December 22, 2023 by

By John Schorling

This time of the year is often associated with joy.  According to, one of the definitions of joy is “the emotion of delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying”.  There are often many opportunities to experience joy now- giving and receiving gifts, noticing the sense of wonder that can arise in children, feeling our own sense of wonder, perhaps in relation to our religious traditions.

Last weekend I participated with some of my family and 5000 or so others in the Tacky Light Run in Midlothian, a four-mile run/walk through neighborhoods with houses decorated for the holidays in a variety of often extravagant ways.  I experienced joy in spending the time with my family, in seeing the decorations myself, and in watching others’ reactions to them.

As with many positive emotions, joy can be missed or overlooked in the context of ongoing negative events.  We may be caught up in worrying about these events, which can range from global to personal.  However, even in the midst of difficult circumstances, it can be possible to find joy if we are open to it.  As with any mindfulness practice, this starts with intention- having the intention to notice joy when it arises.

Sometimes doing this is easy, as it was for me with the Tacky Light Run. At other times, it may be more challenging, especially if we are experiencing difficulties ourselves.  We can still have the intention of noticing things which bring us joy, even if it is something smaller, like playing with a pet or enjoying a moment to relax with a cup of coffee, tea or maybe hot chocolate.  In any of these moments, if we notice a feeling of joy, we might start by just allowing it to be.  We also might name the emotion and pay attention to where we feel it in the body.  We can also notice the thoughts that arise.  By bringing this awareness to our experience, we can really let it sink in.

Doing all this has been shown to increase the impact of positive emotions and, when done consistently, can result in improvements in overall wellbeing that persist.  Thus, really noticing joy may not only result in a positive experience in the moment, but even after the event is over.

So we can take advantage of this holiday season with all the opportunities for joy and wonder it provides to really notice joy when it arises.  When we cultivate joy for what we and others are experiencing, it can be a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

Filed Under: Monthly Musings