Finding Delight to Improve Your Mood

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A woman dancing on brown grass in a field with a clear blue sky.I was recently listening to the podcast “The Happiness Lab” with Dr. Laurie Santos. In the episode (Season 2, episode 7), Dr. Santos talks with Catherine Price, an author who wrote the book The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again. In their talk, Catherine brings up the idea of finding delight, the idea that Ross Gay brings up in his Book of Delights.

Catherine encourages people to look for delights throughout the day and when you find one, you put your index finger in the air and say “Delight!” This sounded too fun and silly not to try on my own, then start to teach this method to my clients. My hope was that it would not only help clients to decrease anxiety but to find joy. I decided that I wanted to relish in my delight, so I download the app, 3 Good Things.

In the app, you write down the good thing you experienced and how it made you feel. I liked this better than a gratitude journal (even though I highly recommend gratitude journaling) for this experiment because it felt more in line with delight. Connecting the delight to the emotion, created a greater state of awareness and a way to bridge the mind/body connection that is so often associated with negative emotions.

When we look for the good, we are allowing the brain to work in a new way.

It is not scanning the world for danger like it was programmed to do. This is why it is so easy to focus on the negative. The negative was originally protective. It alerted us to danger so that our species could survive. The amazing thing that science has taught us is that our brains are plastic or flexible. This is what neuroplasticity means. Through focus on gratitude, engaging the senses, mindfulness, meditation, fun and creativity we can begin to create new neural pathways that allow us to bypass the automatic negative thoughts and behaviors that show up so that we don’t spiral down the rabbit whole of rumination.

In my experiment, I felt silly at times when I would put my finger up and say, “Delight” but the silliness was refreshing.

I noticed that taking it a step further by identifying how each delight made me feel made me pause and focus even deeper on the delight. We put so much focus on the negative and much less focus on joy and delight. When we can recognize how we feel, we can begin to store this positive feeling in our body in order to gain access to it. I wasn’t perfect at this experiment by any means, but if I had a busy day where I forgot to look for delights I picked it back up the next day without judgment.

Here are a few examples of my delights:
  • Getting seasonal food from Trader Joe’s.
  • High Tea with a friend.
  • The excitement of my daughter getting a package she was waiting for.
  • Seeing blooms on my dwarf lime tree.
  • Sitting on my hammock on my porch with my daughter watching a lightning storm.

My delights are uniquely mine. They are simple and brought me joy. What would it be like if you started looking for and finding delights in the world?

Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional.

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