“If all you did was just look around for things to appreciate, you would live a joyous, spectacular life” Abraham Hicks
I have written about gratitude before, and it only makes sense to write about joy, too, since they go hand in hand. When we think about all the things we are grateful for in our lives, the end result is often a feeling of joy. When we are joyful, expressing gratitude becomes easy and effortless. The two create a reinforcing cycle of positivity, when you experience one the other often follows. Learning to cultivate both will allow you to create a “joyous, spectacular life.”
First, what is joy? It is defined as “an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness, or an instance of such a feeling.” Joy does not necessarily need to be felt with such a force. It can be more of a slow, simmering feeling that builds up and gathers strength as it goes. It can also be maintained for a long period of time-a lifetime even, rather than cycles of becoming bright and hot too fast and burning out. One way to maintain joy is to identify sources of joy in your life.
What brings you joy? As I suggested with cultivating gratitude, create a “joy list” as a way to actively cultivate joy. This can be anything that lifts you up or makes you smile (a recommended starting point is at least five). If you can, try to make them “big picture” items (as opposed to “I’m really thirsty and a glass of water would bring me joy at this moment). In spite of hardships in my life, there are still plenty of things to be joyful of. My family and my faith, for starters: “You have filled my heart with greater joy” (Psalm 4:7). Recognizing what expands upon our joy and writing it down allows us to have a physical reminder to revisit. In less joyful times, this list can be a way to help maintain joy, in spite of what is happening around us.
What many of us don’t realize- or take the ‘long way’ in discovering- is that joy is an entirely internal state, independent of external circumstances. Whether you get a lottery ticket or a parking ticket does not need to dictate your joy level (or lack thereof). Joy may not come easily at first, in fact, for many people it doesn’t. Like anything in life, it is a practice that requires some work. Many of us get stuck in a routine, a search for constant improvement, and we become wired to constantly get better, reach the next level, never settle. There’s always something more for us to do, be, or have, just beyond our reach. Part of joy is learning to be content with where we are now, otherwise we’ll push it aside, saying “I can be joyful when I reach this next point in my life. That’s when it will be ok.”
Joy can be as easy or as difficult as we make it. If you find yourself putting your pursuit of a joyful life aside for other items on your “to-do” list, consider this proverb: “The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy.” Maybe, with a little joy, you can reach goals you’d never believed attainable.