With such a global state of suffering, who even knows how to feel joyful? There can be an awkwardness or discomfort when you have big wins, like being the only one in a rainstorm with an umbrella. But let’s dispel a myth up front: Finding joy in your life right now isn’t selfish, it’s survival. And as discussed in our recent Well+Good TALK on mental health, it’s natural to have other emotions sit alongside that joy, even if they’re not particularly productive.
“One of my big pet peeves, I think, is people saying that, like, ‘your natural state is happiness,’” says Jasmine Marie, breathwork practitioner and founder of black girls breathing. “And that’s just not true. We’re meant to feel all different types of ways, depending on what’s going on.”
That said, how do we allow ourselves to really savor happiness when we feel guilty about the horrible things going on around us? How do you celebrate, for example, getting a new job when many of your friends have been out of work for months?
According to Marie, it’s usually not worth doing a comparison unless it’s going to be in a good way. You know how sometimes you have to catch yourself when someone has something—a cool job, an engagement ring, a goat farm in Ireland, whatever it is—that you don’t. And you scold yourself: “I shouldn’t compare because that’s their life, and I probably have things they don’t have.” Do the same thing when you feel both joy.
“Hold it equally,” Marie says. “This isn’t a competition on how bad we can all feel. And who’s a winner in that?”
Beyond that, when you have good news you want to celebrate, it always helps to have at least one group of cheerleaders who will root for you no matter what—siblings, work friends, your therapist, your book club!
Watch the Well+Good TALK on the state of mental health with Jasmine Marie, Amanda White, and Elyse Fox:
“I always say, it’s so important for your mental health to have your tribe, people you can just go to and dish and indulge, whether it’s positive or negative,” says Marie. “They will be happy for you in this time.”
And if they’re experiencing loss and grief, there’s still room to hold compassion, you have that conversation, too. But ultimately, your people will want to see you happy, to feel your light.
When you take a step back, your brain doesn’t authentically care if someone has it better or worse than you. Very often, we logically know our jealousy or guilt is unwarranted. Those feelings, instead, are a function. You experience a cocktail of emotions because it’s trying to signal something: your beliefs, your values, your insecurities, and yes, your joys.
“Emotions are data, emotions are information, and they’re not always rational,” says Marie. “And one of the big things that I talk about in my work with people is like, giving up the idea that you’re going to be able to figure out exactly how you should feel you can feel more than one way. At the same time, your emotions may not always make sense. And that’s okay, as long as you can feel them and work through them.”
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