JOY : How to Feel it Every Day
Joy is what we are all searching for. That which brings us happiness. There are many words in the dictionary for joy : exultation, rapture, bliss, ecstasy, elation, and thrill. But such descriptions can make joy seem like an elusive experience. I mean, how many times have you said you had a "rapturous" day? Experienced ecstasy at the grocery store? Or bliss at the dentist? Probably never. There are definitely moments in life for absolute exultation and thrill---your wedding day, the birth of your kids, a boat ride toward Niagara Falls. But why must joy be so limited throughout life? It doesn't have to be! Joy can be felt throughout your day, every day. It is there. You just have to know how to find it.
This is the definition that I like of Joy: Happiness, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind. The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. The last part of the definition is key: Possessing what one desires. That one is you. Being in touch with what you desire, with what makes YOU happy is the most important part of finding joy.
FINDING WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Do you know what makes you happy? Maybe for you this is a complete mystery. Or maybe you think you know what makes you happy, but it might not be the case at all. Maybe you were in touch with what made you happy at one point in your life, but your needs and wants have changed. That is why it's important to evaluate and re-evaluate where your happiness comes from. Many times we are holding on to what made us happy in the past, or clinging to a future expectation, and meanwhile we are missing out on happiness right now. I had an experience like that recently.
As a teenager, I loved amusement parks and rode every ride. Roller-coasters, really spinny things, they all made me happy. But as an adult, it's a totally different experience. Now, spinny rides make me sick. And roller-coasters make me really anxious. When my husband and I recently chaperoned my son's senior trip to a big amusement park, all of the teenagers were doing what I used to do-- riding all the death-defying rides--but I just wanted to ride the train and see the dolphin show. At first it really bummed me out. But then I gave myself permission for my own happiness. A roller-coaster dropping from the clouds and then skimming the ground was not what would make me happy anymore. But sitting on a bench with an ice cream cone, spending some time with my husband, and watching the people walk by, that did make me happy. I can honestly say it brought me joy.
Another recent example is when I was searching for something to do, something to make me happy. I suggested we go to an outdoor arts festival at a college three hours away. It was hot. It was crowded. And the prices were way too high for me. Total disappointment. The next day, I tagged along with my husband to a car show, right up the road, and stumbled upon a big rummage sale. I found some great books, art, and decorative bird houses. All for a few dollars. It made me happy. And brought me joy.
By knowing what brings you happiness, you can experience more joy and less disappointment. So many times people wish for something because they think it will make them happy, only to find that once they get it, it doesn't bring the result they were hoping for at all. Like that art show for me . Others may dream of owning a Harley, taking a trip to Paris, or buying a mansion. But maybe the Harley hurts our back, Paris isn't what we imagined, and the mansion doesn't feel like home. These things we wish for can bring us joy, of course, but happiness is a very individual thing. Not everyone is happy on a Harley, in Paris, or in a mansion. And that's ok. Because that is what joy is all about:Just Only You. Only you can know what brings you happiness.
What are some ways to get in touch with your happiness?
These are some steps you can take to become more aware of what makes you happy, and thus to feel more joy.
-Make a "happiness list". Mentally note or literally write down all the things that make you happy. Be specific. Is it time on your computer, or a cup of tea? Is it travel? A walk around the neighborhood? Meditation? Going to the movies, the mall, or you son's baseball game? As you think of more items or as you experience them, you can add them to your list. And you can change the list as you change. If you are unsure of what to put on your list, notice things throughout your day that make you feel contentment or other positive emotions.
-Learn from the disappointments. I now know that I'd rather visit a local yard sale than an art show three hours away. I know that I enjoy renting movies more than going to them, casual restaurants more than fancy ones, jogging more than running, and that yoga is not for me. You can mentally note, or journal, about things that stray from your happiness meter. In doing so, you'll be steered back toward joy.
-Make time for what is on your happiness list. I love to read, to write, to work in my flower gardens and to watch sports. Making time for these things never fails to elevate my mood, make me feel content and get me back in alignment with myself. Once you know what makes you happy, it is vital to work those things into your day somehow. If something on your happiness list eludes you right now due to time or money, you can still read about it, daydream about it, or take steps to plan for it.
-Don't compare yourself to others! Give yourself permission for your own happiness. You may look at someone in a yacht and long for what they have, thinking that will bring you joy, but that may not be true at all. Plus, you can never really know if that person you envy is even happy! Keep reminding yourself of what you know makes you happy, be confident in it, and focus on that.
-Honor your dreams. We all have goals and wishes and dreams. Take some time to really reflect on them and ask yourself if they are in in alignment with what makes you happy. For example, you may be longing for fame and celebrity, but would that dream really bring you happiness and joy? Ask yourself, what brings you happiness in the moment, today? Are your dreams truly in alignment with these sources of joy? Your wishes and dreams for the future should bring you happiness as you imagine achieving them, never bitterness or anger. Rather than feeling longing or disappointment for what you don't have, focus on what brings you happiness right now. Imagine the joyous feeling you'd experience if your dreams came true, but don't reserve that joy for the future! You can feel it right now in your happiest present moments.
-Keep the balance. We may not always be happy with some tasks, like cleaning the bathroom, exercise, or getting blood work done, but we can remind ourselves that the end result of such things (clean, orderly surroundings and a clean bill of health) can bring us happiness. That is how joy can come from things like a trip to the grocery store and the dentist, too! I love the feeling of the cupboards being full, and my teeth being good for another six months!
-Acknowledge joy when you feel it! When something brings you a sense of well-being, contentment, pleasure or delight, acknowledge it. Be grateful for it. Smile. Take a deep breath and take it in. You are feeling joy! Taking notice of these moments will help them to increase.
Joy is not as elusive as we might think. It can be found in knowing where our happiness lies, in making time for those things, and in appreciating those moments when we are fortunate enough to possess what we desire, whatever that may be. We may feel joy on a tropical island getaway, coloring with our kids, or writing on the internet. The journey to joy may be different for all of us, but the starting point is always the same. Joy may be connected to things that are outside of us, but it always begins first by looking within.