Life certainly has its ups and downs, but sometimes challenging events can happen all at once. And sometimes, one thing can feel like the weight of the entire world.
When you’re buried and feel like your entire world is upside down, it can be nearly impossible to feel joy – this can be normal. Health issues, losses, breakups, housing challenges, job loss, and other severe stressors happen.
Most adults will experience multiple traumas and losses during their lives, and a loss of joy in these contexts is completely normal. But for some people, the lack of joy can persist or appear out of the blue.
The inability to feel pleasure, known as anhedonia, is relatively common. Roughly 8 percent of US adults will experience depression in a given year, and about 20% will experience a bout of depression over the course of their lives.
Joy and happiness are typically used interchangeably, but some experts suggest there is actually a difference. The difference is that happiness is a reaction to a situation or an experience, whereas joy is a state of mind that can be found even in times of grief and uncertainty.
In this view, joy can be cultivated and utilized regardless of circumstance.
Joy can be created by trying to activate neurotransmitters that make you feel good. Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins can all promote positive feelings.
So, how can you boost these neurotransmitters to feel more joy during difficult times?
Here are a few ideas:
Perform regular physical activity: Activity releases several neurotransmitters that can continue to have an effect long after the exercise is over.
Volunteer: Focusing energy on others can produce more joy and meaning than just focusing on yourself.
Connect spiritually: Joining something larger than yourself can help to develop feelings of gratitude, compassion, and peace. Meditation may help too.
Make a new discovery: Finding a new hobby or pursuit may help refocus energy.
Take a moment: Allowing yourself a few moments of pleasure, even when you’re feeling low, can help to maintain joy.
Pay attention to the good: Look for the positive things that happen to you each day and try to highlight them.
Limit negativity: Try to limit the time with negative people like gossipy coworkers, toxic family members, or complaining friends.
Focus your efforts on things that bring your life meaning.