… Sometimes our joy isn’t uncomplicated.
Sometimes we have to go through hell to get what we want.
Sometimes joy costs pain. But you know what? Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes the joy doesn’t cost you anything at all other than allowing yourself to actually have it.
This piece of writing from Nicole Antoinette stroke a cord for me. I always claim that I want more joy but I often do not give myself the permission, time, and space to fully experience it.
That became obvious during the holiday craziness, shopping, discounts, gifts, and juicy, “don’t miss” opportunities. And our desire to buy, in part, comes from our desire to feel joy from acquiring new beautiful things. But what if we have it all backward?
- What if the social pressure of having more and more pushes us to look for joy at the wrong places, while simultaneously exhausting our finances, polluting the environment, and trapping ourselves in the clutter?
- What if instead of searching for joy in an endless array of new toys, we work on our joy skills first?
- What if we stop pursuing stuff and goals and allow ourselves to be there and just feel joy?
That’s what this post is about- simple practices that will flex your joy muscles. These take little time, cost no money, and can be done anywhere at any time. These are simple mind shifts that will help you experience and deepen your joy in what is right here and now.
Let’s get started.
1. Focus on something pleasurable for 20+ seconds
We are wired to notice threats because that’s what helped us survive for millennia. Survival of the fittest often means the survival of the most anxious. Alas, this negative mode of thinking is present even when we’re not experiencing the immediate danger. We need to give ourselves an extra push to notice the beauty, otherwise, it often slips under the radar.
In Patriarchy Stress Disorder, Valery Rein suggests that because of our negative bias, positive experiences should be held in our attention a bit longer, for 20 seconds or more, if possible. Whether it’s looking at Christmas lights, savoring your coffee, or a warm shower, focus on pleasure for prolonged periods and allow it to really sink in.
2. Replace FOMO with JOMO
One major killer of joy is our tendency to always run over our experiences, searching for something new, fabulous, better. Isn’t that what scrolling on social media is all about? Train yourself to take in the positive experiences by slowing down. We’re running in the 5th gear all the time so that we don’t miss out (that’s FOMO) but ironically, we miss out because we are going too fast.
Instead of FOMO, try JOMO- the joy of missing out.
JOMO practitioners acknowledge that in order to be fully present in one experience, we have to miss out on many others. And that’s OK. Miss out on Reddit discussions to spend time with your loved ones. Miss out on drinks downtown and enjoy a fun book wrapped up in a blanket. Missing out isn’t a tragedy- it’s a source of joy.
3. Cut the information inputs- be in your physical and emotional body
Joy is an emotional and visceral experience. Because most of us live in our heads and not in our bodies, because we push our emotions away as hindrances, we are not in a good shape to experience joy. One big contributor to such a mental state is our endless input of information: latest news, social media updates, trivia, articles. Our minds are overloaded and our bodies and emotions are abandoned.
The first step is to cut out the information. Put your phone away, turn off the TV in the background, go for a walk without listening to a podcast or scrolling Instagram. Allow your brain to clear up and check in with your body. Breathe deeply. To feel joy, you must stop overthinking and just be present with yourself.
4. Acknowledge the perfection of here and now
Right now, you may have problems. You may be acutely aware of how messed up the world is. You may be genuinely worried about the future. But right here and right now, at this very moment, you are probably OK.
I am assuming that, if you are reading this, you are likely in a safe, cozy environment, that you have comfy clothes on, and that you are sitting in a nice chair. In other words, the present moment, without excursions to the past and projections to the future, is a good place. Right here, right now, you are OK, and right here, right now is where your joy resides. Allow yourself to embrace the perfectness of the present moment and all the joy that comes with it. You are OK. You are probably more than OK.
5. Come to your senses
A common exercise to get into creative space is coming to your senses.
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- What smells do you feel?
- What taste do you feel?
- What are you touching?
Checking in with all 5 senses is a magnificent joy exercise.
Enjoying a beautiful color of a mug or fire, the sound of music or fire crackling, the smell of cinnamon, the taste of coffee, and the softness of the sweater- all these are simple experiences that, if focused on, can transport you into the state of joy immediately. Small moments, bits of color and sound, nice smells, and visceral experiences are not trivial- that’s your one, beautiful, and unique life. Observe it. Enjoy it.
6. Allow yourself to feel joy
As mentioned in the first quote, what often separates us from our joy is permission, allowing ourselves to feel it. Watch your self-talk when you want to experience joy. What happens? Are you telling yourself to hurry up, to get something productive done, that joy is trivial, that you should look for something else, that you are bored, that you still have so much more to do?
We are often our worst enemies and strictest bosses.
Joy is not trivial- it is a soul food we crave that gives us a fun and meaningful existence. You didn’t come here just to pay bills and die. You came here to experience life and enjoy the full spectrum of being human. Prioritize joy.
A simple, yet essential activity that we do all the time, consciously or not, is breathing. It is the key to mindfulness and the essential element of yoga and many other spiritual practices. A shift in breathing can shift our energy in no time, help us process our emotions, and be present. Breathing is always available (and necessary, of course) and it is an inherently joyful activity. No matter where you are and what you’re up to, taking a few deep, nourishing breathes can bring you joy. Plus, you’ll be transported into here and now, which is where more joy can be found.
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8. Make everyday activities more joyful
With a few simple tweaks, any activity that you do can be made more fun and enjoyable. You can whine about having to clean your house or you can blast your favorite music and do it with joy. You can dread your board meeting on Zoom, or you can grab a nice coloring book and enjoy beautiful shapes and colors while listening to updates from your colleagues.
Joy is often the reflection of an attitude rather than circumstances or the activity itself. At any moment, you can choose joy and find creative ways to access it.
9. Enjoy what you already have
Instead of buying a new gadget with one click or falling for yet another sale, make a good inventory of all the fabulous things you already have and enjoy the heck out of them.
- Outfits you haven’t worn in years
- Cosmetic products that you only use on a special occasion
- A box of orzo pasta waiting for the perfect pasta salad recipe
- Unread books on your shelf or Kindle
- Perks of your digital memberships you forgot about
… the list goes on and on. It’s all about the attitude and seeing old things with new eyes. When you want what you already have, joy and happiness are yours. You have arrived at your destination. Congratulations.
Your turn. What activities and strategies brought you joy during this season? Share your comments below and let’s keep the conversation going.
Before you go…
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