How To Find Time To Celebrate Black Joy No Matter What

by Bianca Lambert

Finding joy is an art form, especially when you're living through a global pandemic and navigating the world while Black. Black joy is an integral part of Black well-being. That's why Curology, a skin-care company founded on accessibility and inclusivity, is celebrating Black History Month by centering on Black joy. In their upcoming campaign, In Support of Black Joy, Curology is collaborating with more than 25 Black creators who will share how they fuel their joy in the face of oppression through a collection of stories, conversations, and live virtual wellness classes.

"We believe that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging make all of us better and stronger, and the In Support of Black Joy campaign is an example of Curology's commitment to all underrepresented groups, and to inspiring the next generation of change," says Nicole Phillips, senior manager of integrated marketing communications at Curology.

As someone who celebrates Black joy (for me, it's through therapy), Curology's initiative really resonated with me. For this reason, I connected with three Black mental health experts for advice on how to celebrate and center Black joy no matter the circumstance. The common thread through their advice was that it's all about the baby steps. "Survival and resilience are part of our cultural DNA," Wilma Mae Basta, founder of DRK Beauty, a digital content and community platform that provides a space to celebrate women of color and provide mental health resources, tells Bustle.

"In order to survive the enduring systemic racism that exists in this country and the accompanying trauma, we must cultivate a sense of resilience in ourselves," says Basta. "This doesn't happen through suppression, which has been our common response historically, but rather [by] look[ing] for ways to release and heal in a safe and structured setting. This approach will ultimately empower us with the ability to transmute pain into joy."

So, how can we make this space — mentally and physically — for joy? "I am a firm believer in baby steps," says Basta. "They are more powerful than we think. Choose one small, easy thing, such as five minutes of meditation daily for one month. I guarantee that you will look back one month later and feel the positive effects and the sense of pride in yourself at your ability to cultivate a new and empowering practice."

Iyea Brandy, EDS, LAPC, offers a similar approach with acts of service at the helm. "The first place to bring joy into our lives is by being of service to others," she says. "Ask yourself: How can I bring joy to someone else?" Acts of service or giving don't have to be grand gestures. Brandy encourages small acts, like donating clothes to a charity or sending your loved ones thank you cards with inspirational messages to brighten up their week, a practice she says she often does for friends.

Ecclesia Savage, LPC, RPT, NCC, believes taking the time to define what Black joy means to you is an important place to start. "For me, it is the essence of who we are — our resilience and creativity which continues to grow regardless of the circumstances," she says.

As a mental health practitioner, Savage emphasizes the benefits of finding happiness in our day-to-day lives to mitigate the negative physical effects of stress from racial trauma and life in general. "Black joy is important because pain and turmoil cause stress, which produces cortisol in our bodies," she says. "[Cortisol] helps our fight-or-flight instincts, but when we are in a state of constant arousal and stress, it causes too much to be released."

Joy will likely represent different things to everyone depending on your interests. However, Basta says that being open to redefining what the term means in your orbit can be a gateway to self-discovery. "Give permission to yourself to be open to other definitions of joy and learning about them," she advises. "You'll be surprised what that open door will bring into your life. My mother used to call it getting out of the way."

Because of the state of the world, the idea of finding light can feel impossible, but Brandy says mindfulness and radical gratitude are vital first steps. "Radical gratitude is the mindful practice of noticing all the little things and being in the moment," she says. "Each day, make a list of a few things that bring you joy, such as your morning coffee, the sunshine, a child's laughter, et cetera. We can always find something to be grateful for. The more grateful you are, the more joy you will attract."

Another way to make space for joy — Savage says with emphasis — is to disconnect. "We are in a time where technology is all around us. You have to disconnect sometimes to protect your peace (mind, body, and soul)," she explains. "Filter what you take in and who you talk to. Go back to the basics. Color, make ice cream, or watch a childhood throwback. It may be hard to find joy in the world, but you can find it in your world." She also advises connecting with a therapist. "If you need additional support, you'd be surprised at how much having an outlet can help."

After I end my session each week with my therapist, I often wonder how she copes after spending her days helping others find balance. So I asked our experts. "I find a sense of joy by being persistent in the practice of learning how to love myself," says Basta. "The more I learn about the art of self-love, the easier it becomes. I discovered 10 years ago that self-love is a lifelong journey that is unique for each person. Once I gave myself permission to love myself, my life began the process of transformation. As difficult as that has been, the process of it is always quite magical."

For Brandy, it's all about the small moments. "I take mindfulness walks, practice breathing between sessions, read daily affirmations, and talk to people that speak life into my spirit," she says. Savage's Black joy is rooted in experiences: "I find joy in trying new things, listening to music, cooking new recipes, and laughing with friends and family. I have to fill my cup spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally." She also makes it a point to get enough of a crucial nutrient. "Getting sunlight is super important," says Savage. "Quarantine has given me a new outlook on vitamin D. We need it!"

This post is sponsored by Curology.