Life can be overwhelming, unyielding, and chaotic, distracting you from appreciating the simple pleasures in our fast-paced lives. The newest wellness movement, “microjoys,” gives us the agency to shift our perspective to find joy, even in the little things.
The practice focuses on the power of mindfulness, as it’s important to be present even amid the chaos to recognize the small things that bring you joy each day, like your fuzzy slippers, roasted coffee, or carefully curated apartment.
However, the practice only works if you shift your perspective to find joyful moments when life is challenging. I recently found out about this new practice through Cyndie Spiegel, a public speaker, author of A Year Of Positive Thinking, and community healer who decided to write Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay when her joy was sparse due to a series of painful events in her personal life, causing her to question how she could ever think positively and find happiness again.
Through a series of thoughtfully crafted narrative essays and prompts, Spiegel shares the microjoys that have fueled her during the toughest times of her life, showing how we can experience joy from small things and experiences in our daily lives.
She believes that although microjoys can’t change the truth of loss or make the grief any more convenient, it allows us to be connected to the present moment of our lives, helping us to move forward, one step, minute, and moment at a time. She opened up to ESSENCE about why she wrote her newest book in the first place. “In May of 2020, my 32-year-old nephew was murdered while walking to a friend’s house; four months after that, my mother passed away unexpectedly, and within a month of that, my brother had a stroke and went into cardiac arrest. By the grace of God, two and a half months later, he made it home. But then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So everything I knew to be true, in that moment, didn’t feel accurate anymore,” she shared.
Her solution to unimaginable loss and grief is feeling her emotions instead of thinking through them. “For the first time, I felt like I needed not to think and instead feel like, regardless of how much I knew about positive thinking, that was not where I needed to be in the middle of loss and grief,” she said. Outside of weathering intense or subtle grief, sadness, and loss each day, Spiegel believes that we practice microjoys often, as it’s innate within us, partly from our ancestors, who had to find ways to hold onto their joy during unspeakable events, like slavery, that caused severe trauma. “We already practice microjoys. It’s not something that has to be taught. [Microjoys] is not something I created when I wrote this book; this is something that I know comes from generations before me and generations before you,” she states.
Spiegel continues, “I think the first part of it is understanding that microjoys is inherent in us, so we’re not trying to change what we naturally feel. If a struggle is happening and we can’t find joy, this practice isn’t asking you to run out and look for the biggest joys, right? This practice encourages us to acknowledge what is already there. We don’t have to go out and seek anything; we don’t have to find anything. All it is asking is for our presence, for us to notice what is happening around us. This practice means that we can also hold joy while being resilient. Seeking microjoys allowed me to heal and find a path that didn’t feel as binary.”
It’s important to note that this concept isn’t rooted in materialism but instead acknowledging and appreciating the beautiful things you already have, whether that’s your community, hobbies, or clothes hanging in the closet, and you can do that through mindfulness. “When we are present, we notice the other things happening because so often we’re swirling in our worlds because we feel like we have to be. So sometimes it’s a matter of just taking that moment outside of what is happening for us to stay connected and grounded,” Spiegel said.
But how can we be present enough to practice microjoys, especially as Black women, who sometimes have the world on our shoulders, and receive little grace? Spiegel, of course, has a viable solution. She suggests that we should try our hardest to stay grounded and present and defines microjoys as being an “easily accessible moment of joy that exists, regardless of our current circumstance.”
She notes during her time of grief, life went on, and people still interfaced with her as if they didn’t know or understand what was happening internally with her emotions, so that’s what led her to intentionally find her joy, despite what was happening in the world. However, this doesn’t mean practicing toxic positivity; the concept of microjoys is the opposite. “I’m a firm believer in positive thinking, right? I studied positive psychology; we must be clear on toxic positivity versus positive thinking. They’re not the same. Microjoys are the antithesis of toxic positivity. The concept shows that we can hold multiple things simultaneously, but it’s not fully separate from positive thinking. Microjoys allow us to feel all of our emotions. The practice reminds us that we are capable and can feel all things, so there’s nothing wrong when we can’t find joy in that moment.”
The concept honors our complicated and multifaceted human emotions. As we have the autonomy to sift through difficult or joyful feelings, microjoys give us the agency to choose to embrace our emotions while trying to feel better by showing gratitude for the little things in our lives, allowing us to rest and rejoice in our current state. “The power of microjoys is that they are moments of respite from whatever we are going through; when we connect to these moments over time, it builds a sense of hope that the world isn’t all going to hell in a handbasket, which is important for our mental health. And as you know, joy is our birthright.”