I have to be honest. It took me a lot to write this. I’ve been sitting around for the past 3 weeks wanting to share everything with you. How I’m feeling, what I am and am not doing. Words of wisdom, joy, fear, and sadness. And it’s not that I don’t have the words to share, I just haven’t been able to find the motivation to put them down on paper. But then it happened. It wasn’t that I moved my body any more or less. Or that the sun was out (because it wasn’t). It was music. Specifically, it was an 80s/90s playlist I have on my phone that I’ve been listening to all day. Even more specifically, it was “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” that actually got me to sit down and put words to paper on a topic I’ve been thinking about all day.
Dictionary.com defines joy (in one way) as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”
The ability to feel joy is something we are all born with and research suggests that we can feel it independently of whatever else we are currently experiencing, including intense physical or psychological pain and suffering (yogajournal.com). However, there are many out there that don’t believe this and continue to search for it through external factors such as objects, relationships, and experiences.
Losing your sense of purpose, feeling confusion or grief, being bitter, jealous, etc. can overshadow the ability to feel your innate joy. It’s also easy to fall into a routine or rut, and go days, weeks, or even months on autopilot and not realize that you’re not happy. Everyone is so busy these days. It gives us our sense of self-worth; if we’re busy, we’re successful, we’re accomplishing things, we’re important, and we’re needed.
As a result we can often be too busy to notice if we are happy, and potential moments of joy pass us by.
We have a tendency to think that joy only comes when times are perfect, when there are no disasters or concerns, once we’ve lost those 15 pounds, or have the salary we desire. But in reality, joy lies in the little moments that happen throughout the day.
Joy isn’t always constant, nor is it a final destination full of perfection. It’s more about discovering what life has to offer and appreciating it, and there are a few ways to tap back into it, and many reasons to do so. Did you know that it can strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression, and help you sleep? When we find joy, we also attract more of what we love and desire back into our lives.
You might currently be in a place where it’s hard to imagine feeling better, and I get that. So start small and trust that the momentum to find joy will build. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1) Meditate. Meditation helps to deactivate the brain’s default network that can keep you stuck in patterns of negative emotions and/or obsessive thoughts. It also activates the executive, attention, and defocusing networks of the brain, which can help open you up to joy and new possibilities of insight (yogajournal.com).
2) Be in the moment. According to Willem Kuyken, one of the authors of Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology, “joy has its roots in a wholehearted appreciative attention.” As you move through each day, bring your attention to seeing, touching, and listening wholeheartedly. It’s important to be mindful, not only of how you are touching the world, but also of how you are being touched by it. Take moments to pause and notice, to reflect on what’s gone well. Don’t just see the trees; notice the landscape, the vastness around you. If you are present in each moment, it’s easier to sense the potential in that space to gladden your heart.
3) Be perceptive and notice and find joy in the little things. Find something to do every day, that brings you joy. Need to do it alone? Want to involve your family or whoever you’re (stuck) home with? Either way, great! It only takes 5 minutes to find something to do that you find joy in. Here are a few ideas:
Those things that make you happy. Do them. And don’t beat yourself if your list of what makes you happy doesn’t involve trying new things or experiences, because new? Well, it often disappoints. If your goal is to be happy then there is no reason to not do what you know will work! Focus your energy on finding pleasure in the moment and remember that there will always be challenges in life. It’s important to choose to “happy in spite of” instead of “happy if only.”
Brené Brown says it well in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: “Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments—often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.”