually need more positive emotions like joy now that you are sick. Not just to support your health, but to counteract all the negative experiences you’re dealing with. According to the happiness ratio concept, you need 3 positive emotions for every negative one in order to feel good, physically and emotionally. (Ok, the exact ratio is criticized but not really important – the idea that you need plenty of positivity in life for a healthy balance is).
Making room for joy in your day is not a luxury, it’s a necessity for your wellbeing.
Sounds great, but how can you cultivate joy when you’re chronically ill or experiencing other kinds of hardship?
The first thing to realize, is that you can be sick and hurting and experience moments of joy at the same time. Feeling happy and excited or having fun does not mean that you aren’t seriously ill. It means you were able to put your pain aside for a little while to enjoy life too. These conflicting emotions can coexist. Filling your days with more laughter and more fun activities is not selfish or frivolous – you’re simply trying to live a full life despite your illness (and work on your health in the mean time!).
Even on bad days, you can try to find joy in your senses, from cherishing a good piece of chocolate to listening to your favorite song. You can find joy in playfulness, getting silly and laughter. It isn’t easy, but looking for the humor in every situation can be a helpful coping mechanism. You can even find joy in accomplishments, like putting in a day’s of hard work or overcoming challenges.
Whatever sparks joy for you, make sure your sprinkle more of these simple pleasures throughout your day. I highly recommend making your own happy list to cultivate positivity when life’s tough.
And perhaps the 15 joy quotes below will give you some inspiration – or at least put a smile on your face today.
For more inspiration on how to cultivate more positive emotions like joy – no matter your circumstances – check out Barbara Fredrickson’s bestseller Positivity. You can also download my free Bored & Sick Guide with 200 fun things to do when you’re stuck at home.
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