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Mental Health: Experiencing Joy Makes All the Difference

When you are used to experiencing hardship, headaches, and hurt in your life, it's hard to know what joy and happiness feels like. If you're used to having addiction, drug use, and domestic violence around you, it's hard to know what feeling good means. In fact, sometimes, you have to teach yourself joy. It's like you need to expand your window of feelings and learn to experience the more positive side of emotions. 

Just knowing that feeling joy and happiness is possible can be the beginning. That's all you need to begin. Next, you might engage in the following activities to help yourself open up to joy and those feel-good emotions:

•    spend time with someone who is joyful
•    imagine what it would be like to feel more joy
•    sing along to your favorite songs
•    think back to a time in your life when you were joyful and let yourself merge with the positive feelings of that time
•    create a gratitude list of what you're happy to have in your life
•    paint, draw, or dance - being creative can inspire joy
•    even in the middle of a busy day, stop for a moment and smile
•    consciously activate your positive feelings more often so that they can naturally occur more often
•    exercise more often - endorphins that are released during exercise can help inspire good feelings
•    listen to music that opens your heart to joy, love, and gratitude
•    make a list of what you enjoy doing and see if you can do one each day this week
•    take a trip somewhere that fills you with enjoyment
•    spend time near or around the ocean
•    let go of the feeling of business; let yourself experience relaxation
•    look for the good in other people
•    feel yourself connected to others, even if your imagination
•    surf the web for happy news and the good that is happening around the world
•    get a massage
•    play with your nieces, nephews, or other children
•    make love with your spouse or intimate partner
•    watch your favorite comedy
•    visit your local comedy club
•    call a friend you love or whom you haven't spoken to in awhile; let them know how important they are to you
•    try some laughter yoga
•    decide to smile once a day
•    spend time in nature
•    learn more about the psychology of joy and happiness (there are many experiments that have been done) to remind yourself that joy is possible

In a way, joy is a choice. But it might take some time to let yourself feel joy. If you feel like your mental health is at risk and none of the above options are working, you might want to talk to a therapist. Much of the world is accustomed to difficulty (news, movies, and even sitcoms are focused on stress and worry), so you might feel blocked by the desire to feel better and better. If you keep making the choice, and if you continue to help your brain and body learn joy, it's entirely possible to have a joyful life!

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Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.