Tis the Season for … Joy!

South Tabor Family Physicians and the health benefits of Joy

Did you know that Joy can have many health benefits?

A few examples of this is that joy releases opiates in the brain that help you feel calm, safe, and energized.  Joy can also help with anxiety, depression, better sleep,  and it can even boost your immune system! Read part of the Harvard Medical School’s post about Joy, written by Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH as well as some of the supporting links, below: “…

Joy and feel-good neurotransmitters

Although the neurobiology of joy is complex, there are a few neurotransmitters that stand out in promoting positive feelings: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. The good news is that many changes to our lives can increase these neurotransmitter levels. For example, running may produce a “runner’s high;” spending time with a baby releases oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” that makes you feel connected.

The effects of neurotransmitters on the body are broad, from relaxing your muscles to speeding up your heart rate, but they may result in a final common pathway of promoting positive feelings. Whether it’s finding a sense of purpose or enjoying supportive relationships, the benefits on the mind and body are far-reaching.

How do you increase joy?

During difficult times, it becomes twice as important to modify your routine, allowing yourself to experience joy. Here are some ideas, although it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you:

  • Perform regular aerobic physical activity. Think of physical activity as releasing a bubble bath of neurotransmitters — and their effects linger long after the exercise is over.
  • Dedicate yourself to others. Activities such as volunteering produce greater joy than focusing on oneself.
  • Connect with your spiritual side. When we join with something larger than ourselves, we develop feelings of gratitude, compassion, and peace. Meditation is a powerful way to modify brain pathways to increase joy.
  • Discover something new. As humans, we are hard-wired to experience joy when experiencing novelty. Developing a new pursuit can help us refocus our energy.
  • Give yourself permission to take a few moments of pleasure, especially when you are feeling low. You can try NPR’s Joy Generator for a taste.
  • Pay attention to the good. A joyous mindset can be developed, but takes practice. The three good things exercise helps you keep an eye out for the positives during the day.
  • Conversely, limit negativity. Whether it’s gossipy coworkers, a toxic relationship with a family member, or a complaining friend, spending time around a negative mindset influences us directly. It’s okay to set limits.
  • Focus your efforts on what brings meaning to your life (and don’t focus on money).
  • Ask your doctor about whether your medications can affect your ability to experience pleasure, especially if you are taking antidepressants.”

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