by Grace Edmunds
Joy is an emotion that is considered medicine for the soul. When we are joyful, we radiate, we are kind to others, and we are grateful for our lives. The question remains what are the secret ingredients that make up the perfect recipe for experiencing joy more often. To answer this question, we must examine the moments we have experienced joy in our own lives. Take a moment to imagine the last moment you felt pure joy. Was it when you were with loved ones? A child? Did you accomplish one of your goals or realize a longtime dream? Joyful moments are often a reaction to external experiences and they are often fleeting and few. I am not suggesting to try to grasp onto joy as it is ephemeral, or that it is possible to live a life without pain and sadness. Rather, I am offering practices to cultivate joy from within so that you can experience it more often.
Presence: Savor the Moment
Why are our moments of joy so fleeting? Rarely do we let ourselves fully experience moments of joy either because we think we don’t deserve it or because of something called the “negativity bias”. Humans have evolved to scan for threats which make our brains more likely to perceive and focus on the bad things around us. Luckily, now that our threats are more perceived, internal threats rather than existential, we can begin to re-train our brains to focus on the positive events that happen every day. Savoring the moment takes intentional effort to fight our natural tendency to only focus on the negative. You can start with practicing mindfulness more often. Paying attention to the present moment allows us to be less caught up in our minds and gives us more bandwidth to notice the small moments of joy throughout our day. When you notice these mini-moments of joy, take a moment to connect to where you feel joy in your body. Let the joy in, let go of any resistance that arises towards it, and feed that joy with your presence. This is secret to joy will help your truly savor the moment. The more often you do this, the more joyful you will feel.
Awe: Feel the Magic
Joy is within our reach in every moment, we simply have to remember and observe the magic that surrounds us. Tapping into the state of awe takes only a short reflection on the power of the life inside and around us. Let’s give it a shot right now. Notice how your body is alive and breathing. You are a complex being full of parts and processes that work in harmony. Reflect on the perfection and the unlikelihood that there would even be life on this planet to transform into these complex beings we have become. Take a moment to look at nature and observe the grandiosity and the microcosmic beauty and the way it all works in an interconnected way. Awe is a state of being that can be activated by paying attention and reflecting on our surroundings. When we are in this state, we are taken out of our mind and the stories we make up about our lives which take us away from the bigger picture. Sensing ourselves as a part of something bigger helps us not only feel “peak experiences” but it also promotes prosocial behavior and compassion.
Connection: Rejoice in Others Joy
There is a Buddhist concept that is one secret to joy and it is called Mudita, which means sympathetic joy. Mudita is a way of being joyful for others joys in life. How often do you notice friends, loved ones, or even social media “friends” experiencing a joyful moment in their life and feel truly and genuinely happy for them? Most of us have a momentary (or longer) experience of jealousy and comparison, asking ourselves if we should have what they have. Having this attitude perpetuates our dissatisfaction and steals our joy. Mudita can help us to transform jealousy into true joy for another, even if you have to fake it till you make it! Next time you see someone on social media or in real life sharing something that brings them joy in life, notice if your first reaction is envy or comparison. If it is, see if you can conjure up some feelings of joy by saying to them or repeating internally, “I am so happy for you!” or any words along those lines that feel appropriate. You may have to try this practice for a while before it feels authentic, but eventually the feelings of joy will arise naturally at the sight of your friends and peer’s success and happiness. Joy for others will not only strengthen your connection to them, but it will bring you greater happiness as well.
Feeling joyful is hard when life doesn’t seem to be going your way. If you take time to practice conjuring a sense of presence, awe, and connection, joy will be more easily accessed in each moment. These are the secret ingredients to joy. Life is not about just surviving each day; it should be about learning how to thrive. Sometimes it’s tough, but don’t you want to do your best to be fully alive and feel the joy that is accessible in each moment? So join me in this quest for joy, and spread this positivity to others. If your joy confuses others or you feel envy directed your way, send them a wish for wellness and see if you can share your joy with them. Let’s build a joyful world together!
Photo: Zachary Nelson
Affirmations can help you stay positive and savor your joy. Share yours with the Till Community!