How do you define joy? And when was the last time you felt it? Not just happy...not just amused… Joy is not a chuckle...it is something that overwhelms our entire being, and seamlessly unites our body, mind and soul, if only for a limited time. In those moments, we are our purest selves. In those moments, we are truly free.
But joy is fleeting. Joy is not a constant state. Joy cannot be sustained indefinitely-it is a gift that must be seen and felt in the moment, for when that moment is gone, it’s gone.
You can reflect on the moment (more so the more you seize that moment…), but you will never get it’s full effect back. You have to patiently wait for the next gift to visit, often unexpectedly, and just be open to receive it.
As children, joy can visit more regularly, but as adults, we often lose touch with this heightened sense of bliss… Some may have a hard time even remembering what it feels like. The older we get, the more responsibilities and ambition take over. We get jobs and careers, have children and families to take care of...and the opportunities for joy lessen. Life becomes about managing stress, and if you are lucky, having some fun. But fun, relaxation, or even self care will not necessarily bring you joy...joy is something else entirely.
Also, as we get older, all of those relationships and responsibilities can create dependency on other people in our life for finding and experiencing joy. We forget how to embrace joy just for ourselves, all on our own. Of course it's understandable to want to share that feeling with others, but connecting with joy is a connection to self that is essential to our own sense of identity, outside of those relationships. There will be moments to share joy with others, but when we can embrace joy on our own, it polishes our own soul in a way that helps reveal the best version of ourselves in those relationships. If we don't connect and remember who we are as an individual, we lose ourselves as we are absorbed by our surroundings.
And while there are things you can do to keep your doors and windows open, to welcome joy in the next time it might pass by, you can’t manufacture it by following a list of instructions (even though I include a general outline of ideas below). You can hone your skills of awareness to recognize when it is near, and seize opportunity, but expectations can actually scare it away too. Look too hard, or long for what you feel is lacking, and you can create the opposite result. Lay the groundwork, and keep watch, but don’t obsess. Part of the magic of joy is in the unexpectedness, and surprise...
And as with most things, the more you practice staying open, and being fully aware of what is around and available to you, the more joy will come to visit. And the more often we embrace those moments fully, the more established those pathways become for future returns. Next thing you know, joy will be a regular traveler through your door.
Things that help invite joy:
Finding true balance-taking care of the responsibilities that are truly important to you, but still making time for self away from responsibilities and relationships with others.
Cultivating curiosity-investigating the people and world around you to understand how it all works, without value judgments
Deepening compassion & empathy, with self as well as others
Reducing distractions and mental clutter; being able to be fully present in the moment
Making time for play, creativity, and/or connection to nature
Connecting with gratitude wherever and whenever possible