Experiencing Joy by Staying Relational

Joy has been described in the Life Model as the human awareness that “someone is glad to be with me” (Wilder, Khouri, Coursey, & Sutton, 2013, pp. 4-5), and when we experience joy, it affects us and impacts those around us in positive ways.

Being able to experience joy starts with being able to stay relational.  That means we value the person in front of us, and we want to keep the relationship going.  Caring about the other person becomes more important than solving a problem or figuring out who is right or wrong during a conflict.   When we tap into our relational selves by valuing relationships more than solving problems, we become more capable of receiving compassion, care, connection, and other positive emotions.  Coursey (2021) compares this relational part of us to a circuit, similar to the electrical devices that power the lights in our house.  He calls that relational circuit our Joy Switch and explains that when this is turned “on,” we stay close to our better selves, the people we want to be. 

This blog article might help us understand how four basic concepts or elements, when practiced and implemented, can re-activate the relational self – turning our Joy Switches to the “on” position – so that we can experience joy.  These elements are: Connect, Appreciate, Rest, and Peace.

Connect: Connect to others by building bridges instead of walls.

At the core of our relational selves lies the sense of being connected with others. When we are transparent and authentic with others, we make connections that are relational and bring joy. We are showing others our true selves instead of trying to cover up or pretend that we have it all together.  Being authentic can allow others to respond in ways that are affirming and meaningful.  When we are authentic, we create a safe space for others to reciprocate, giving us an opportunity to experience shared joy. 

Appreciate: Plant seeds of gratitude instead of spreading weeds of complaints and criticism.

Gratitude helps us cultivate joy within our relational selves, much as we cultivate beautiful flowers with care within the right environment. When we express appreciation for the people in our lives and acknowledge the positive impact they have on us, we feel more connected with them. Simple acts of kindness and words of appreciation create an atmosphere of acceptance as we amplify joy together.

Rest: Take a break to find rest instead of allowing negative thoughts and emotions to dominate.

Rest is a vital component in nurturing our relational selves. When we feel overwhelmed, tired, hungry, or stressed, we struggle to act like our best selves, and our relationships suffer. Taking time for self-care helps us maintain and grow healthy connections. When we are well-rested, we’re better equipped to engage authentically, empathetically, and gratefully in our relationships.  Our Joy Switch is turned on, and we more fully experience joy.

Peace: Create peace and harmony within one’s body instead of staying anxious.

Peace within ourselves and our relationships creates an internal atmosphere that is open to receiving and experiencing joy. We attune to what our body is saying when we practice slow breathing, take walks, practice mindfulness, or use other exercises to infuse peace throughout our body.  This sense of peace within our relational self helps us be receptive and increases our capacity for experiencing joy. 

In summary, activating our relational selves involves building connections, cultivating gratitude, prioritizing rest, and promoting peace within our relationships. As Wilder (2013) says, “Joy happens when the ‘real me’ sets out to find the ‘real you’ so we can be together regardless of how much pain or happiness we are in at this moment (pp. 93-94).”


Coursey, C. M. (2021). The joy switch: How your brain’s secret circuit affects your relationships – and how you can activate it. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.

Wilder, E., Khouri, E. M., Coursey, C. M., & Sutton, S. D. (2013). Joy starts here: The transformation zone. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House, Inc.



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