There are five main emotions: anger, sadness, fear, love, and joy. Often we experience our emotions in an interconnected way. For example, when we hold on to sadness for a long time, we can feel depressed. And while anti-depressant medications might reduce depression, one thing they cannot do is bring back joy. Joy and love cannot be replaced chemically.
Our sacred responsibility is to find joy regardless of the challenges we face.
Many empaths, however, struggle to find joy. We zero in on the difficulties we experience. We live with the fear of taking on others’ negative energy. We get drained easily. We spend most of our time trying to protect ourselves, clear out energy, set boundaries, and fix our problems. When we get too overwhelmed, we shut down.
But when we shut down the negative emotions, we shut down the positive ones as well. We put up a protective armor around us, and we block joy and love from coming in.
Joy is a necessary part of a rich, full life, and the presence—or absence—of it has a direct impact on our health and wellbeing.
Here are five ways for empaths (and others!) to find joy:
Believe that you are worthy of experiencing joy and that you deserve to be happy.
If you are told from an early age that something is wrong with you simply because you are sensitive to energy, you grow up feeling unworthy and unloved. Learning to love yourself is the first step to reigniting the joy in your life. If you continuously push joy away, it is time to change your internal beliefs.
What are your current internal beliefs about joy? Some common examples are below.
- Joy is a waste of time.
- I don’t deserve to feel joy.
- Productivity and success are more important than joy.
- Taking time to find joy is selfish.
Can you change your internal beliefs to more supportive beliefs?
- I am worthy and loved. I deserve to have joy in my life.
- I am safe. My life is filled with joy.
- I’m here to enJOY. The rest will fall into place.
- It is my sacred responsibility to have joy and to empower others to find happiness.
Are you willing to change your internal monologue about joy?
Stop dress rehearsing tragedy
Do you ever look at your life and think to yourself: Things are good…I’m happy at work…my relationships are fine…this must be temporary…?
Your vacation fun is hampered by your constant focus on the stress waiting for you back home. You love your job, but you’re afraid you’re going to lose it. You’re grateful for your health yet you can’t help but imagine what will happen if you get sick.
“I’m here to tell you that joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions,” says Brené Brown. “We are terrified to feel joy. We are so afraid that if we let ourselves feel joy, something will come along and rip it away from us, and we will get sucker-punched by pain and trauma and loss. So, in the midst of great things, we dress rehearse tragedy. We’re afraid to be grateful for what we have.”
A big step to changing your relationship with joy is to recognize that your tendency to rehearse tragedies that could happen in the future is making you afraid to be happy right now.
Are you willing to stop imagining the worst?
Feel it. All of it. Including the painful emotions
Ironically, one of the keys to finding joy is to let ourselves fully feel the opposite of joy: anger, fear, frustration, shame, guilt, helplessness, powerlessness, worthlessness, and sadness. In a recent blog I wrote, “How to Be a Lighthouse in the Midst of the Storm,” I talk about how grounding can help us discern which emotions serve us and which we need to release.
Courage cannot live without fear. Joy cannot live without sorrow.
Are you willing to let opposite emotions co-exist?
Stair-step up to joy. No need to jump in all the way
Expecting yourself to shift automatically from misery (or despair) to joy might be unrealistic. If you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders or you are on emotional overload because of the negativity around you, don’t expect yourself to make an immediate leap into joy.
Visualize your changing emotional state as marks on a scale or steps on a staircase. One of the women I mentor works in construction. I call her the “Bridge Builder.” Her company literally builds bridges. She chooses to see her emotional scale as a bridge, where each section on the bridge represents a different emotion.
You can’t jump from misery to joy. But you can make small positive shifts on the emotional scale. Hopelessness to hope. Hope to compassion. Compassion to peace. Peace to curiosity. Curiosity to joy.
Are you willing to climb the emotional staircase step by step?
Listen to your body. Your body knows.
If you are sensitive to energy, your body might manifest physical symptoms in reaction to external influences like mine does. If so, you’ll probably enjoy reading about the fascinating process of healing your emotions and the thought patterns behind your physical symptoms in my recent blog, “Physical Empaths: Here’s How to Optimize Your Health.”
We store pain and trauma in our bodies. When we are triggered, the body automatically responds. We get a knot in our stomach. Our breath grows short. Our back hurts. Our posture contracts.
As soon as you feel tension in your body, thank your body for the reminder that something is off and needs your attention.
Listen to your body. Change your posture. Take a deep breath. Pull your shoulders back. Open your heart. Smile. Shake your limbs. The physical movement will free up some space. Your pure intention to find joy will create an opening.
Are you willing to take small actions that will open up your body to joy?
If you’ve been missing joy in your life, be patient. Only you can make the choice to bring joy back to your life, but it takes time and compassion with yourself. Try these approaches, and let me know how it goes!