Highly Sensitive Refuge
A highly sensitive person full of joy

18 Things That Fill Highly Sensitive People With Joy

Joy has many health benefits, like reducing stress, which can help when HSPs feel overstimulated.

Joy is a feeling of pleasure that’s fundamental to a fulfilling life. According to designer Ingrid Fetell Lee, joy is measurable and visceral, the “little moments that make us feel more alive.” And those flashes of time contribute to overall happiness. Joy also has many health benefits, from reducing stress to boosting the immune system.

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) often seek joy in different ways than non-sensitive types. Perhaps because HSPs are often so overstimulated, they need ways to stay centered and calm. 

Here are some things that bring joy to my life as a highly sensitive person. Perhaps you’ll relate or get some new ideas for yourself!

18 Things That Fill Highly Sensitive People With Joy

1. More time and space to get things done — or to just breathe

HSPs need more time to process their environment — the scientific term is sensory processing sensitivity — which can mean getting overwhelmed more easily than other people. Getting ready, completing daily tasks, and making decisions might take longer, so they feel more comfortable at a slower pace. 

When an HSP can take more time on a task, job, or project, they feel more at peace.

2. Less background chatter (aka the ability to hear their own thoughts)

Some HSPs spend all day working around other people. And even at home, there might be a TV or radio on, family members chatting about the day, or other background noises that get on an HSP’s nerves. 

High sensitivity means being extra responsive to stimuli, including noises that others barely notice — the refrigerator turning on, a friend’s foot-tapping, a partner’s chewing, the dog licking themselves, etc.  

To avoid chronic overstimulation and to recharge, HSPs need time to process the day away from extra sights and sounds. When partners and roommates understand this, it makes for a happy HSP.

3. Light schedules, less clutter, and open spaces — as much minimalism as possible

Many HSPs are drawn to minimalism — too much stuff causes anxiety and fatigue. Every item can be a source of distraction: a reminder of an unfinished project, a pending chore, or something from the past (even if it involves a happy memory). 

So, HSPs thrive with as few jumbled environments and to-dos as possible. 

4. Plenty of time alone (the type that drives non-HSPs crazy)

It’s not just about being in a quiet place (although that’s key for an HSP sanctuary, a calm place to call our very own), but having moments alone is heaven for those who are highly sensitive. While non-HSPs might think, “But that sounds so boring! I wouldn’t know what to do with myself!” HSPs are thrilled with time to recharge, indulge in hobbies, and dream.

Don’t get me wrong: HSPs need other humans, too. But they’re also not afraid of being alone with their own thoughts. In fact, they require it and find pleasure in periods of solitude. Then, when they are ready to be social again, they’ll feel refreshed.

5. Restful nights and leisurely, low-stress mornings

Sleep is crucial for everyone, but HSPs need more sleep than others due to their constant overstimulated state. Otherwise, a poor night’s sleep can wreck their whole day. Plus, because they notice the subtle differences in their energy levels and fatigue, focus, productivity, and general well-being can suffer.

If you want to make an HSP happy, give them a full night’s rest and a slow weekend morning. Bonus: add in a great book and a cup of warm tea (or whatever your sensitive senses may desire).

6. Uninterrupted time for creativity and expression

High sensitivity often goes hand-in-hand with creativity: Steven Spielberg, Jessica Chastain, Martin Luther King, Emily Dickinson, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are said to be a few examples of creative HSPs. 

Since they have a vivid emotional life, many HSPs need creative projects to communicate their feelings and unique views of the world. Whether it’s painting, singing, writing, playing an instrument, or a countless number of other creative endeavors, art is a true joy for HSPs.

7. Movies, books, and TV shows with rich, evocative characters and powerful stories

HSPs feel emotions (their own and others’) deeply. Stories without that same level of emotional depth can feel flat and one-dimensional. Instead, HSPs crave vibrant tales that get to the heart of a character’s feelings and motivations — because they can better relate to, and feel moved by, the narrative. Some of my favorite characters include Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice, Don from Mad Men, and Addie from The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.

Plus, influential works of art can move HSPs to tears — in a wonderful way! As an HSP myself, I adore movies, books, and TV shows that tackle topics like morality, love, sacrifice, and the meaning of happiness. I love that I can think about what I’ve read or seen for hours or days afterward. A few of my favorites include Harry Potter, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

8. Relationships built on trust, closeness, and awareness of the other person’s needs

HSPs sense others’ sadness or joy within moments. Because of that, they tend to be attentive and empathic with loved ones. When someone provides that level of support in return, it makes a highly sensitive soul soar, especially with a partner. The relationship is mutually loving, so everyone wins.

For example, my husband understands that I can’t watch shows with too much violence and that I need regular quiet time. And I know I can tell him anything without judgment (and vice-versa).

9. Quality time with our favorite people

HSPs might not have a lot of close relationships, but they deeply value the ones they do have. An HSP’s life is richer from meaningful time with people they love and trust. 

While I tend to get anxious around people I don’t know well, my two best friends are safe spaces. We can spend hours together, or vacation together, and just talk about life. There’s nothing I love more.

10. Finding out a friend, family member, acquaintance, or new friend is an HSP

Because sensitivity is often (incorrectly) seen as a weakness in our society, HSPs may hide their sensitive side. But when they do open up and find other HSPs, it’s like a family reunion: finally, other people who get the trials and perks of being highly sensitive! 

I’m not the only one that cries at the drop of a hat when the dog in a movie dies? Or who is easily startled by everything? I love the camaraderie and joy of bonding with fellow HSPs.

11. Interactions where they feel heard and understood

HSPs pick up on the subtlest of reactions. If they’re talking to someone and the listener is checked out, HSPs can tell. Then comes the sinking worry that they’re too boring or not important enough to be heard.

On the flip side, HSPs love conversations where both sides are actively listening. Responsive body language, eye contact, and not interrupting are good examples. HSPs tend to be exceptionally good listeners, so they really appreciate when another person mirrors that.

12. Being around people who are filled with happiness and joy

HSPs absorb others’ emotions like a sponge (both good and bad). When a friend or family member is happy, HSPs pick up on that joy — and join in the celebration of happiness! 

If their best friend gets a new job or their sister gets a promotion, they feel like they did, too. (But don’t worry if they leave the celebratory party early; it’s probably just time to recharge.) 

13. Conversations on the meaning of life, philosophy, ethics, love, and everything in between

See ya, small talk — HSPs love discussions that cut deep below the surface of daily interactions. They want to ponder why we’re here, what it means to be human, and how we can make the world better. 

I’d much rather talk about hopes and dreams with my inner circle than something more surface-level, like work drama.

14. The knowledge that they’ve helped someone feel better

HSPs like getting to the root of people, too. What makes someone “tick”? Where do they struggle in life? What do they need to find happiness? 

There’s a reason many HSPs are drawn to caring professions, like becoming a doctor or therapist. They are deeply in touch with emotions, which makes them incredibly empathetic. In their work or personal lives, HSPs find joy in cheering up others. For instance, if I know my friend had a bad day, I’ll listen intently and try to help them work through it.

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15. Work that gives HSPs a sense of purpose

It’s hard for HSPs to do something if they don’t know why they need to do it. Filling out spreadsheets at work may seem so boring versus solving a client problem, for example. 

Having a job or hobby with purpose — like helping others or caring for animals — is key for many HSPs. And, speaking of animals… 

16. Dogs, cats, and other furry friends to care for and snuggle

HSPs have a special connection with animals, probably because animals are pros at companionship, joy, and unconditional love. HSPs soak up all the affection and return it threefold. 

As a mom of three rescues, the happiness my pets bring is beyond description. Even on days when I’m overwhelmed by humans, I never decline a sleepy dog cuddle.

17. Beautiful sunsets and flourishing nature

Spending time in nature is good for mental health, whether you’re an HSP or not. 

Aside from reducing anxiety and depression, nature can also help HSPs slow down — the world is often loud, fast, and intense. Stopping to appreciate natural beauty is powerful self-care, whether that’s a walk in the park or spending a few minutes in your backyard.

18. Snacks at the ready and weekend takeout

A rich inner life means HSPs are more in tune with their needs — like food. 

Being “hangry” (hungry + angry) is a common HSP problem because they’re more perceptive to fluctuating blood sugar levels. (Thankfully, a finely-tuned “something’s-off” meter helps HSPs pay extra attention to their physical health needs.) HSPs will graze more often to stay energized and alert — plus, who doesn’t love snacks?

HSPs also appreciate the little things, such as a tasty meal. If that meal comes from a Postmates driver delivering your favorite Thai dish (easy on the spice), even better!

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