I am working toward a time when everything gives me joy –Maya Angelou
During the course of my life, I have consciously existed in a fluid state of either what has happened (past) or what is going to happen, (future) and have blissfully missed the opportunities of the present moment. I have been plagued by years of debilitating anxiety and hollow depression, as I have waded through challenges associated with worry, doubt, and fear around things with which I could not control. I have faced years of life-threatening medical crises, lived beyond my means, watched friendships and relationships dissolve, and have been doing work that is not fulfilling. Living in “what has” or “what if” headspace has robbed me of many joy-filled moments. Cultivating Joy is a practice that I choose consciously each day.
Over time, I have learned to release the expectations of what “will” happen or “has” happened. I have become, alert, alive, conscious, and aware of every moment. Presence gives me the capacity for feeling emotions in their entirety and opens up my wellspring of Joy. I can then graciously give it away, and give people my best self every time. Choosing Joy involves a shift in perspective. A shift toward illuminating a simple choice. The events of our life are not what is happening to us, but simply how we learn to engage with those events. Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy says:
Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.
When we embrace Joy daily, whether we really feel Joy immediately it invites us to explore a conscious choice of living in the present moment. Cultivating Joy is a practice in intention. When our brains send our body new signals, we reprogram our channels for Joy. Joy is not always a result of external circumstances, but rather an internal groomed landscape. We must learn to not seek outside of us, that which can only be found within.
Joy is cultivated in the fertile soil of our own happy hearts. ~Karyn, Move the Moss
Ultimately, we have a choice, do we give rise to the challenges we face and allow that to determine our capacity for Joy, or do we remain present and find Joy in the Journey. When we remain curious about the challenges we face, we invariably are led to the truth we are seeking. The song “Go Down Deep” by Laurence Cole explores these lyrics: “You want to get up to the joy you’ve got to go down deep, so go down, go down, go down”. To explore the joy you may not be feeling today, here are some ideas for cultivating joy for your journey.
Get real about how all of your body feels
Do you feel like your best self every day when you wake up? If not, what can you do differently today? Can you make a small decision to change just one thing that would favor how your body feels? You are not tackling the entire to-do list of feel-good measures today, just one. Is there are food you eat, that makes you feel bad every time you eat it? Try eliminating the food for a few days and see how you feel. Small, simple steps in the right direction aim toward long terms measures of feeling your best every day.
Move your body in nature. Research is clear that 20 minutes of movement a day, changes brain chemistry and affects your mental mojo in a positive way. Physical activity changes the stress response in your body and lowers the level of cortisol (stress hormone) you produce in your brain. Movement in nature is
Explore a new perspective
Take a moment to explore a perspective you had not considered before, and remain compassionate and empathetic to a new way of thinking. Life can hand you some very difficult decisions and experiences, cultivating a new outlook, or a perspective-shifting mental mindset allows you to operate from your Joy center. Remaining open to the possibilities that life can be better than what it is right now can help you be mindful of the past and future, but earnestly be present today.
Show up and be you, uninhibited. Who are you when no one is watching, or telling you who to be? Being exactly who you were born to be inspires Joy. Challenge your negative thoughts and self-talk, stop comparing your life to others, and be proud of exactly who you are. Find ways to cultivate this person.
Happiness is a mood. Positivity is a mindset @positivelypresent
When you are fully present in a moment, you are completely aware of what is happening around you, what it smells like, what sounds are happening, what colors are flooding your senses, and you may have a strong handle on the emotions you are feeling. Cultivating Joy amidst the busyness of our lives, often, we tackle being present with cooking dinner, driving to practice, and calling our best friend all at once. Being truly present allows you to appreciate and be inspired by the things we miss not being present. Developing a regular practice of Meditation, and mindful observations offers you regular opportunity to be present. Try it out for 10 minutes a day.
Find your magic in the mundane
Washing dishes, doing laundry, and grocery shopping are mundane tasks. However, these moments are where the magic happens. The moments in-between. John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” We have to create the conditions with which we can express Joy and be Joy. What allows you to get into the flow each day? Each day is a chance to embrace the life you have, challenges, joys, and opportunities and relish in the moments of peace, synchronicity, and the mundane. The mundane as some would define it is the space where nothing exciting happens, it is the place where “we” wait for the next important moment in our life. The reality is the magic happens when our life is happening, not just in the moments that you have waited for. Acknowledge and appreciate the space between.
Find a way to put down the technology and spend time with people or pets who lift, support, and encourage your best self.
Visualize the life you imagine living. So often, the thoughts that occupy our heads are the very thoughts that create a life we do not want for ourselves. The process is self-fulfilling. We often create a reality based on fear-based perspectives and worry that can be very destructive. Your thoughts create your reality. Stay in the right mental lane, and visualize positive thoughts, feelings, and emotions about something you want to change.
Change your Physical Space
Find a way to change one thing about your physical space. Tidy up, donate unused items, paint a room, add a live houseplant to your space, or fresh flowers, open the blinds and rearrange the furniture. Find a way to bring the outside in, open several windows to allow fresh air to move freely through your space. For me, this involved buying a suitcase that elicited so much joy, every time I see it I feel giddy. It is my favorite color and inspires in me the joy of traveling, even when it is for work.
Gratitude shifts something within us. We shift from what we lack to where we feel abundant. Say thank you, write a note or letter of kindness, journal what you are grateful for. Spend time letting happiness in. Return the Joy you feel. Ubuntu: the African concept that simply means: “I am because you are”.
Laughter really is the best medicine, find time and ways to laugh more.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a one-step -Lao Tzu