Black Therapists Provide 8 Tips For Getting in Touch With Black Joy on a Daily Basis
Registered psychotherapist Meghan Watson, who's based in Toronto and is the founder of Bloom Psychology & Wellness, wanted to point out that Black joy might seem self-explanatory. However, she told POPSUGAR that it's deeper than just finding joy; it's "an opportunity for Black people to really center, amplify, and connect to a sense of ease, rest, and happiness," especially since, she said, "those are things that historically have been stamped out from our existence."
Licensed professional clinical counselor Shani Tran similarly told POPSUGAR that Black joy, in her opinion, is "embodying parts of your own Blackness." It's also, she noted, "not just skin tone. It's embracing and loving the way that you talk, the way that you walk, the clothes that you wear, and recognizing that you are an individual within a culture."
That being said, both mental health professionals state that embracing Black joy won't eliminate the pain of racial trauma. Rather, Watson explained, by leaning into this joy, "we start to define ourselves in different ways, in ways that are more joyful, in ways that are more rested, in ways that are more at peace, and we create more narratives that are beyond just our trauma." She added, "I would say it definitely adds to and creates a helpful narrative that allows us to define ourselves as more than just a collection of traumatic experiences."
Though Watson wished to indicate that Black joy is a sensation that you can't particularly pin one practice over the other to, keep reading for her and Tran's tips for reconnecting with and embracing that joy on a daily basis.
"Meditation is a great space to really connect to your body, to understand the sensations of what's going on," Watson said. It's also a tool to acknowledge grief and open up to joy. Tran agreed, stating that meditation is versatile. "It can be thinking about 'What am I going to do for the day? How does my body feel this morning?' and sitting in a moment of silence. Whatever meditation can look like for you, you really can create your own routine around that."
Learn Your Limits With News Consumption and Social Media
Tran advised not to start your day focused on a "realm that is outside of you." Instead, she said, when you wake up in the morning, "get grounded in you" for at least 15 minutes. Once you do open up social media, she suggested staying aware of how long you're on those sites and also how your body is responding because there really is no trigger warning.
"I think back to when George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. I'm coming [to social media] because I want comfort. I want to distract myself in a healthy way," Tran said. "As I was scrolling, my body would just get tense. And the thing about it is when you experience trauma, it holds itself in the body. So there's a huge possibility that as I'm scrolling through social media, my own trauma is being triggered by what I see." When you're feeling triggered, she said, remember to pause.
Take Up Journaling
Watson said journaling is not for everyone, but it's an exploratory exercise that allows you to craft narratives that haven't been developed before and bring intention. "It's a great space to maybe dream and to write about what it looks like to be joyful," she explained.
Read Fiction by Black Authors
Watson personally likes to read novels written by Black writers. "I think that's an obvious opportunity to step into a world that is absolutely created, defined, and sometimes is rooted in joy," she said. "That's a place where I find a lot of respite from the reality of the world." She suggested "The City We Became" by N. K. Jemisin.
Find a Support System
"I'm talking about that unconditional, 'that's my person' type of support," Tran said. "And what that can look like is the person that, when you don't notice your needs, may be able to notice your needs for you." It's a person who will check in on you, she noted, adding that finding a space where you feel seen is crucial.
Physically Take Care of Your Body
This is a big one and is just as important as taking care of your mind. Tran said it can look like staying hydrated throughout the day. It can also mean moving your body or resting when you need to. "I think of it as when you're on an airline," she explained. "If you don't put on your mask, you can't help other people."
Put Up Boundaries
Tran mentioned that it's a good idea to learn how to say no to certain conversations. That especially goes for work environments. For instance, she said, "a lot of jobs and employers are having diversity inclusion meetings. It's definitely a tricky thing, but be able to say, 'I love that you're doing this. However, I think I'm going to skip out on this meeting today.'" She continued on to add, "I think that those meetings, they're not for the diverse people, they're for the people that aren't diverse, and it's meant to educate them. However, you can't educate them with the one or two people of color in the room. That's just not how this works."
It's also important to set boundaries in your personal life with family and friends. For example, Tran said that she had to tell her mom to ask permission before sending over news articles or videos "because seeing that, I now can't take that image out of my head," she explained. "I might be going into a therapy session, or I'm going to be playing with my kids outside, and then I have to guard my mental health. You are the guardian of your mental health."
Do Anything That Brings You Joy
"Black joy isn't, in many ways, different from joy itself," Watson said. "Sometimes Black joy can be recognizing and enjoying and savoring your coffee in the morning. That is my Black joy because I am Black, and I am joyful."