I have been thinking a lot about joy lately; how to create it, access it and awaken it.
One of the key benefits of mindfulness is the ability to cultivate and create more joy in our lives; to reclaim your joy if you have lost it along the way.
One of my favorite meditation teachers, James Baraz, calls Mindfulness “the basic tool for a joyful life.”
I don’t believe we find joy. I believe we create it.
It is a type of relationship we have with ourselves and the world. Joy is an inner attitude.
In fact, that is the key difference between happiness and joy – happiness comes from external places. With happiness we are always trying to find it, to chase it.
When it comes it’s delightful. It often arises with new and exciting events or life changes – but it only lasts a short time. Happiness is fleeting.
With joy however, it is something always inside of us that we can access, and create more of. True joy lacks the wild ups and downs of an excitement-based life. Joy is ever present.
In the book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Dr. Hanson explains that “Mindfulness involves the skillful use of attention to both your inner and outer worlds. Since your brain learns mainly from what you attend to, mindfulness is the doorway to taking in good experiences and making them a part of yourself.”
This means that we can learn to incline the mind towards joy, so that the mind can become familiar with it. It can actually become easier to access and create more joy within ourselves.
Here are 7 simple ways to create more joy in your life:
1) Help Someone Out in a Small Way
From smiling to a stranger on the street, to sending a thank you card or email to a coworker or friend – there are so many small ways to help each other out each day.
2) Play Like a Kid
Engage in an activity that’s pleasurable and feels like play. This activity should not be goal-oriented, but just plain fun.
Throw a Frisbee with your dog, write in your journal, dance in your living room, go for a walk, look at beautiful art, sing along in the shower to your favorite song.
Playful activities can help keep our mind focused in the present. The present is where joy lives.
3) Wish Joy onto Others
When we wish joy onto others – our friends, community, co-workers, those in need – we are actually creating joy within ourselves as well.
Offering joy to others helps us awaken the joy within ourselves.
The simple act of smiling is a fundamental gateway to joy.
Even if you don’t feel joyful, bringing a smile to your face sends a signal to the brain – which in turn releases the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – creating a feedback loop.
Sometimes you are so joyful that you are smiling, and other times you smile and then become joyful. Either way, you feel joy.
5) Feel Admiration
Think of someone you admire or who inspires you. Maybe it was a high school teacher, an activist or someone you currently work with.
Hold them in your mind and let the feeling of inspiration wash over you. Feeling inspired is a wonderful way to access our joy.
6) Congratulate Yourself
Did you volunteer this week, mentor a co-worker, give some advice that really helped someone out, lend an ear to a friend in need?
Don’t let these small actions pass you by without recognition. Think of something good you have done, and congratulate yourself.
7) Practice Gratitude
One of the most powerful tools for enriching your soul is keeping your gratitude tank full.
Writing down 10 things you are grateful for puts you in a mindset of abundance and bliss.
“Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you can suddenly see what’s there. It was always there, but you couldn’t see it in the dark.”
— Dawna Markova
Take a few moments once or twice a week to make a list of what you are grateful for.
It’s amazing how effective this little exercise can be for creating more joy.
Create a Map to Your Joy
By being mindful of our emotions we can start to create a map to our joy.
Creating a map to joy means getting clear about where true joy lies for you.
Notice when you are joyful, and why. Also take note of the the ways to access and create joy that really work for you. Get in the habit of accessing your joy.
By noticing the ways you can access and create joy within yourself – you will begin to remember your way back to a joyful state – even when you slip out of it.
Joy is available to us in every moment.