I had a moment yesterday, after seeing another story about another public figure struggling with life and falling into critical condition after taking actions to seemly end their own life. It hit me that if these things are happening for the most elite in society (the people with the houses, cars, success and fame), surely they were happening to the rest of us. The world seems to be full of people unhappy with life, finding that each day just melds into the next. People that have lost hope in ever living a life of excitement and joy.
I don’t know whether my message defines a method that works for me alone but the hope that even one person could read this and be encouraged and begin to live life differently, more joyfully, is worth every moment spent writing this and every bit of vulnerability I am opening myself up to.
Where Joy is Not
Joy is not found in another person. PERIOD!
Joy is not found in attaining ANY material things. PERIOD!
It is not found in any dream destination or any dream job. PERIOD! PERIOD!
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the people who attain the “perfect spouse”, “perfect house” and live in the dreamiest of destinations. Now step away from the fantasy real of their news feed and look inside their secret lives. I promise, you will find destruction and depression scattered across even these walks of life.
Joy Starts Here
Joy is found in one thousand tiny moments throughout the day.
What in the world do I mean there?
I mean that in each and everyday, there are glimmering opportunities for joy waiting for you.
Part 1: The exploitation of joy
Often, we exploit many of the things that we love the most. We drink our favorite coffee EVERYDAY. Eat at our favorite restaurants indulging is decadent food EVERYDAY. Buy up clothes and technology and cars and houses CONTINUALLY. Go on trips or to events to “escape” and find that we are just as dismal but in a new location. These habits go on and on and before long we look around and are miserable no matter how many things we love we incorporate into our lives and can’t understand why.
Part 2: Start Embracing Joy
My strategy for attaining a joyful life is all about s l o w i n g down and savoring.
Probably not what you expected and not what I have ever read in a self help book before.
Now maybe it is my business background that brings me to think of attaining joy with a “strategy” but really it is pretty simple and it is rooted in moderation.
Take for example, something you really love, your morning coffee. Okay, maybe that is a sensitive subject for some and held closely too the heart to mess with but choose any such thing. Now instead of having it every morning, the same way, letting each day run right into the next, choose to have it just once a week — or maybe just on the weekends for fun (let your default be something healthy like water or have hot green tea, also on occasion). Don’t even let yourself drink it until you accomplish one small task or mark something off of your list. Then, when you finally drink that coffee, since it is in moderation, you will drink it differently. You will savor it and the flavors will come to life like they haven’t before. You will really feel the caffeine again in your blood and you will get pumped up to take on the world!! Now when is the last time your morning coffee made you want to take on the world?
Do this with all indulgent loves of your life. Turn off the TV (moreover the Netflix or X-Box) and just watch one show a week. Drastic, I know. Be fully present when you watch, turn up the volume, down the lights and make an event out of it. Invite friends to come and enjoy or keep it as a special time for yourself. Something this small will bring so much excitement and anticipation into your (what used to be) ho-hum week.
You will see that with this small tweak, things in your life that used to not matter have become glowing moments of joy.
How to Make it Last
Well, if you have coffee just once a week and a TV show once a week, what about all the rest of the time??
Task yourself with finding more things that you really love or things you want to accomplish. I like to make lists for myself and when I get home from work, I get after it! I write down everything from cooking dinner to finishing work projects, something about checking things off feels soo good! Once everything on your list is complete, relax and reward yourself with something you love like a bubble bath, filling the bathroom with candles and soft music. Enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing the days tasks. Taking the time to make these moment special makes all the difference. When you get out, lotion up and take your time stretching out your muscles before bed. All of a sudden your evening turned from a bunch of random chores (that make you want to procrastinate and sit on Facebook) into a productive evening followed by spa time. Other nights, plan to go outside for a picnic or download new music to listen to and go for a run.
When you do all of these things, slow down and appreciate the beauty. Stop on your run to wave to people as you go by and smile at them. Plan the picnic in an open area where you can see the sunset and feel the breeze on your skin. Make a bunch of cookies (eating the raw dough as you go) and give them to the workers you always see on the way home from work.
These are all moments that will fill your life with wonder and joy no matter where you live. If you have kids, have them participate in all of it with you! Enjoy these things together.
Then, take time to be creative. This one I think gets missed because we have so much other stuff going on in life but , a few nights a week do something creative that you love. If you don’t like doing anything creative, try looking into things you could like. There is no pressure to be good at anything or to produce anything, just take time to explore that side of your brain. Write, paint, make up crazy recipes. Redecorate the house or design a new product. Make a scrapbook of your recent photos or take lessons to learn a new instrument or make pottery. With time, you will find your favorites and in time they will become more and more sparks of joy lighting up your week.
They key is to slow down when you do them and make them special.
We all have tasks throughout the week that we hate but must still be accomplished for life to go on. For these things, turn them into things that you look forward to. Hate sitting in traffic? Listen to a book on tape or make it a tradition to call and catch up with a best friend or family member each day. Hate cleaning the house? Schedule it into your week, say Saturday mornings or maybe Tuesday nights and make it an event. If you have family, have everyone participate, if you are alone, don’t skip out! When it is that time, turn on some music, make a special drink or snack to fuel the group and have fun while you clean. Laugh and play together. Enjoy this time.
Work in waves. Whether you love your job or hate it, take it in waves. Decide on a set interval that works for you, maybe 2 hours, and when each interval passes stop your work, step away and reconnect with the outside world. Go and refill your water, walk over to a friend in another cube, walk straight out of the building, whatever it takes to let your mind come down from the pressures of work. Do something that you like during this time so that it can be something to look forward to. Only take about 5-10 min then dive back into work refreshed and ready to take on the next wave.
Take an active role in creating habits that lead to joy.
Experience Life, FULLY
Lastly, lose the filter. By this I mean the loftiness that keeps you from laughing at dumb jokes (or keeps your laughter to a quiet chuckle and instead of a belly laugh that shakes your whole body), lose the fear that keeps you from following your heart (or dancing on the couch) and the self imposed obligations that keep you from doing what you love. Live fully and indulge in these happy moments.
Don’t forget to encourage others to live this way by instead of giving weird looks, laugh along with them and let everyone be their quirky true selves.
People and Joy
Tracee Ellis Ross said it best:
“I cheer for people. I was raised to believe there’s enough sun for everybody.”
Money and Joy
Why in the world are those things correlated? Didn’t I just say that material items and joy were not correlated??
Well yes, but for many people, money can be a huge and sometimes overwhelming DESTROYER of joy! The stress of not being prepared for the future, pressure to buy more than you are sure of and altogether confusion of how to handle it. Just as before, you must take charge of these things and make conscious decisions to prepare for the future rather than fear it.
This (Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey) is the guide that I personally follow that has led my family to financial freedom.
Be able to provide what you need, buy what you want and have peace about the future.
Travel and Joy
When you plan your next trip, forget what Trip Adviser says are the best things to do or what your friends tell you are musts. Plan the trip revolving around what you know you will love the most. If ruins and history are exciting for you, get the book and learn everything about them before you go and take your time while there. If ruins are boring to you, skip it!! Focus your trip on watching the waves roll in or seeing city lights. Plan a loose schedule so that spur of the moment magic can happen.
Let vacations be something that actually refresh your mind and fill your spirit up. If all travel does is wear you out, your doing it wrong.
Pro Trip : Coming back from vacation is the perfect time to set new habits and routines into place!
Jesus and Joy?
Slowing down, savoring the moments and appreciating all of the good in the world are all ways to reconnect with our creator. The Bible actually teaches against indulgence and about focusing on loving one another. It is all right there! The God of the universe knows our hearts and our minds and loves us wildly. No wonder he would give us these keys to happiness.
Not to mention that every crappy decision we have made and every sin we have committed can be completely forgiven by him and washed away. No painful past can keep you from living the life you dream of.
What a magnificent creator we have.
What a wondrous teacher he is.
What a perfect gift that he gave with his son.
One Thousand Joys
Before long, during all moments of life, you will find yourself present and happy. You will finally be able to see and enjoy the one thousand joys tucked into each day.
When this happens, you will appreciate things more and feel more when you enjoy them.
You will discover the things in your life that you really love and they will be magnified.
Without the clutter and distraction of indulgence, people will start to matter more too and you will cherish time with them.
This is living a life of One Thousand Joys.
Shout out to my STUNNING best friend Kristyn who let me use her photography to bring this post to life. Her photos capture the words better than any I have seen, do yourself a favor and check out her blog TheSuitcaseHeart.com She stocks it full of these eye candy photos, taking subscribers on breath taking journeys each post.