Dr. Harry Barry hates Covid-19. He hates it not just because it's a deadly virus that has infected and killed a lot of people on a global scale, but especially because, he told Claire Byrne, it has taken away our joy.
GP and Mental Health Specialist Harry was joined on the Today programme by Dr. Ann-Marie Creaven, from the Department of Psychology, University of Limerick to talk about bringing some of the good stuff back into our lives.
Remember joy? Not Amy Huberman’s character in RTÉ’s sitcom or the blue-haired optimist from Pixar’s Inside Out, but that feeling you get when… Actually, wait. What is joy again?
Well, for Harry Barry, it’s the feeling he gets looking at the glory of nature, most recently experienced while he was on a walk from White Strand in Milltown Malbay:
"And we came out to this wonderful sight where the east wind was hitting the waves coming in and you can see the sun glinting off the waves. And, you know, my heart just filled with joy. It soared with joy. I just wanted to stay there. I didn’t want to lose that moment."
It struck Harry on the drive home how that feeling has been missing from our lives since last March and how important it is in our lives and how little we talk about it. But, Claire wanted to know, where does joy come from? Someone else might well have done the same walk as Harry and not felt anything at all. That's because it’s individual to each of us, says Ann-Marie:
"We might have an idea of the experiences that bring us joy and of the experiences that bring loved ones that we’re close to, joy as well."
Joy, Ann-Marie went on, is a feeling usually associated with experiencing an important, much-longed-for event and she had a prime example of what this might entail:
"An example some people might relate to: it’s the emotion that Mayo football supporters, they’ll feel this when Mayo eventually lift the Sam Maguire again. That feeling will be joy."
Hmmm, not sure fantasy counts. But back to Harry's hatred for Covid. And he really does hate it – with good reason: "Apart from all the loss and the terrible things that it has done to us, it has robbed us of our peace of mind, our way of life, our physical and mental health, our relationship, our economy, but most of all, I hate this virus because it’s smashed joy out of our lives."
It's a sentiment that we can all get behind. But what can we do to find our joy again? After all, we can’t all leave our counties to go walking in Milltown Malbay, so what’s the answer? Ann-Marie doesn’t want us to get hung up on it. If we’re happy enough, as we are, don’t worry about it. But if you do want to increase your joyful experience, well, in the words of Joe Jackson, you can’t get what you want, till you know what you want.
So, work out what it is that brings you that feeling:
"Think about what does bring you joy. We each have ideas of what joy is in our lives, maybe we could bring more of that into our lives? So, for example, some people experience joy listening to certain kinds of music, spending time outdoors in nature, or seeing the success of others. So, being aware of what triggers joy for you would be the first thing you could do."
Eminently sensible advice from Dr. Ann-Marie Creaven, from the Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, which GP Harry Barry agrees entirely with.
You can hear the doctors’ full conversation with Claire Byrne by going here.