Cultivating Joy

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Cultivating joy

Blog post by Britt McKinney, RMCHI

This is the third post in our series exploring Yalom’s “ultimate concerns.”  If this is the first one you’re reading, here’s what you need to know: we can identify things about who we are by considering the meaning we ascribe to death, freedom, isolation, and meaningless in our lives.

Reading that for the first time may be intimidating, so don’t hesitate to earmark this post and read the ones that led up to this section of the discussion.

This post is the one promised last time to explore cultivating joy, which is a catchy way to say that we have the ability to create positivity in our lives. These are 4 tools you can use to increase your agency in enjoying life more fully.


1: When we discuss the concept of death, it gives us an opportunity to consider what it feels like to be alive. Since life and death often trigger anxieties, it is beneficial to take things one breath at a time, literally.

We can be present in the moment by using breath meditation, which can lower heart rate and blood pressure.


2: Freedom is paramount on this topic of joy and that’s because we have the freedom to influence our own outlooks and attitudes. That being said, why not focus on pleasurable thoughts?

Laughter is typically pleasant,,, but sometimes it feels forced. That’s okay! According to Dr. Madan Kataria, when we choose to laugh, whether it is genuine or contrived, and it can lower the cortisol (stress responses) inside us.


3: Isolation is the hot topic during “social distancing”... Right? So try looking at it creatively.

The words we use reflect the things we believe and at times the opposite is true. Either way, it is powerful to consider changing the words we use to describe this specific COVID-19 precaution toward the use of the term “physical distancing” and see what happens as a result.


4: Meaninglessness and joy is the interesting combination and the trickiest challenge to present.

We can consider the core emotions that are at the root of all things to work through this connection. There are a few primary emotions: joy, sadness, fear (some consider anger and disgust core emotions too). Considering ‘joy’ is a deep-rooted and motivating feeling, it is the one we can see when considering what is and is not meaningless. In other words, getting in touch with the things that bring us joy can be a compass for navigating through the way we pursue certain things instead of others.


This discussion of joy may not be a perfect fit for all. The beautiful thing: each person is free to create their own priorities.

Take what you need from this post and leave what’s left.


**Pronoun “their” used to encompass all people.


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Britt McKinney is a master level therapist at Agape Therapy Institute.  To book an appointment with Britt, click here.


"Man Holding Silver and Black Camera" Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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