Isn’t joy elusive? Everyone wants to experience deep joy, but it always feels just out of reach. Particularly when the bustling holiday season rolls around! Joy is advertised seemingly everywhere! But remains elusive.

And yet, we’ve all met someone who is the epitome of joyful. They do exist! There is an attractiveness and stability within a joyful person…and those people spark the hope that we too can be joyful.

So how does a person move something from elusive to clarity? They define it! They give it shape, and in understanding a concept, start to make choices that are themselves shaped by ‘it’.

Our ‘it’ today is JOY. What it is and how gratitude cultivates joy.

What Joy is Not

When asked to define joy, research participants quickly moved to what it is not: circumstantial. Respondents consistently noted that people can experience joy despite success, financial stability, stable relationships, etc. Joy is not based on circumstances.

Joy happens to be a unique emotion. Often we are surprised by it. Joy has the ability to stop us in our tracks and notice beauty. And beauty exists everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Recently I was talking to an entrepreneur reflecting on how her venture has emotional peaks and valleys, light moments followed by intense darkness. Our conversation was unique though, because she did not loathe the darkness. In that moment, she leans into the beauty of dark moments and how they have shaped her work. She would testify that joy existed and was experienced in her highest and low moments.

Joy is not based on circumstances. Joy can be present with sadness and despair.

Growing Joy With Gratitude

The same research participants who stated that joy is not circumstances fully testified to its relationship to gratitude. Gratitude cultivates deep joy. Instead of being surprised by joy, we can actively begin seeking to grow the experience of joy in our lives. To do so, begin intentionally and mindfully taking moments to pause, despite the circumstances, and reflect on even the smallest degree of gratitude that exists in your life. As thankfulness grows, joy grows.

Joy Does Not Depend On Circumstances.

Joy Depends On Gratitude.

Something I am ever thankful for is that joy does not depend on a perfect and successful life. Click here to watch a video where I expand more on this thought.

One of the greatest emotions we are able to experience can be experienced in the full continuum of life. And if joy is feeling elusive, we are able to mindfully notice the lack of it, and begin thankfully growing joy back into our lives.

Written by therapist Alexandra Hoerr


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