“Joy” is one of my favorite words. It’s a small word but describes an enormous emotion. It’s more than happiness; I would argue it’s on par with ecstasy. The Oxford Dictionary defines “joy” as “[a] feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Great pleasure condensed down to just three little letters.
What’s marvelous about “joy” is that, unlike great pleasure, it feels accessible.
Sure, joy can be part of a big experience, but it’s also found in the small ones, too. In fact, those small experiences may be more beneficial. An unexpected surprise. A warm day. A really good cup of coffee, just cool enough to drink but nowhere near cold. Uninterrupted time with a friend. A favorite song on the radio and no one around to judge your singing voice.
I can be joyous, I can feel joy, every day. Joy is easy to pencil into an already packed calendar, while great pleasure may make it seem crowded. We can squeeze those three letters in before our 9 am meeting. We can fit it in after lunch. I can even manage to wedge it in between dinner and The Daily Show.
We can consciously schedule these joyous moments so that we have something that lights us up every day. Or we can keep these little experiences near us so that we can call on them when we need to. Some people do this intuitively. I do not. But during my yoga teacher training, one of the teachers advised us to make a list of the things that make us happy. The key is for them to be easily accessible things, something that you can do quickly, without much preparation, at almost any time. Once you’ve made your list, keep it near you. In your bag, in your note section on your phone. Take a picture of the list and make it your background.
My list looked like this: good coffee, laughing with friends, talking with family, nature (hiking, walking around the block, just sitting outside), exercise, dancing, watching a funny video, stretching. Being outside is a big one for me. It only takes a few minutes and, while I often tell myself I don’t have time to take a break and get out the front door, when I do, it utterly transforms my day.
After you’ve made your list and put it someplace that you’ll see it, look at your calendar. Can you proactively schedule joy into your day? Can you set an alarm on your phone reminding you to take a quick dance break while you’re getting ready for work? Download a favorite song on your phone and keep it ready to go. Can you take a stroll around your office after lunch to clear your mind? Can you schedule an exercise class after work?
On the other hand, there are also those things that drain us. Maybe a certain friend whom you love dearly, but you always feel depleted after you talk to them on the phone, or a monthly meeting that zonks your energy, or maybe just a situation that makes you feel overwhelmed or exhausted when you are trying to deal with it. Make a list of those, too.
Can you psych yourself up, or recover from, draining episodes with the activities that charge you up? For instance, I hate conference calls. Something about the energy of so many people on the phone, even if it’s a happy topic, just pulls me down. So I try to plan a few minutes after a conference call to do something that brings me a little joy. Maybe I watch a funny video. If I have time, I take a quick walk around the block. I just step outside and spend a few minutes looking for butterflies or watering my plants. Then I tackle whatever is on next on my schedule for the day. It’s just a small thing that lets me start my next part of the day from even, rather than trying to start something else when I’m already depleted.
A few moments of joy sandwiched between the far-from-joyous makes it all a little more bearable.
My toddler keeps helping me with this lesson. Sometimes, when we are alone together, we start to mirror each other’s moods. If he’s grouchy, I become grouchy. If he complains, by golly, I’ll complain more. (Perhaps I should stop competing with my toddler?) But if I can step out of it, put on some music or get us outside, the whole mood changes. We both shift. Because it’s hard for either of us to be grumpy when the other is laughing.
Oh, and whatever is on your list? Don’t judge it. The worse it is, the cornier it is, the sillier you are, the better.
Watch ridiculous cat videos on YouTube. Dance to cheesy music. No one has to watch you find your joy. Now, I am not a great dancer, and sometimes, if he’s really mad, my toddler will tell me to stop….. But if I just keep at it, more often then not, we both start smiling and dancing.
It’s nearly impossible to frown (and mean it) while you’re dancing.
Wishing you a few moments of clarity (and JOY) in your day,
How do you find joy? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below or share on social media!