Nurses in Pursuit of JOY: An Attitude that Defies all Circumstances

Nurses in Pursuit of JOY: An Attitude that Defies all Circumstances

March 2023                                                                                
by Liliane de Vries

Nursing is a noble profession that demands a lot from its individuals. Nurses encounter a wide range of situations, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or even burnt out. The complexity of care, the turnover of patients leading to more acute care, and the lack of staffing, to name only a few, contribute to constant triggers of self-judgement, blaming others, and an overall negative perspective of our profession and healthcare in general. However, there is proven evidence that cultivating an attitude of joy can significantly benefit nurses, allowing them to find purpose and meaning in their work, even in the most challenging situations.

Happiness is tied to external factors, such as “I’ll be happy when…”. It is often a destination most nurses are longing to achieve, as are all humans in general. On the other hand, joy is an emotion that comes from within and is not tied to any external factors. It is an ongoing mindset that allows nurses to navigate their work environment with resilience, positivity, possibility, and hope. Unlike happiness, joy is not fleeting and does not depend on the absence or presence of circumstances. It is a sense of inner peace and contentment that comes from living in alignment with one’s values and purpose, in the moment.

Victor Frankel’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” is an excellent resource for nurses seeking to cultivate an attitude of joy in their work. Frankel, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote about his experiences in concentration camps during World War II. Despite facing unimaginable suffering and loss, Frankel discovered that the key to survival and meaning was to find purpose and joy in the present moment. He believed that individuals could find meaning in their lives by focusing on their values, relationships, and inner strengths.

Recent research found in a study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing has shown that cultivating an attitude of joy can improve nurses’ well-being, job satisfaction, and patient care. Positive Intelligence research by Shirzad Chamine has demonstrated that there are specific neural pathways in the brain that support positive intelligence. These pathways can be strengthened through regular mental fitness exercises, making it easier for individuals to access positive states of mind, such as joy, gratitude, and empathy. This is based on a combination of neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindfulness techniques, to build resilience and cultivate positive states of mind. Research reported significant improvements in well-being, stress levels, and relationships, as well as improved job performance and greater job satisfaction.

So, where does a nurse begin to cultivate this joyful mindset? Before one can pursue a new mindset, one must first be aware of the mindset one is in. When working with a client, I introduce them to their Saboteurs; the negative chatter in their head that cause stress, anxiety, self-doubt, and unhappiness. They are also known as the chattering monkeys or the gremlins that take over your thoughts. I introduce them to the Master Saboteur, known as “The Judge”. The Judge judges me, others, and circumstances or events. I ask my client, “What is your Judge saying to you, on a daily basis? What does he, she or it look like?” I want them to begin paying attention to the Master of all Saboteurs.   

I also have them do a free online assessment at, and ensure that they send me a copy to review. This will outline the 9 Accomplice Saboteurs, whom the Judge so wisely partners with to run your mind. Together we will begin noticing how these 10 Saboteurs are playing out in their life. I help my clients begin the journey to training their brain to Self-Command, by doing mental fitness exercises that are simple and quick, rewiring the brain with new neural pathways. MRIs have shown that doing these sensory mindfulness exercises, broken up in at least 3 sessions, for a minimum of 15 minutes per day, over a 6–8-week period increases the grey matter in your right brain, and decreases the grey matter in your left brain where your Saboteurs reside. This allows us to access positive responses more easily, using the 5 Sage Powers which we learn about and begin implementing.

Nurses have noticeably integrated the attitude of joy in their work and everyday life as soon as a week after becoming more aware of who was commanding their brain. They now know how to implement the mental fitness exercises into their day by learning little tricks on how to incorporate them with ease. They have reported positive results in their relationships with their families, co-workers, and patients. Now they can shift their negative reactions quickly in response to unforeseen situations at work. They now have the tools to approach challenges with more empathy, curiosity, and clear-focused action. They have taken personal responsibility for finding their joy.

In summary, if happiness is a feeling based on circumstances and joy is an attitude that defies all circumstances, then with the right tools, you can easily find joy. Through a simple formula of defining your saboteurs, practicing mental fitness exercises, and choosing a sage power, you will regain a healthy mind. You can find meaning and purpose in your work, and in your personal life, even in the most challenging situations. By making joy an intentional priority, you can improve your well-being, your interactions with patients and colleagues, and your job satisfaction, making nursing a more fulfilling and rewarding profession.

For more information, and to register, for the free webinar “Nurses in Pursuit of JOY” go to