5 Joy Competencies to Counter the Effects of Confinement During COVID-19, Pt. 1

Editor’s Note: This blog post is the first of a two-part series. You can find part two here.

Seasons of crisis like this global pandemic can provoke extreme anxiety. Joy is a powerful virtue that can counter the negative effects of seeing one’s daily routine turned upside down, constantly hearing upsetting or shocking news, being uncertain about one’s future, and being concerned about one’s own and loved ones’ safety. Cultivating joy requires focusing on specific competencies that reshape the way we live and even absorb the negative information that saturates the world right now at a micro and macro level. In this first post, I will discuss the first 3 joy competencies and how they are essential to helping us thrive through our bodies, creativity, and sense of belonging.

Joy Competency 1: Reconnect with body senses or activate the joy of being alive.

In such an unpredictable season, it is easy to recognize the importance of good health and not take life for granted. The human body generally possesses 6 interconnected senses (yes, there are 6): smell, sight, touch, hearing, taste, and proprioception. These senses are more powerful than we realize, and are constantly attuned to the reality around us. Confined at home, it is natural to feel that joy is lost. That is why it is important to fill one’s living space with things that engage the senses and create appreciation.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Immerse yourself and your family in your favorite smells by either cooking your favorite dishes together or picking flowers during a walk to adorn and fill your space with delightful aromas. Research indicates that smell is a powerful trigger that can activate a particular memory1. Therefore, by smelling familiar odors, you can reactivate collective memories of meaningful times.
  • Identify sounds that are particularly relaxing or soothing to you and your family. Play songs that bring joy to your household, sit outside for a few minutes to listen to nature, or embrace the sound of laughter and conversation with your family.
  • Enhance your other body senses by often engaging in various sensory activities such as taking baths, eating your favorite meals, doing mindfulness exercises, and/or sightseeing during a walk around your neighborhood.

Joy Competency 2: Be creative or activate the joy of doing.

Our movements are much more limited and less diverse during shelter-in-place. This often creates more fatigue and an understandable loss of motivation for initiating projects. Using one’s creative energy and translating it into intentional movements is a source of renewal and joy. Such movement stimulates us by providing a sense of meaningfulness that is often lost in times of disruption. In order to find our own creative zone, a good strategy is to identify what is important, not just urgent to us. This is seldom pursued because we are often supplanted by either urgent–important, urgent–not important, or not urgent–not important things.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Reflect: What have you always wished to try but never had the time to do until now? The answer to this question is related to your creative tendency.
  • The Urgent-Important Matrix is a good tool to sort out the various activities that usually capture our attention and monopolize our energy. In the matrix above, identify and list your various expectations, tasks, and/or priorities on each category. What do you consider as urgent but not important? Do these urgent things take you away from the important things on your list? Particularly reflect on the elements that you put in the Not Urgent-Important category. These will most likely be the activities that invoke your creative energy.
  • Calculate your availability to engage in creative activities. There are 168 hours in a week. Throughout the week, we typically use 56 hours to sleep, 40 hours to work, and 21 hours to eat. The remaining 51 hours are either filled with transit, workouts, hobbies, and other responsibilities. During this season, try to find 1-3 hours each day to accomplish something creative that is accessible at home­.

Creativity can take many forms. The key is to engage in an activity that brings you joy and allows you to be innovative in your own specific way. Use this season as a time to be creative. History has shown that many discoveries and inventions were developed during a major crisis. In fact, creativity during uncertain times such as these is essential to reset the mind, re-organize our priorities, and/or even discover ways we can help others and alleviate their distress.

Joy Competency 3: Be relational or activate relational joy.

Socializing during this pandemic is definitely a challenge. We have to protect ourselves and others from spreading the virus. As a result, many are either home alone or confined with the same people for an extended amount of time, which can be nerve-wracking and stressful. That said, relational joy is less about physically seeing or hanging out with people, and more about connecting with them. Fortunately, there exist many ways we can connect with others. During this pandemic, it’s important to engage with others in deeper and more meaningful ways that bring joy.

Relational connection occurs when two or more individuals see, hear, understand, and join each other where they are (if not physically, emotionally)—and, of course, experience joy together. This season is propitious in developing meaningful relationships with the significant people in your life. While technology makes it easy to communicate with anyone, anywhere, relational connections occur when people are intentional and take the time to pause and create a safe space where they can share their deepest thoughts and feelings.

Some ideas to consider:

  • In times of isolation or confinement with others, certain needs become more apparent, which can often reveal internal issues that have never really been addressed. Write down these needs, frustrations, longings, and whatever is triggered by this unprecedented season. Then share them with someone you trust by phone or video conference.
  • Send letters to those who may be in a vulnerable state or to your loved ones. As life moves at a slower pace, using a slower medium, such as direct mail, to connect with others can help bring you closer together.
  • Share with others what interests, fascinates, or intrigues you on social media or by creating a YouTube channel. Connect with people who share the same concerns and/or passions.

Activating our body senses with stimuli that enhance our gratitude and appreciation, activating our creative energy, and meaningfully connecting with people we respect and love are powerful competencies that can absorb the negative impact of being confined for an extended time. In fact, these competencies help us to nourish our emotional reservoirs and to identify key or life-giving elements that we need to build our life around. They help restructure our disrupted daily routines as a result of this pandemic. Having a robust and life-giving routine is what allows astronauts to face forced confinement for months as they travel to space. This is how this season can become a unique opportunity to (re)structure our lives and find joy around what really matters. In fact, this is what thriving is all about.


1. Shapiro, L. (Ed.). (2014). The routledge handbook of embodied cognition (1st ed., Ser. Routledge handbooks in philosophy). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

2. Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: powerful lessons in personal change (Reissue). Simon & Schuster.

About the Author

Frederic Defoy

Frederic Defoy

Frederic Defoy is a PhD student in the Psychological Science program at Fuller Theological Seminary. He served as a Thrive Scholars Fellow from 2018-2020. He holds an MA from Wheaton College in Christian Formation and Ministry and is a professional vocational coach. Fred is actively involved in the Thrive Center's Joyride Project and Spiritual Exemplars Project. He hopes to contribute to the discussion of helping others embrace their vocation and connect them to their purpose.

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