Joy is the antidote to stress. While stress shuts us down and sends negative signals to our HPA axis, joy opens us up and helps us to rest and digest. So often we get stuck in the same way of doing things, the work-eat-sleep repeat schedule, that we don’t make time for fun and joy!
Even though our brain is wired to focus on the negative, having something to look forward to is a tool that can help our brain focus on the positive. I do this with my youngest child on the way to school every day, because he’s slow to get moving and always says he doesn’t want to go, even though he always ends up liking it. In the car on the way there, I say, “It’s going to be a great day today. Can you think of three things that will make today great?” One day, he was excited about taking his Avengers backpack to school. Another day it’s because we were going swimming right after. It’s usually pretty random, but his answers often inspire me to look beyond what I would normally say as well.
I think this is why I put so many books on hold at the public library. Do you know how much excitement I get when I receive an email that says that the book I had on hold is available? (And even better that it’s free!) We do the same thing with online shopping orders and deliveries. I love to make plans to eat out at a fun restaurant with my family on the weekend, or even plans to pick up takeout. It gives me anticipation that feels good.