Joy

Everyone is running around doing a lot in search of a few things. The problem is, most of what we do is not actually helping us achieve what we want. 

I believe joy is one of those few things we want more of in our life. 

We need space and time to cultivate Joy now more than ever before. Why? Well, our brains are bombarded by information coming at us from all directions all day everyday. “‘You are not enough,” “You could be happier,” and “Overall, things are NOT OK!” The following messages: “Spend more!” “Do more!” “Succeed more!” promise to fix these problems. This cycle (creating fear and then promising to fix the created problem with products) creates constant stress. 

Stress costs us our mental, spiritual and physical health. We wake up with a to do list on repeat in our minds. We go to bed feeling like there wasn’t enough time in the day to do it. Email keeps us on call, stalling us from creating and doing meaningful work. We come home exhausted. We are overwhelmed, mentally wiped out, and yet, it all seems meaningless. 

So, what do we do? We numb. We numb with television (and then get more of those dangerous messages), by buying things we don’t need, by putting stuff in our mouths we know is not good for us. Or whatever else it is your fix. 

As an adult population we are the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated in all of history. We are consuming at a rate we know is unsustainable for our planet. There is enough to feed every hungry mouth, but we aren’t feeding them. We buy things made in inhumane ways and treat them as disposables. We have islands of trash floating in our oceans the size of Texas. The amazon rainforest is being cleared at a rate of 150 acres a min every day. 

All of that sounds not so joyful. There are a lot of things that need to shift. And I believe the antidote is Joy. How awesome--we want what will help us solve these problems on a personal and global scale. What is vital for you is vital for this planet. The more joy you feel the more problems you help solve. How? Well, because a lot of our consumption is really a search for joy. Once we uncover and experience joy in our lives, there will be a lot less need to consume at the rate we are. 

How much Joy do you experience daily? Think back to the past few hours. The past few days. The month. Recall the moments you felt joy--the tingle behind your heart that brings about a spontaneous smile. Your body felt light. You felt a sense of ease and contentment. There was no stress about what was to come. No anxiety about how you were going to get it all done. You may have felt playful, goofy, spontaneous, curious, or blissful. 

Doing this you will realize you experience: very little joy, a moderate amount of joy, or a great deal of joy. If you find yourself in the first two categories, I have very good news for you. In this article you will learn how to dramatically increase how joyful you are--without spending time or a dime. If fact, you will probably end up saving money. And time. Why? You will no longer want or need the things you used to do or buy in the hope that they will bring you joy! 

If you are in the latter category--Yippee! As you read, you will probably find yourself nodding your head with a knowing smile. And learning how to ensure you are continually joyful (and ensure that it doesn’t depend on outside circumstances.)

You may be thinking, “I have no time for joy” “I have a lot of serious problems in my life and work.” Perhaps you think you are in too much mental or physical pain to experience joy. Maybe you believe you are too busy? 

But guess what? Joy helps solve serious problems. Joy helps heal mental and physical pain. After you read and implement what I have found to be the simplest path to more joy, you will realize you are not too busy. Busy may disappear. 

Plus, I don’t think anyone will look back at their one precious life and think, “I wish I experienced less joy” or “ I enjoyed life way too much.” 

Here is how:

#1. Uncover your Joy-bills 

The number one way to dramatically experience more joy in your life is to recognize where it already exists. 

Think about it this way; if you wanted more money and you had a bunch of hidden hundred dollar bills tucked all around your home, wouldn’t it be worth your time to find those first before you went out and tried to get more hundreds? You have a lot of joy-bills in your life and you just need to uncover them. 

How? Slow down. Do one thing at a time. (This may seem like it is going to take you more time, but trust me it won’t.) We are hardwired to experience joy. It’s a built-in reward system. There are lots of simple things that will bring you joy if you allow them to. But, for these things to be joyful, be present. It’s like when there is a raffle and the signs says: YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN! Be present = win Joy.

Here is an example: Most days you shower. This is an amazing experience. A relaxing joyful endeavor. Usually when you shower, where is your mind? Probably thinking about what you have to do that day. Maybe what you need at the grocery. Perhaps what you should have said to your boss, spouse, child, random person at the store. Something other than experiencing the warm water on your skin. 

As an experiment, try this the next time you shower. Just shower. When you first get in, close your eyes and feel the warm water. When you wash your hair, feel how incredible your fingers feel on your scalp. While you are drying off, feel the texture of the towel. Whenever your mind starts to wander or go into habitual loops of thought, bring yourself back to the shower. Spas are wonderful because they focus our attention and allow ourselves to enjoy these simple things. That same joy and relaxation can arise every time you shower. 

Try this while you do all the ‘simple’ or ‘mundane’ things in your life. Focus on the sensations. What you are smelling, feeling, tasting, and seeing while you do things. While you are brushing your hair. While you are brushing your teeth. While you cook. While you eat. While you play with your children. Notice the pleasure and joy. Each day is FULL of joyful experiences, you just  have to bring your presence to them.  

(the last email you discovered the #1 way to find joy in your life. and here is #2!) 

#2. Just Eat

When we were hunter-gathers our primary activity of the day was to find food and eat it. As we became agriculturalized, industrialized, and technologized less and less time is devoted to cultivating, preparing and eating delicious food. 

Eating is a great source of Joy when we attune to it. Eating is vital to survival, so it sets off a cascade of feel good hormones. But most of us don’t taste our food. We try to ‘be productive’ or do great many things while eating. We check email, watch TV, drive. Even having a conversation takes us away from tasting our food. We ask those at the table “ How is your food?” but we aren’t tuning in to that question for ourselves. What do you do while eating? Go ahead and make a mental list. Why is this problematic? Not only because it robs you of joy, but it also leads other problems including: poor digestion, so we end up in distracting pain, over eating, because we don’t realize we are full, and eating junk, because our taste buds are numb to the subtle flavors of nourishing foods. If you want to lose weight, just eat. If you just want to experience more joy, just eat. 

As an experiment, try this at your next meal. Make sure you are sitting comfortably. If it is night, ensure the lighting is soothing. Before you eat, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. This is calming (great for digestion) and allows you to smell the food. Feel gratitude rising in you. You have the means and the space to nourish your body with delicious food! That is amazing! Look at the food before you eat it. Allow yourself to admire the colors, perhaps the artfulness of how it’s arranged, or the steam rising from the plate. Then, as you eat, focus on the tastes. The textures. Sometimes you will need to close your eyes because vision can be a distraction from your tastebuds. Savor the flavor. The nuances of each bite. Be delighted! Feel the joy it brings you! 

If you are used to ‘multitasking’ while you eat, this practice of Just Eat will take time to establish. Be patient with yourself. The best way to ensure joyful eating is to allow time and space to eat, sitting down without distraction. Make it a priority. Schedule it in. And enjoy! 

#3. Turn ‘HAVE TOs’ into ‘GET TOs’ 

There are lots of things we feel we have to do everyday. There are household and personal things, like making the bed, vacuuming, sweeping, dishes, taking the kids to school, making lunches, washing the car...you get the idea. Or there may be larger things such as creating a big work presentation, planning your wedding, preparing for a new baby. 

Think back on yesterday, where was the joy in everything you did? 

How can you find joy in every activity you do? 

First of all, decide if it is something you really have to do. Try this. Set your priorities for the day. Then, make a list of ‘to do’s’ for the day. Look at them individually and ask, “Do I have to do this in order for these priorities to get accomplished?” Many things may fall off the “to-do” list. You may realize you’re doing lots of things that not only don’t bring you joy, but they are not even necessary! 

For what is left--activities you label as ‘Have to’s’ or ‘Must do’s’, let me offer a reframe to make it more joyful. 

MUST is stressful. HAVE TO is stressful. When you have little or large tasks, how do you think about them? A messy bed may scream, “Ug, I have to make the bed.” A pile of dirty dishes call out, “You must clean me!” The project at work cries “I am very important and am going to demand a lot of energy!” 

Instead, try this: Trade in ‘Must/Have to’ for ‘Get to.’ I know, this may seem pollyanna-ish, but try it and see. It may work. When you go to make your bed, think “I GET to make my bed.” How amazing it is you have a bed! What joy can you find in smoothing the sheets and tucking the blankets. Make your bed in a way that it will bring you joy everytime you see it. When you come to sleep at night it will welcome you. When you get to do the dishes, feel the warm water on your hands and find the joy in cleaning them. When you are working on things that will take some time, don’t focus on the overwhelming amount of work, trust that it will get done. Tell yourself, “I get to create this (whatever it is) that will change the world.” It will. Every single action you take has an impact. 

#4. Take pride in 100% of what you do

Feeling validated leads to joy. Usually, we rely on others to tell us what we are doing is worthy, amazing or awesome, in order to feel validated.  That is why Facebook exists. Same with Instagram. We do things, striving for a pat on the back. We do things to collect thank yous. Think about the tingle of excitement you feel every time someone says, “Wow that was great what you did!” or “Thank you so much for what you did!” Outside validation can bring some joy. However, if only others can validate us it’s a dangerous trap. We become addicted. We want to please others instead of doing what we truly love. We get tricked into believing we have to be accepted and validated by others in order to feel worthy. 

Then, even when we are alone, we are not really alone. Everyone we want validation from is in the room with us, watching us. While we are getting dressed we are thinking is this how so-n-so would like me to dress? While we are working we are thinking is this how such-and-such colleague would like me to work? This creates stress. We don’t act from our core, we act from our periphery. We think about how to turn personal experiences into something that other people could validate. Instagram is a great example. We experience or see something. We feel joy (or are angry, or inspired, or laugh). We want other people to know that we felt joy (or got angry, or inspired, or laughed). We wait to see how many people heart our photo so we can feel joy. The very act of posting it diminishes the activities we do.  They become clouded with this desire for validation. They become much less joyful. 

So, try this instead. Take pride in your work, your play, and when you are doing nothing. In everything you do, take the time and energy to do it so you are proud of what you create. If you vacuum and do a really wonderful job, be proud and feel the satisfaction. If you run faster today than you did yesterday, say to yourself “hell yeah!” If you make a beautiful meal, admire the heck out of it and feel joyful pride! Don’t show off to other people. Show off to yourself!

#5. Celebrate the small wins

We “should” ourselves to death. We think, I should be doing this that and the other thing. We beat ourselves up for what we haven’t done, what we aren’t doing, what we should do. We envy others and think they’re doing it right in ways that we aren’t. We think about the money we don’t have, the career we are not yet achieving, the accomplishments we have not accomplished. 

This creates stress, anxiety and not a lot of joy. 

How can you change this? It is simple. Celebrate the small wins. Everyday. It will bring more joy into your life and lead to big change and growth long term.  

Big things are accomplished in small steps. Everest is climbed one step at a time. 

So, set up space and time to break down large projects in your life into smaller tasks. If you have a big project for work, look at where you want to go and know your endgame. Then break it down so that you know what needs to happen in order for you to succeed. Once you know, just focus on the smaller tasks. Do one thing at a time. And celebrate each small win. Each is one step toward your goal. You know the path to get there so don’t stress about what has not yet been done. 

If you want to eat healthier, then every time you make a healthy food choice, celebrate (not with a doughnut). If you want to be more patient with your kids, then every time you take a breath and calmly remove the iPad from their hand and walk them to the dinner table, celebrate. If you made it to yoga class this week once, it is certainly 100% better than not at all. 

What this does is brings awareness to how incredible you are. And there is great joy in that.