Do you have a joy deficiency and need some “Vitamin J?”
While your physician may be able to treat you for depression – a difficult, scary and debilitating illness – she may not diagnose you with “Joy Deficiency.” That doesn’t mean you don’t have one and need a cure.
You may be joy deprived when:
- Life is good or just ok, but has lost its luster and excitement.
- You crave energy sucking activities such as computer games, social media posting and/or lurking, binging Netflix and other passive media.
- You worry about the future beyond normal concerns and plans.
- Your immune system is weakened from stress so you catch everything that’s going around.
- Your social engagements that are few and far between. (Which is most of us right now due to Covid-19, quarantine and social distancing.)
- You feel like the best of life is behind you instead of in front of you.
- You’ve given up on your dreams.
If you have a joy deficiency, you are not alone. We certainly have plenty to worry about in 2020; No one can be faulted for being concerned and anxious.
The whole world is under pressure right now.
At the time of this writing, our country is starting to peek its head out from under the covers and slowly get out of bed after being hit with the pandemic. Our economy is opening up and people are starting back to work with safety measures and precautions in place. Others are starting the search for work because they were laid off.
Even though life can be stressful, it doesn’t have to be devoid of happiness. Concerns about the future and joy in the moment can still exist at the same time. It just takes some focus and attention to flip the switch.
I heard the term “joy deprivation” from The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living by Amit Sood, MD. The concept struck a nerve with me since I read the book during week five of Wasatch County, Utah’s required stay-at-home order. This coincided with my company going to work-at-home, increased workload and healing from a sprained ankle.
The quarantine — a forced retreat — brought heightened awareness of joy deprivation to me.
Since I sprained my ankle, I was in pain, not mobile, concerned about the virus and the economy, while working full time from my home office. While I was grateful to have a great job, the workload was intense, and computer screen time increased. I left work each night fulfilled but exhausted.
Missing was my daily walk/runs in the neighborhood with the dog. Being outdoors and moving your body makes anyone happy. Our monthly neighborhood Girl’s Nights and book club were cancelled. Until the pandemic, I had no idea what a difference exercise and get togethers with friends meant to my mental health and happiness.
I needed to flip the switch to joy and focus my attention on not just being grateful, but to full out experience joy – a higher level of happiness.
The Joy Challenge was born.
I took some prompts from the Mayo Clinic’s book, enrolled some girlfriends and started a Joy Challenge. For three days, 10 minutes a day, my friends and I followed the prompts from Mayo’s Clinic’s Guide.
Goal: Increase your joyful attention, increase novelty and make the present moment more meaningful.
How? For 10 minutes a day, the Mayo Clinic tells us to:
- Synchronize your attention with your eyes, ears, and other senses.
- Infuse your attention with kindness and compassion
- Be intentional about your attention
- (and I added) Let your heart fill with joy.
That’s the joy challenge and it’s just 10 minutes a day for three days.
Here are some of the results we experienced:
I learned that I find joy in activities and even work. When I’m doing something I love and I focus on it, I think of nothing else. Like skiing, like mountain biking. I get into such a Zen state. Time just passes and flows when I am completely absorbed. I am going to let myself go that deep more and more now.Sibyl – Utah
The greatest fulfillment for me is when I can help someone with a need ….something as little as listening, making sure if they might need something at the store. Believe me I do not wake up in the morning feeling like doing anything for anyone ….. especially since my kids are out of the house !
I’m probably one of the most self absorbed people around. But the greatest joy I’ve had in my life is when I quit thinking about me and make a decision to do one thing every day that’s not about me.Teri- Tennesse
I relaxed and just floated in my pool. I have a pool but it’s been years since I’ve gone in it. Lots of reasons why but the biggest one is thinking I need to do something instead of nothing but float.Renee – Florida
What I learned from the Joy Challenge.
Feeling happy or content is no problem for me but after three minutes in, I started to feel uncomfortable with the more intense emotion of joy. My mind wanted me to think about or do something else. The short exercise was surprisingly difficult.
The full 10 minutes of focused attention on joy made a difference. In my case, I choose “gazing at nature.” Mt. Timpanogos comes into view from my bedroom window. While I look at the mountain every day, I’d never REALLY looked at it before.
In the past, I’d glance at the view and smile. Maybe I’d take a deep breath so a minute or two of happiness. With the joy challenge, I got WAY INTO IT, studied the peaks and valleys, the snow line, and the shapes. I let the beauty into my heart and felt deeply grateful I have this view every day.
The difference for me was the intensity and once I allowed it in, I couldn’t get enough of it.
Why don’t you try it?
Take the Three Day Joy Challenge:
Here are three easy steps:
Start by choosing your joyful activity
- Gaze at nature
- Lay in the grass and watching clouds
- Feel the sun on your face
- Have a conversation with a loved one
- Listen to music
- Pet your dog
- Playing with your cat
- Participating in a hobby – painting, sewing, fishing, etc.
- Meditate or pray
Then take at least 10 minutes each day for three days and immerse yourself in what you are doing.
On day three, reflect on your experience.
What was different by fully experiencing joy and letting it sink in for a full 10 minutes each time? How did the experience deepen or change for you? What will you do more of going forward?
Take away from the exercise: Practice joy intentionally.
Inject yourself with vitamin J. (A metaphor. No needles involved.)
The world whirls around us and brings inherent dangers and threats to our safety and livelihood. There is much we can’t control, predict or understand. What we can control is our attitude.
No matter how stressful our days are, let’s enjoy each day as much as possible and get a daily dose of Vitamin J.
*Note – if you feel you may have depression – a serious and real medical condition — see your physician for guidance.