I have been thinking a lot about joy lately: how to create it, access it, and awaken it.
One of the common questions I get asked from students in my mindfulness courses is how to find more joy in everyday life.
This is an important question because nourishing ourselves with joy is essential.
Why? Well, joy can be extremely impactful for both our health and well-being. When we are joyful, our whole body benefits, especially our heart and mind. Research shows that joyful people have less chance of having a heart attack, lower cholesterol, and decreased stress levels.
Joy also helps us build resilience and the strength to persevere through challenges.
Cultivating Mindfulness for a Joyful Life
One of the primary benefits of mindfulness is the ability to create more joy in our lives. It can also help us reclaim our joy if it has gotten lost 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. Joy is a type of relationship we have with ourselves and the world. It 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 happiness 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.
Joy, however, is something always inside of us that we can access and create more of. Joy is ever present.
In the book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Dr. RIck 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 we can learn to incline the mind towards joy, and to dwell in joyful moments, so that the mind can become familiar with the feeling of joy. It can actually become easier to access and create more joy within ourselves.
How many gifts and moments of joy do we miss in life because we’re moving too quickly, too busy to actually receive and allow joy to arise? How often do we slow down enough to linger and allow ourselves to receive the goodness of our lives?
Here are 8 Simple Ways to Create More Joy in Your Life:
1) Help Someone Out in a Small Way
From smiling at 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 to release the “feel good” neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. This creates a feedback loop of positivity.
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’s 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
“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
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.
Take a few moments once or twice a week to make a list of what you are grateful for.
8) Slow Down and Savor the Moment
Joy is not always cultivated by ‘doing’ but is something that happens naturally when we slow down and give ourselves the time and space to ‘be’.
Joy is the quality that emerges when you stop and close your eyes to feel the sun on your face or lean in close to smell the fragrance of a flower.
Create a Map to Your Joy
It’s amazing how effective these simple exercise can be for creating more joy in our everyday lives.
Creating a map to joy means getting clear about where true joy lies for you.
Take note of the the ways of accessing and creating joy that really work for you. Notice when you are joyful, and why.
By noticing the ways you can create joy within yourself, you will begin to remember your way back to a joyful state.
Get in the habit of accessing your joy.
Joy is available to us in every moment.