How to Use Joy to Combat Stress and Burnout

Incorporating joy into our daily routines can help us reset and recharge.

Moyo Studio/ Getty Images
Moyo Studio/ Getty Images

Joy is one of our most powerful emotions. The origins of the word “joy” date back to the 13th century, coming from the Old French word joie, meaning pleasure, delight, bliss. But joy doesn’t just make us feel goodit’s actually an effective antidote to burnout. According to Mental Health America, it can lower our anxiety, decrease stress hormones, promote heart health and even lessen pain. 

That’s why joy can be so powerful at work — it’s a force multiplier that allows teams and companies to set ambitious goals and meet them without burning out. A study by researchers at Warwick University found that joy and happiness made people 12% more productive. As study author Daniel Sgroi put it, “Happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.” 

Here are three simple Microsteps for using joy to combat stress and burnout:

Do one thing each morning that makes you happy

It’s easy to start our days by checking our emails, scrolling through social media, and putting everyone else’s needs before our own. But researchers have found that taking time for what makes us happy first thing in the morning can help us set the tone for a happier, less stressful day ahead. Use the time you usually spend on your phone to do something that brings you joy. It might be meditating, walking, reading a book, or making breakfast. From this foundation, you’ll reap benefits all day long.

Find small joy triggers throughout the day

We often associate joy with big occasions and major milestones in our lives, but we can also find joy in very small moments — and that’s where joy triggers come into play. When we carve out moments for the little things that spark joy in our lives, like looking through old photos or playing a song we love, we’re able to reduce our stress and broaden our perspective. That’s why joy triggers are at the heart of Thrive Reset, a tool based on the neuroscience that shows that we can course-correct from stress in just 60 to 90 seconds. When we look at images, read quotes, or listen to music that brings us joy, we’re able to return to our work feeling recharged and refreshed.

Write down what you’re grateful for

Whether you have a few minutes in the morning or before bed at night, carve out some time to write down a few things you’re grateful for each day. These might be big (like your health) or very small (like getting to pet a cute dog or having a day of nice weather). Researchers have found that when we express gratitude regularly, we’re less likely to suffer from mental health challenges, and more likely to tap into our feelings of happiness and joy. Taking a few minutes for gratitude every day can help us feel grateful for the small things we may not have noticed before.

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