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Finding Joy

Joy, fun, entertainment, frankly even just anything feeling a little bit different, may seem in short supply at the moment.

This is a way to hold onto a bit of the joy and use it to get through the darker times.

I call it the Jar of Joy.

Why it works

Imagine you have a stage in your mind, and your attention being like a spotlight. Sometimes when things are worrying, scary or not going well our attention spotlight tends to get focused on the rubbish stuff. It feels like all those worries or problems are standing centre stage, dancing about and yelling (or maybe singing?) “Look at me!”

We may not be able to make the problems go away, but we can choose to focus our attention on other things.

Instead of letting the problem hog the spotlight, we can focus on the things at the edge of the stage that aren’t getting as much notice but are still there if we look for them. The Jar of Joy technique is a practical way to shift that attention spotlight and focus on something apart from the problems.

How to make a Jar of Joy

  • 1. Get a jar (or a box, tub or any other suitable receptacle – Box of Brilliance, Tub of Triumph, call it what you will!)

  • 2. Decorate it – this makes it feel special and yours

  • 3. Put notes in it to remind you of any time that gives you a moment of joy, however small that moment might be. (For example, when you do something fun; notice something you find lovely; someone says something nice etc.)

  • 4. Try to make an effort to put in one joyful thing each day.

You can do this on your own, with a child, or as a whole family, where you all put joyful things into the jar.

How I use it

My family have recently started using the ‘jar of joy’ as a dinner activity. It helps us all to focus on nice things that have happened, gives us parents an opportunity to praise things we have seen our children do, and helps with dinner conversation when frankly, every day has a tendency to merge into one at the moment. We haven’t done it for long, but I think it will be a nice way to look back in a week or two and remind ourselves it hasn’t all been boring.

Why it works in our family

It is interesting how much harder we as parents have found it to think of something joyful than our children have. I am only sharing things I want to say out loud to my children, of course, so some of my joyful moments don’t make it in. Like the joy of my son actually completing a piece of school-work without yelling at me. That didn’t go in because I couldn’t think of a way of phrasing it without it becoming a veiled criticism. But I did put in “Charlie finishing his writing even when he found it hard”, because that was a genuinely good moment.

So far, top entries for my children have been: “Getting a certificate from school”, “cuddling the guinea pig” and “burping”. I’m hoping I can eventually bring them joy with something slightly more impressive than poor table manners (!), but the recollection of it was so genuinely hilarious to my two that I could hardly deny it a place in the jar. And it did prompt a discussion of how to spell ‘burp’ and how stupid English spellings can be sometimes, so that’s a win- win situation!

In my family this has been very helpful at this tricky time. I hope this idea works for you and yours too.

With all best wishes,

Dr Helen Care

Clinical Psychologist

This Children's Mental Health Week the focus is on Expressing Yourself. We think the Jar of Joy is a great way to help kids to express themselves and encourage good mental health. For more information see or our website below for more ideas.

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