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The Surprising Health Benefits of Joy: How Joy Improves your Mental and Physical Health

Written by Molly Schreiber, Founder + CEO, Challenge to Change, Inc.

"We cannot cure the world of its sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy." - Joseph Campbell

We are so blessed to have a plethora of emotions. At C2C, we work on helping humans of all ages navigate emotions in a healthy way. We do so through our work in the schools, in-house work with staff, and also at workplaces in need of some well-being support.

Emotions are energy; their job is to attract our attention to what is going on inside ourselves in the present moment, prompt us to make decisions and give us the fuel to act. I like to think of emotions as data from our soul. It's information that can help us navigate our inner and outer lives.

Recently, I have been focusing on the emotion of joy. In a world filled with chaos, stress, and uncertainty, finding joy can sometimes feel like an elusive pursuit. However, it's during challenging times that can help bring joy into reach because it is more closely tied to moments of relief or ecstasy. Through my recent cancer journey, I have learned more than ever that joy is an important tool for mental and physical health. I believe joy has the power to transform our lives, uplift our spirits, and bring us closer to a sense of fulfillment and contentment.

5 Surprising Health Benefits of Joy

Joy is typically a more intense and transient emotion than happiness. It tends to be a brief and intense feeling of delight, often brought about by a specific event or moment. Here are some of the ways that feeling joyful can positively impact your mental and physical health:

1. Enhanced Immune System

Positive emotions like joy are linked to a strengthened immune system. Studies have shown that a positive outlook can enhance immune function, making the body better equipped to defend against illnesses.

2. Improved Relationships

Joy often leads to social connections and positive relationships with others. I have learned, through my research of joy, it is so important who we connect with, and what they bring to our lives. These connections are important for emotional health and can provide a support system in times of stress.

Joy is contagious. I find when I am in moments of joy, I am laughing. Notice how much you laugh and who you laugh with. Laughter is a side effect of us experiencing joy and a wonderful added bonus.

3. Increased Resilience

Joy acts as a shield against adversity. It helps us navigate through challenging times with grace and resilience. By focusing on the positive aspects of life, we develop a mindset that allows us to bounce back from setbacks and find meaning in difficult situations. This can be a hard concept on days we do not feel joy.

4. Heart Health

Joy and happiness have been associated with improved cardiovascular health. Positive emotions can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve overall heart function.

5. Respiratory and Digestive Health

Joyful emotions can promote better breathing patterns and aid in digestion. The relaxation associated with joy can reduce tension in the body, leading to improved respiration and digestion.

4 Ways to Invite Joy into Your Life

In the list below, I share how you can invite more joy into your life. Joy is not an elusive concept reserved for a select few; it is a birthright we all possess. By consciously choosing joy, we can transform our lives and create a ripple effect of positivity in the world.

1. Cultivate gratitude

Gratitude is the gateway to joy. It literally changes the neuro pathways in your brain. Take a moment each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for. It is always at your disposal and inexpensive! It could be as simple as a beautiful sunset, a warm cup of tea, or the laughter of loved ones. By shifting our focus to gratitude, we open ourselves up to experiencing more joy.

2. Surround yourself with positivity

Surround yourself with people who radiate joy and positivity. Their energy will uplift you and inspire you to embrace joy in your own life. Additionally, limit exposure to negative influences such as news or social media that can dampen your spirits. We all have energy vampires in our lives. However, we can control the amount of time we spend with them and how much they infiltrate our bubble of joy. I always try to remember: We become the average of the five people we hold closest to us. So choose wisely!

3. Pursue passions and hobbies

Engaging in activities that bring us joy is essential for our well-being. Whether it's painting, dancing, gardening, or playing an instrument, make time for activities that ignite your passion and bring you pure joy. This is an area that I was lacking before my cancer diagnosis.

I always found joy in my work. Now, work has its place in my schedule, but so do hobbies and passion projects. Recently, I decided to pursue the hobby of sound healing. I know it will help my healing to fulfill my love for music and sound. Finding a hobby to help us experience joy will also boost our way of connecting with other like-minded people.

4. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the art of being fully present in the moment. By practicing mindfulness, we can savor the small joys that often go unnoticed. Engage your senses, appreciate the beauty around you, and immerse yourself in the present moment. If you know me at all, you know this is the heartbeat of who I am. Meditation is a cornerstone in my life and has helped me to find joy and peace in my cancer journey.

That's why I'm so excited to announce my newest meditation challenge!

Throughout this 12-day challenge, you will become an emotional scientist and uncover the deeper wisdom of your emotions.

What you’ll get:

  • 12 videos

  • 7 EXCLUSIVE emotions meditations

  • Downloadable challenge journal

Each day, you will:

  • Watch a short video

  • Write down the emotion that you are feeling.

  • Write down the physical sensation you are feeling.

  • Choose a guided meditation from the included emotions meditations that most closely matches how you’re feeling.

  • Journal on the day’s prompt.

This challenge officially launches on December 1st, 2023.

Namaste my friends!



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