• Julie Kosteas Baker

Joy to the World

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Marie Kondo, organizing consultant, author, and television host, continuously challenges her clients and readers to only keep items that "spark joy". She's even made it her mission -according to her website - to help more people live a life that sparks joy. She also has an extensive online shop, selling items that span from clothing to home and garden. So, apparently she's cornered the retail market on joy. ;)

While I enjoy cleaning and organizing my home and keeping it clean and organized more than most people (cleanliness is next to godliness -- can I get an amen?!) I'm fairly certain that most of my joy comes from other facets of my life, and not because I'm such a dynamic person, but because I'm intentional on having joy rooted in my home, my work, my relationships, and my play.

My reason is simple: I feel great - physically and mentally - when I feel joy. Sounds like a no-brainer (wait for the pun), but when we experience joy, our brain releases two important neurotransmitters that regulate many systems in our body: dopamine and serotonin. (Read my Dear Negative Nancy blog for more on these neurotransmitters.) Joy is also good for your circulatory system: heart, blood, and lymph nodes; and for your autonomic nervous system: those things you do without conscious effort, like breathing and digestion.

Recognizing that joy has a profound impact on morbidity and mortality, its importance should not be undermined. And given that communities of color and other marginalized groups are already a disadvantage when it comes to health and healthcare, I would even argue that joy is a necessity for black and brown individuals, LGBTQIA, and persons with disabilities. But how does one go about finding joy, and what is it forreal forreal?

Oxford Dictionary defines joy as "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness". And then there's Merriam-Webster getting real deep with their definition and taking it to a whole other level: "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires". Given that "good fortune" is out of our control and "the prospect of possessing what one desires" seems a little too fleeting, let's focus on the other joy triggers: well-being and success.

Since well-being is comprised of many domains, here are four of the major ones and examples of activities and behaviors that can illicit joy in each domain:

Emotional well-being: crafting, reading, singing

Physical well-being: dancing, stretching and yoga, walking/jogging

Social well-being: cultivating meaningful relationships and volunteering

Psychological well-being: affirmations, meditations, prayer

Singing in the shower and in your car: instant joy. Daily pajama dance parties with my daughter: so much joy. Volunteering: joy deep in my soul. Affirmations: happy, happy, joy, joy!

Success is a little trickier, but if we remove social norms, and purely look at success as accomplishing one's goals, then goal-setting and goal-attainment can spark all the joy. How does one set goals and attain them? I'm so glad you asked, because that's what my next blog is all about. :)

Until then, go sing and dance [at home] like it's 1999.

In good health,

#joy #findingjoy #healthbenefits #neurotransmitters #dopamine #serotonin


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