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Joy is divine. While feelings such as happiness usually come from external sources and are temporary, joy comes from within and is always abiding. It is an innate part of who you are and how you express yourself. Just watch how babies delight in the simplest things—their emotions are raw and true. It is difficult to feign joy.
What kindles the joy within is unique to you. It could be related to finding a purpose, a calling, or fulfilling a mission. It could be the feeling of being surrounded by family or good friends. Whatever it is that rejuvenates your spirit, do more of that! The reward of living a more fulfilled life is worth the effort that it sometimes takes.
The path to joy is ultimately a return to wholeness—a rediscovery of who you are and what makes you happy. It involves getting to know, and move beyond, your fears and insecurities, paving the way toward more lightheartedness and laughter. Over time, life starts to unfold with ease and challenges are met with good energy and creative solutions.
If you find yourself doubting this could ever be you, know that you can put practices in place to help. The human brain has a tendency to focus on the negative as you take in information; this is known as negativity bias. There may be times where you need to intentionally focus on ways to produce more positive experiences in order to diffuse a bit of that negativity.
The practice of cultivating joy is just that, a practice. A little each day goes a long way and with time you will become adept at discovering what makes you tick and trusting your feelings.
The following five principles are helpful ways to start learning how to move beyond your beliefs laced with limitations and fears and begin to start glimpsing the possibilities of experiencing more joy.
It feels great to help someone out in need or support a cause that has meaning for you. When performing an act of altruism, you get out of your head and into your heart. Acts of service remind you that life that is bigger than yourself and that there is more going on than what you see and experience on a daily basis.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in personal dramas and worries, especially during turbulent times. When you can stop and ask yourself, “How can I help,” or, “How can I be of service,” you create a new internal dialogue that leads to alternative and expanded ways of thinking and responding. What will you bring to the table? You have something to offer, a gift brought into this world to share with others. It could be your ability to listen, give a great hug, advocate for those in need, build something, or be there for someone.
In being able to share this gift, you build a greater sense of connection and belonging, something you can relate to as a basic need. Joy is often a side effect of what can happen when you are in the service of something greater than yourself.
Humans are thinking machines. But, consider that almost all your thoughts are the same thoughts you had yesterday! If you realize you need to make changes, you need to place some pattern interrupts in place. This is where practicing gratitude can be of great value.
When you have the same thoughts, you are likely to make the same decisions and take the same actions; thus, the cycle continues each day. You’ve probably heard statements such as “what you think you create” or “where thoughts go energy flows.” The idea is that your thoughts are powerful, and when consciously directed in a more positive direction, a new thought pattern is created. Practicing gratitude does this by shifting perspective and improving mood, creating space for more joy to start shining through.
Try writing or thinking about one to three things you are grateful for every day and make it something different each day. This encourages you to start actively looking for things, people, and situations you are grateful for, which, in turn, starts to create desirous new thought patterns.
Joy comes from a place of honoring and living your truth or, in other words, being your most authentic self. It takes courage to be the person you are, especially when there may be pressure to live a life that you think others want you to have. It may require getting through some tough challenges. Stand your ground, be true to who you are, and come out the other end feeling less burdened and able to enjoy life with less struggle.
This requires learning to trust your instincts and having faith that you are headed down the right path—even if it seems you are not. The best journeys are not ones where the path is straight and easy, but rather full of twists and turns and unexpected surprises. If you find yourself getting stuck, learn to meditate to help tap into that stillness within where your truth (and joy) resides. Meditation offers numerous benefits and meets you exactly where you’re at; there is no judgment. Your devotion to being who you were meant to be and sharing that with the world provides a fertile ground upon which joy thrives.
You are constantly influenced by family, friends, community, social media, etc. Most especially, you are influenced by those closest to you—your front row. Think about the people with whom you spend the most time. Some people suck out your energy and happiness, while others light you up. Start to be mindful of who:
This doesn’t mean you need to cut out people from your life that don’t meet your requirements. Just start to be mindful of who is in your front row and how they affect you. What you pay attention to grows. When you plant the seed of cultivating more joy and nurture it, you will find that what you are seeking will find you and people who provide you what you need will start to show up.
And don’t forget to find people who make you laugh. If joy had a sound, it would probably be laughter!
Find freedom in letting go of comparison and judgment upon yourself and others. You tend to be your own worst enemy. Keep in mind that whatever it is you are seeking, you already have within you. When you become jealous or envious of someone, it’s likely because you see something in them that is in you. Does this sound familiar? If so, start to turn that energy into purposeful action.
Stop thinking in terms of “should” (i.e., I should exercise, I should be more successful, I should meditate, I should lose weight) and take some time to discover what brings you true joy. A practice in self-compassion helps to soften and allow space for different perspectives and gives you the room to pursue your dreams and achieve your goals. One method for developing more self-compassion is through the practice of loving-kindness meditation. Joy comes with acceptance and being in the driver’s seat of your life.
Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. Consider that in each moment you have choices and you can start by choosing to cultivate more joy in your life. Imagine living a life free of limitations and experiencing all that life has in store for you with a renewed sense of freedom and, of course, joy. Be patient and flexible with yourself, but most importantly—be brave!
Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra. Learn More.
Kanouse. (1984, January 01). Explaining Negativity Biases in Evaluation and Choice Behavior: Theory and Research. Retrieved from http://www.acrwebsite.org/search/view-conference-proceedings.aspx?Id=6335