Origins of Joy
Oh the ups and downs in life and finding joy! Some of the joys in my life I first genuinely felt as an adult were in my twenties, when I was new to Florida. I have a clear picture in my mind of enjoying the warm December weather circa 1995. I was in awe of The Sunshine State, having grown up in North Carolina. The experience of a warm sunny day was a simple pleasure that brought me great peace. One particular moment was so clear I can instantly describe every sensation I encountered, like the crisp breeze that begged for a Christmas sweater that never stayed on the whole day. I look back to that picture sometimes and think;
Where did that pure joy go?
Responsibilities change as we get older.
I got older. Developed my career, got married, had a child and gained more responsibility. Now my focus was on my good job, my first house, a new car. Those original moments of joy began to fade like old polaroids in a yellowed photo album. I was no longer living in the moment, no longer taking joy in the simplicity of the feel of the sun on my face, and I hadn’t been taking time out for myself.
The real moments of joy were found when I was purely in the moment, unhindered by rapid thoughts of bills and work and schedules.
As I celebrated my 40th birthday, it was apparent that I was relying on all the wrong things to bring back that experience of joy in my life – unnecessary purchases and alcohol. At the moment I’m shopping or drinking, those things feel great! But buyers remorse and post-alcohol let-down was not the price I was willing to pay.
I decided that I wanted that joy back, and finding it started from within. The best approach is to start shifting in little doses.The big problem I face is trying to change every facet of my life at once. Relationship, work, health & fitness. This can be really dangerous. Small wins are best.
Meditation is key on the road to recovering our lost joy. I hear too often from friends who are struggling with a lack of peace and joy in their lives they don’t have the time for meditation or they don’t know how. Meditation is free, and even five minutes a day makes a big difference. There is no special equipment required. The act of simply sitting in silence for five minutes with no distractions or technology is effective enough to do the job.
Writing and purging
Writing can be extremely cathartic. When I feel my thoughts are racing and I am overwhelmed, getting everything down on paper or electronically is a great brain dump. Sometimes this is a good alternative to dumping our negative or muddled thoughts on our friends. Once I’m done writing down all of my negative thoughts, I like to start a fresh page on what I DO want in my life. It is so important to renew after a purge with fresh thoughts.
Listening to music can be an amazing remedy. Sometimes the right song can bring a smile to my face, no matter what my current mood is. Or a song that you love to sing out loud when no one is in the car. Get to that place, get in the car if you have to.
Exercise causes a release of the chemical known as endorphins. Endorphins often create a feeling of euphoria – a direct path to joy!
Seek out friends who uplift you. Forget the saying, “Misery loves company”. Think instead about lighting a dark room. The brighter the light gets, the easier it is to see. The same goes with friends. Seek out someone who makes you laugh, or shows you the silver lining when there are clouds.
Bake, cook, or make crafts. This past Sunday, I was not in a place of joy when I woke up, by my own doing of drinking the night before. I wanted to sulk on the couch and bury myself in my own self-imposed misery. I called a friend who sparked the light inside me and I decided to work on my Christmas gifts for my friends. By the afternoon, I felt lighter and more at peace.
Have you lost your joy? Listen to your internal joy gauge. When you think about your job, or relationship, or location – do you feel irritated or frustrated? Do you begin the tangent of thoughts that lead to all of the anxieties you have been feeling? If so, change it. What makes you happy?