The holiday season is here, but the joy of it may not be, especially at work. Maintaining good mental health on the job can be a challenge at the best of times. Maintaining it during the holidays can seem impossible.
The pressure of the holly jolly season along with regular workload can give rise to feeling even more behind than usual and increase anxiety and poor mental health. Like I’m sort of feeling right now.
Can you relate? Strategic planning for the next year, year end reviews for this last year. Project deadlines that were due…oh like a month ago. Those damn people who take vacations during December (how dare them?!). The obligatory staff/client/shareholder events that mean you get home after the kids have gone to bed and spent more time with your co-workers than your family – again. Add your own to the list.
To find a little relief and decrease triggers for anxiety and depression, I suggest capturing mini-moments of joy. Think of moments of joy like moments of silence – but without the focus on dead people. Personal, brief and meaningful.
Now after you finish rolling your eyes and before you click another link, wait. I promise this hack is doable and effective. It won’t change your life. It might not even change your mood. But it will give you momentary relief from the hell-bent chaos and burden you may be feeling right now at work. The more often you do this simple exercise, the more it will build upon itself.
Finding these mini-moments of joy goes deeper than intellectualizing gratitude. It moves into a mind and body experience of micro-sized feelings of appreciation and simple pleasures.
First, what is joy? See if you can guess.
1.Not a feeling in response to a fortunate event, but a condition of spirit.
2. The name of my neighbor 2 blocks over who has 11 cats & wears big hats.
3. A brand of perfume.
4. Extreme gladness, delight, or exultation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.
5. A mediocre movie with Jennifer Lawrence about some Tupperware woman.
6. Sorry, what? I nodded off. I need more coffee
The answers are 1, 3, 4 and 5 (and potentially 6 if I’ve caught you before your morning coffee). Joy is: a feeling, spiritual condition, perfume and a movie. Now THAT’S what I call versatility!
The American Psychological Association defines it as “a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exultation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.”
I like Existential philosopher James Park’s take on it: joy is “not a feeling in response to a fortunate event, but a condition of spirit”. It is the basis of our being. Often latent it is our basic nature. Now isn’t that optimistic?
The mental health benefits of joy are real.
When we experience joy, the brain releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. People with depression are known to have lower levels of serotonin.1
Positive emotions, like joy, can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength.2
But how to bring this joyful nature out? The easiest way is to become aware of the tiniest feelings of joy that arise naturally while you’re at work. I’m not talking about feeling states extending for a period of minutes. I’m talking about seconds or nano-seconds of joy that occur throughout the course of a day. Focusing on these tiny slices will ‘prime’ your body and mind to see and feel more of them. I take a deeper dive into joy in my workshop “Creating Wellness and Reclaiming Self-Care” with some fun, interactive exercises.
The Hack: How to Capture Mini-Moments of Joy to Improve Mental Health at Work
1.Make a conscious decision to be open to itsy-bitsy bits of joy at your workplace for one day (or even a half a day).
2. Define what joy feels like for you. What does it feel like in your body, your mind and your spirit? Typically, these are small bubbles of positive emotions or sensations of relief or comfort in your body.
For me, I know I’ve hit a blip of joy because the corners of my mouth give rise to a slight smile. I feel a little lightness in my body like my muscles have relaxed. The stream of (often negative) thoughts and worries stop for a split second and I am in the present (for like 1.5 seconds).
3. When something triggers an inkling of joy, pause. Experience it. Notice it. Breathe with it.
4. Note what, if any, physical sensations go along with it and where those sensations occur in your body.
5. Notice what triggered said moment of joy. You can track it to see if it consistently elicits joy for you.
6. Take another gentle and conscious breath and go about your business.
It’s that simple.
Example of mini-moments of joy are:
- Completing a task on your to do list
- Petting your co-worker’s dog (that is of course if you like dogs. I’m a sucker for them.)
- Laughing at a joke said in the staff meeting
- Seeing the winner of the staff’s ugly cookie decorating contest
- When your computer screen unfreezes
- Seeing birds fly by your office window
- Sipping coffee or tea on your break
- Getting through to the tech department within a minute
Being open to and paying conscious attention to the mini-moments of joy can, even in the most stressful day, bring you out of your head and into the present moment. This gives both your body and your brain a break before you dive in the flurry of work that’s waiting for you.
I use this hack on a daily basis at work. Even during my most stressful work days, noticing mini-moments of joy clears my head and reduces my anxiety. It re-energizes me even when I’m in a rotten mood. Try it and see what happens for you. Happy joy hunting at work for a little bit better mental health.
© Victoria Maxwell
- Carrie Murphy https://www.healthline.com/health/affects-of-joy#9
- Create Joy and Satisfaction https://www.mhanational.org/create-joy-and-satisfaction