In our “always on”, fake it til you make it, can’t stop won’t stop world, it can be all too easy to confuse joy - a feeling of great pleasure or happiness - with satisfaction - fulfillment of expectations.
Finding joy, for me, has been about more than just stopping to slow down and find happiness, but it has been a way for me to seek ways to cope with anxiety.
For far too long, I had been confusing the feeling you get when you check an item off a to-do list with the feeling you get when you dance, dream, or listen to the ocean. Whether you are looking to find joy for yourself, or bring more joy to others, here are some of the ways I have been able to stop, connect to the present moment, and feel undeniable happiness.
But first, do this.
Give yourself permission.
This is the first way to bring more joy into your life. I’d go so far as to argue that without taking this crucial first step, nothing else I say after this will work. Stop everything right now and tell yourself this: I deserve to enjoy a moment of happiness every single day that does not have to do with work, obligations, family, friends or otherwise. I deserve happiness for the sake of happiness.
After you’ve done that, give some of these tips for bringing more joy into your life a try.
1. Do something creative.
You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy coloring, painting, or writing. Oddly, I find an immense pleasure in painting walls, despite having no real skill for it. When we moved into our condo, everyone found it insane how much I enjoyed painting all the doors with a fresh coat of white paint, or painting our staircase into the basement grey. Something about the monotonous pattern of it is so refreshing to me - what else did I have to think about besides brush strokes?
2. Return to age 7.
Did you know that by the time you’re 7-years-old, your personality is pretty set in stone? Think back to when you were 7, what did you enjoy the most? I loved riding my bike around the neighborhood. Last summer, I bought a bike. As adults, we tend to lose touch with what we enjoyed as children - things that we found joy in when we knew not a thing about all there was to worry about in the world. Go back and find some of those things.
3. Listen to the ocean.
Or whatever body of water you’re nearest to. Heck, if you can’t get to the water, listen to a playlist of the waves crashing or rain falling. There’s a reason why whenever you go to a spa that’s the soundtrack.
4. Buy yourself flowers.
My motto with flowers is pretty simple: save the money, buy me something I can wear. But the weird thing is I love sunflowers. Recently, I started buying myself sunflowers in the market. 5-bucks, instant mood lifter in the house.
5. Push yourself to new limits physically.
I love to run. Love, love, love it. It clears my mind. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I find that sometimes the joy I get from a run is clouded by my thoughts. So I started taking yoga. It was new. I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it. And I am so focused on moving my body the right way that I have no time to worry about anything else - and after class, I feel amazing when I’ve completed something new.
You can sing, you can dance, you can sit and do absolutely nothing. But in my experience, the art of finding joy is all about listening to yourself. The idea of “self care” might be trendy right now, but I think it’s about more than that. Find joy wherever you can - it’s not self care, it’s self love… and self perseverance.
And if we’re going to be steadfast in our careers, our marriages, our relationships and every other aspect of our lives, why shouldn’t we also be that way about our own joy?