Just like you, I’m on Zoom calls a lot lately. That means I see my own face way more than I usually do! And I’ve noticed something. At some point during the past 5 months, I’ve developed “resting serious face,” which can look pretty…serious!
Thinking about this, I remembered learning about how our expressions affect our emotions and mood, and even our health. Altering our expressions, for example by smiling, improves our state of mind. Not only that, smiling boosts our immune system, which sounds pretty good in our current circumstances.
…joy…can help you counterbalance pain so that you can move forward instead of getting stuck and feeling hopeless, and this is no small thing.
~ Donald Altman, The Joy Compass
So I’ve been encouraging myself to have “resting happy face” – not a huge grin, necessarily. But even a pleasant expression or slight smile – how I’d look if I were feeling content and at ease. And you know what? When I do that I feel noticeably better. When I really pay attention, I’ve noticed that smiling makes me think of things that make me happy, helping me shift away from worried or anxiety-provoking thoughts.
Making this even better, smiles are contagious. They make those around you smile and feel better, too. So, I invite you to give it a try. Smile when you’re on Zoom. Smile when you’re outdoors, unmasked. When you’re masked, let your smile reach your eyes.
Smiling is just one way of experiencing joy. Far from being frivolous in these difficult times, joy matters. It keeps us from getting stuck in difficult emotion – and we have plenty of good reasons these days to have challenging emotions. It’s important to notice, accept, listen to, and soothe them. And then it’s important to shift focus to something that lifts us up and helps us move forward.
Joy is healing for us in exactly that way. It helps us cope positively with the very real difficulties we’re living with.
As Donald Altman says, that’s no small thing! Read on for some more ways to experience joy.
Simple Ways to Move Forward With Joy
Here are some of the very accessible joy-inducing experiences that members of the Keys to Change Community have shared recently:
- Help others who are in need
- Walk in nature
- Create something
- Contemplate while sitting or walking near the river
- Listen to music
- Ride a bicycle
- Blow soap bubbles
- Take time for rest and renewal
A Writing Practice to Try
Free writing lets you write with no agenda, expectations or demands. You’re just letting your thoughts and feelings flow. Your memories, thoughts, daydreams, opinions, worries, anxieties, fears, and yes, joys can flow from your mind onto the paper.
It’s a simple practice that doesn’t require writing experience or special talent. The writing is for your eyes only, for your well being. You can make sure to keep your writing private, either by destroying it when you’re done, or by saving it where it won’t be seen.
You don’t need to be concerned about grammar, spelling or composition. Just write,
accepting whatever appears without judgment.
It allows you set aside self-criticism and befriend, listen to and honor your inner self.
Here’s how to do it:
Set up a place where you can write without interruption.
Use your favorite writing implements or device.
Create a relaxing environment, perhaps with music, soft lighting, a scented candle – whatever you enjoy.
Take 3 or more deep, slow breaths before you begin.
Write continuously for 3-5 minutes, letting the writing go where it wants to.
Try doing this twice or more a week, for a few weeks. See what if anything changes in your writing, and in yourself. Let me know if this, or one of the other ideas here, helps you bring more joy into your life.
Helping You Find Joy In These Turbulent Times
Finding joy doesn’t have to be a DIY task. Let me make it easy and fun for you! I’ve planned a great, online mini-retreat for you this month. We’re gathering on Saturday, September 26, from 10AM-12:15PM EASTERN time.
This pay-what-you-wish event includes guided visualizations, open-hearted conversation, writing to connect with your deepest, most true thoughts and emotions, and distant Reiki. All this plus some great bonus offers!! Don’t wait – you know how time flies! Save your spot here.
Sources and Credit
Altman, D. (2012). The joy compass. New York, NY: MJF Books.
Pennebaker J. W. & Smuth, J. M. (2016). Opening up by writing it down. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Image: NL Seibel, Keys to Change 2020