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How to Live Life in a State of Joy
What is Joy?
The dictionary defines joy as "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness." While that's true on an emotional level, I believe that the state of joy runs far deeper. Joy is waking up and seeing the day for all the promise it holds rather than the things that it lacks. Contrary to what most people believe, it's very possible to live in a constant state of joy while experiencing life's normal stages of grief, sadness, pain, and even anger. The difference is that a heart of joy remains on a solid, positive foundation even while experiencing states that are subjectively negative. Without joy as an anchor, we become susceptible to a wild ride of constantly shifting emotional states that cause us to experience the good with diminished capacity and the bad with exaggerated capacity.
What Joy is Not
Joy is not a perpetual state of happiness. Too many people hear the word joy and assume, "Oh, I'm not optimistic enough to be joyful all the time." Let me tell you, if a pessimistic attitude was all it took to exclude you from joy, I would be the most miserable person on the planet. I came into this world seeing the glass as half empty, and no matter how hard I try to counter that perception, my mind naturally works through a critical lens.
To define joy, it's necessary to first rule out some of the common stereotypes that intimidate people like you and I and prevent them from pursuing joy in their life.
Joy is not:
- Being a morning person
- Feeling happy all the time
- Seeing the glass half full
- Being friends with everyone you meet
- Birds singing and helping you do your chores
How to Become Joyful
Joy looks different for everyone, but there are some basic steps you can take to develop your "joy centers." The first is to change your thought patterns. Most people are under the misconception that thoughts are a purely automatic process, and you have no control over the thoughts that naturally occur. While thoughts are a symptom of your heart attitude, they're far from out of your control.
The brain is a remarkably plastic organ. A 2002 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that pessimism and other negative attitudes may be the result of excessive activity in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is largely responsible for reasoning, inhibition, and judgment. While these factors are marvelous tools for survival and analytical thought, an imbalance (whether neurochemical or situationally-induced) can trigger an unhealthily negative view of the world.
Whether your negativity stems from a neurochemical imbalance or external factors, introducing positive thoughts can help remove the emotional blockage that keeps you from experiencing joy. The best strategy for changing your thought patterns and moving on to a joyful outlook is to fake it till you make it. Yes, neurology is the one area where being a fake is a good thing! At least, in the beginning. It is possible to retrain your brain, and positive affirmations are one of the most widely used and effective cognitive-behavioral techniques out there.
IMPORTANT: Positive thinking is NOT enough for everyone, although I do believe it can help everyone. Getting counseling and speaking with a doctor about medication is the best way to handle clinical conditions such as depression.The spectrum of negative mentalities can range from mundane and temporary to severe and clinical. These lifestyle strategies are NOT a substitute for medical care!
This sounds cheesy, I know, but it works and it works well. Whether you write them down or you develop a simple mantra you repeat to yourself throughout the day, learn to speak positivity into your life. At first, you may want to begin saying the affirmations out loud (in private, of course!). Eventually, thinking them will be enough. Get your brain into the habit of positive self-talk and banish phrases like "I'm just not good enough" or "I'll never achieve X."
Thoughts are curious things. If you let negative thoughts run wild, you will eventually become convinced of them and treat yourself accordingly. People are remarkably intuitive and perceptive. From your microexpressions to the lilt of your voice and the words you use to describe yourself and your actions, you are constantly giving the world cues for how you see yourself. You spend more time with you than anyone else, so if you treat yourself badly, the world will follow your lead. Why shouldn't they?
When you truly love yourself, when you speak positively about and to yourself and act as if you have as much right to exist as anyone else, the world takse notice. There will always be rude, negative people who can only criticism others, but that says far more about how they feel about themselves than how they feel about you. Learn to respect yourself and you will learn to love yourself. Learn to love yourself, and it will be impossible not to love others. We respond negatively to those whose traits remind us of something we hate in ourselves. When we accept those traits in ourselves and resign to work on them without letting them diminish our self-worth, those same traits become much easier to tolerate in others.
By adopting this attitude, you'll soon find that you see far more good in the world than bad. You won't have to work at achieving an artificial state of joy through possessions, experiences, or even relationships. You will naturally be filled with admiration for the beauty in the world around you, acknowledging its external flaws as you acknowledge the flaws within yourself, but choosing to focus on the positive. This is the key to balance. This is the key to joy. No lengthy self-help books are needed, no pilgrimage or thousands of dollars spent on crystals and energy healing sessions. Love yourself and you will love others. Love others and you will live in joy without even having to try.
Signs and Symptoms You're Infected With Joy
- The flaws in everything and everyone don't stop you from seeing the beauty in everything and everyone
- You feel a deep sense of connection to God, the Divine, the Universe
- You experience negative emotions fully, working through them without resistance
- You are less affected by emotional manipulation and "guilt trips"
- Possibilities and opportunities become more obvious
- Your first emotional response to most experiences and people is one of love