Why am I so interested in joy?
Getting curious helped me to figure it out.
Joy has been my focus for the last two years. I practice joy. I guide people in how to add more joy to their lives. And I talk about joy with everyone I meet.
I’ve received so many messages from people — messages that carry me through the hard work of running a business — who say that when they hear the word joy, they think of me.
In my gut, I knew that emphasizing joy is what helped me and my family to thrive during the isolation of COVID lockdowns. Laughing, eating, watching movies together, moving outside, being curious, playing games, and talking about the hard things? It helped us all to survive and even thrive. It helped me to understand my people’s brains. It helped me to slowly understand that I have ADHD too. It changed my life for the better.
Emphasizing joy has formed us.
I’m so grateful for that time now.
But at this distance, I’m curious about why joy still matters so deeply to me that I want to work with other women to add more joy to their lives.
I know that I’ve always been driven to help other people. It’s such a deep part of me that I’ve never questioned it.
These last few years, I’ve been questioning it.
Being the helper, the soother, the explainer, the teacher? It matters to me. I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. I believe we’re all deeply connected, in ways we may not understand at times.
And I also know that being the giver and helper was required of me at an early age, such an early age that I’ve never been able to separate the terror of that requirement from my essential nature.
Maybe my need to help is actually a trauma response.
I know now that it is.
Since I was diagnosed with ADHD and started the medication that’s right for my brain, I’m now finally clear.
Let me say this right away — I still have ADHD. I still can’t find my coffee cup or key sometimes, even when the medication is in me. That’s not going away.
And that’s where my clarity comes from now.
With a more focused and calm brain, I know now, down to the bones, what is good for my nervous system.
Writing? Deeply relieving. Walking in the forest? Healing. Listening to live music and singing with 18,000 people in one voice? Glee.
Keeping up with the volume of emails and the tasks within from both of my kids’ schools? I’m terrible at it. Trying to market my own work in a typical way? Gives me heartache and makes me breathe too fast. Doing the dishes? It bores me and triggers some of my sensory issues.
I’m never going to be good at any of this.
That’s joy now. Knowing this relieves me of the notion that I need to be good at any of this. Or that there’s something wrong with me that I’m not good at any of that.
I feel peace for the first time in my life.
Here’s what I know now, down to my bones.
My mind — and the mind of anyone who has ADHD — is fueled by joy.
Here’s some neuroscience for you.
Give me the chance to walk in nature, write a story, ride my bike, talk with friends, dance, make art, collaborate in conversation with people who also feel alive to ideas, or take showers and dream up new ideas?
My brain will give those actions ALL THE ATTENTION.
Anyone with ADHD can hyperfocus on what we love for HOURS. We can go down rabbit holes better than anyone. We are the researchers, driven by deep curiosity.
But, our brains are not stimulated by someone else telling us that something is important.
That’s not a personality trait. That’s a neurochemical reaction.
ADHD minds are low on dopamine and norepineprhine.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for the anticipation of pleasure. When we feel deep curiosity or joy about something, our dopamine neural reward pathway is activated.
That sends out dopamine to 5 different parts of the brain, including the prefrontal lobe for more logical thinking.
Short story: we get some pleasure. Our brain tells us we want more.
The creation of dopamine stimulates the creation of norepinephrine. That’s both a neurotransmitter and a hormone, which activates the amygdala to send out cortisol and adrenaline.
That can be the fight or flight response. But the amygdala actually has more neurotransmitters for pleasure than for fear.
So doing something that gives us joy? It stimulates our brain to be hyperfocused. We could that thing for HOURS, because all the neurotransmitters that need to fire to keep our focus clear are whirling and dancing.
But doing something that does not interest us? NOPE.
That means that anything we are TOLD we should do — but does not give our brains joy — requires a struggle to complete it.
This is brain chemistry, not personality.
When doing anything that doesn’t stimulate the brain enough to keep it humming along, the neurotransmitters actually fail to reach the next receptor. The brain forgets that task and moves on.
Truly. That task we were required to do disappears as soon as the neurotransmitters stop firing.
If the dishes don’t interest me, inherently, then the neurotransmitters are going to fail to fire for more pleasure.
And my brain forgets to do them.
Let me tell you this. If you’re neurodivergent in any way — meaning you were born with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, Tourettes, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyslexia, or hyperacusis, plus many more; or you have PTSD from a traumatic event or developmental PTSD from a traumatic childhood — this culture can make you feel broken.
Not good enough.
Did you know that the average 12-year-old with ADHD already has heard 12,000 negative comments about themselves?
Hm. I wonder how that plays out in the mind of a child who doesn’t understand why their essential being isn’t acceptable in this society?
I wonder how that forms adults into feeling like they’re not worthy?
I refuse to participate in that thinking anymore.
And I’m teaching my kids to cultivate their joy, to not focus on what this strange culture insists should be important to them.
And this is why I talk about joy.
I finally understand.
The more joy we purposefully add to our lives, the more our neurological stress can calm down.
Understanding what gives me joy has helped me to shape a life around that joy.
And the same can happen for you.
When you know what gives you joy — down to the tiny particulars — and what does NOT give you joy because your brain doesn’t work that way?
That act of being curious can shape you. It can help you to create a life that works well for you. A life with less stress and more connections.
That’s my work, for myself, my husband, and my kids.
I no longer believe I need to be a teacher. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’m wholly imperfect.
But I’ve come to understand this.
We all matter.
Our stories matter.
Our joy matters.
And I feel the drive — the joyful and animating drive — to share what I’ve learned.
This is why I’ve decided to commit myself to TikTok.
It’s a light-hearted and wonderful way to share stories. Yes, I adore writing. But it’s storytelling that matters the most to me.
TikTok is a place where people feel comfortable being imperfect and sharing their stories. I believe it’s a force in this culture we shouldn’t ignore.
A year ago, you wouldn’t have been able to convince me I would write that sentence.
That’s why I love curiosity. We can stay open to the changes we might need to make.
So here’s a video for you. Here’s why I talk about joy.
I’m going to be sharing videos there about what gives me joy.
And what does not give me joy, with my ADHD mind.
Follow along, if you feel like it.
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
I know what damage happens when we feel like we’re broken and not good enough.
I don’t want anyone to feel that anymore.
And you have the capacity for joy.
We need your story.
We need your joy.