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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > January 2020 > Joyful tidings

Joyful tidings

Anita Chaudhuri allows her inner martyr to take a break as she lets go of suffering and unwraps a more sparkling range of emotions

The word most synonymous with festive cheer must surely be joy. From traditional Christian carols that proclaim ‘joy to the world’ to cards emblazoned with ‘Joyeux Noel!’, it’s a word as Christmassy as chestnuts roasting on an open fire or a box of liqueur chocolates.

Strange then, that joy is an emotion that we rarely acknowledge throughout the rest of the year, let alone prioritise. ‘We often believe that joy is childish; a bit silly or superficial, especially because it’s an emotion that lives in small moments that are easily overlooked,’ says Ingrid Fetell Lee, creator of the hit TED talk ‘Where joy hides and how to find it’ (2.4 million views) and author of Joyful: The Surprising Power Of Ordinary Things To Create Extraordinary Happiness (Ebury Publishing, £20). ‘In fact, research indicates that joyful moments are really powerful. Joy can improve our performance at work as well as change the way we interact with others, and it can make us 12 per cent more productive because it improves our working memory, the part of the brain we use for complex tasks during which we need to focus.’

According to Fetell Lee, the most counterintuitive behaviour people adopt concerning joy is the tendency to postpone it, particularly when we’re going through challenging times. ‘Typically, we might say: ‘I won’t go for dinner with my friends tonight – I’ll stay home and work on the project that’s stressing me out. I can have fun next week when it’s all over.’ The truth is that if we allow ourselves to experience joy during di.cult times, it helps us to combat stress. Joy allows us to develop more resilience and find more meaning and purpose in the midst of challenges,’ she says.

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