How do we teach children to access their inner ‘joyfulness’ even when they are feeling very sad?
Below is a story that holds a simple technique for children to learn how to move into joyfulness in just a couple of minutes….
Photo by Sheikh Mehedi Morshed from the Joy of Smiling Photography Contest
It never ceases to amaze us how deeply children connect with virtues and delight in the knowledge, language and tools that enable them to step into their character strengths.
Recently, we had the privilege of visiting early education settings, where we practiced virtue acknowledgements and techniques with children and educators.
Following one session, a brave young girl approached the facilitator to ask if she might be able to help her. With a quivering lip and tear filled eyes, the girl described her utter sadness over a friend who was soon to move away.
The facilitator held her hands softly, and told her that it was OK to feel sad. She then asked the girl if she would like to learn a technique that might help, when she felt ready, to move into the feeling of joyfulness and gratitude for having such a wonderful friend?
The girl nodded, and the facilitator reassured the girl that it would probably feel a bit silly (and that she often felt silly doing this activity too), however she knew that it could work wonders.
The facilitator asked the girl to close her eyes and follow her lead. Whilst facing the girl and holding her hands, the facilitator sang the word ‘Joy…. joyyyyyyy….. jo-oo-oo-oyyy, jooooooy,’
changing the pitch of the ‘o’ to create a melody. Softly, gently, in barely more than a whisper, the girl repeated the song, ‘Joy…. joyyyyyyy….. jo-oo-oo-oyyy, jooooooy’.
They continued to sing the word ‘joy’ in beautiful tones to one another. In less than 10 seconds, a smile began to spread across the little girls’ face. She literally began to glow. They sang for another 20 seconds or so, and then opened their eyes to smile at one another.
Afterwards the girl described how she had felt her heart filling up as she sang the word ‘joy’. Memories of happy times with her friend had flooded to mind and she truly felt joyful. She realized she could write letters and visit the friend who was moving away on holidays and that they would keep in touch to remain friends from a-far.
The facilitator told the girl that she could sing the word ‘joy’ whenever she needed to, and that singing ‘joy’ (even whilst looking in the mirror) was a way to spark this feeling from the inside out.
So, what happened in this brief encounter (of less than a couple of minutes) that led to such a powerful movement from deep sadness to authentic joyfulness?
- The courage to ask for help
- Receiving deep listening
- Trusting to try something new (even though it felt a bit silly)
- Contemplating inner ‘joy’, singing it and allow it in.
This is a powerful and simple technique. You might like to try it out yourself and with your children (even though it feels a bit silly!) and see what happens…
Illustration by Carli Hyland
We’d love to hear your stories about how you ‘fill up with joy’.