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Although life has ups and downs, finding meaning and adjusting routines might assist. Challenging times may occur sometimes, and sometimes there is a lack of joy attributed to disasters, losses, health issues, or breakups. The loss of joy in such a context is normal to the human experience. 

However, for some, the situation may persist or suddenly appear. For example, it could occur in mood disorders such as depression. Anhedonia, which is the inability to feel joy is part of depression, and it is quite common. Depression is widespread in the US, with around 8% of American adults likely to experience depression annually, and 20% tend to experience depression in a lifetime.  

Sometimes loss of joy is associated with other mental health conditions and other psychotic disorders, and dementia. For example, surprisingly, certain medications used for depression management may lead to emotional blunting and cause loss of joy.

Joy is different from happiness. 

Although happiness and joy are usually used interchangeably, they are different. Joy is the state of one’s mind that can be found anytime, including during uncertainty or grief. At the same time, happiness is the pleasurable emotions (feelings) resulting from experience, a situation, or objects. 

Despite the complexity of the neuroscience of joy, some neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine are vital in producing good experiences. Interestingly, lifestyle changes can lead to increased levels of neurotransmitters. For instance, running may result in a “runner’s high,”  while spending time with the baby can produce oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel connected. 

Neurotransmitters help the body relax and trigger positive feelings.

Neurotransmitters help relax muscles and increase heart rate and may result in a common pathway of positive feelings. You can enhance feelings of joy through physical activity, which can be a bubble bath of feel-good hormones. Next, engage in activities like volunteering and practice mindfulness to connect to the then spiritual side and develop compassion and peace. Lastly, you can engage in something new, which will help you refocus your energy and experience joy.