Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
My sister invites joy into her life every single day. It’s easy for her, and in her own unique way she is teaching me. We’re enjoying a visit together in Maine; and she reminds me how easy it is to miss moments of joy when we move through life too quickly. She lives her life in a series of joy-filled moments that inspire me.
In her I see the ability to find the good, let it in, and allow it to surround her with contentment and peace. For someone like me, it does not come so effortlessly, it’s a practice that takes practice. I am learning that joy is not an add-on but a constant when we allow it to be part of our journey.
A Joyful Mindset
I’ve arrived with a joyful mind set, having just celebrated our son’s graduation from Tufts Medical School as a Physician’s Assistant. The joy of seeing him achieve his dream overwhelms me, leaving no room for negative emotions. I am conscious of how good that feels and want to hang on to it.
Joy increases the energy in our lives, you cannot go through it without feeling the benefits. We must be willing to slow things down, allowing our lives to be touched by the gifts it brings. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, today I make a promise to slow down and choose joy.
Joy in the Journey
Humans need food, air, water and shelter to exist, but we build perseverance and resilience by incorporating happiness and pleasure into our daily routine.
I came into this world hardwired to work. My DNA comes from two amazing people who gifted me with a work and education ethic that often overrules joy or puts in in second place.
For those like me—the planners, doers, and thinkers—the element of joy often gets lost or overlooked in the work we are doing. We focus on the end of the journey (the project, deadline, task or challenge) and joy comes as an afterthought, almost like a reward. We miss out when we assign it to a small piece of our lives instead of weaving it into the journey.
But joy and work can be integrated with a little bit of planning and the right mindset.
Plan Your Joy
Each day is what you make of it. It is easy to get caught up in the past and stress over the future, but everyone has the ability to be happy in the present moment. Former First Lady Michelle Obama says, “you have to plan your joy.”
We learn to plan our lives, so why not plan our joy? It’s something we all deserve and its contagious. Mrs. Obama encourages us to have joy in every day and, with a little planning, even the simplest acts of self-care result in a healthier and happier environment for you and those around you.
Joy is an intention and a practice that we all have a capacity for. It is born from confidence, gratitude, appreciation and mental well-being. It is an attitude that begins in the mind and practiced in how we live our lives. Joy nourishes our bodies, just like air water and food.
Science backs this up. Joy, and related emotions like laughter, satisfaction, contentment, and gratification promote good physical and mental health. It lowers stress, strengthens immunity and relaxes the nervous system.
There are a million ways to plan and experience joy and all of them are grounded in our ability to receive it. Even the smallest amounts of joy and generosity extended to others come back in ways that create a connection to the present.
Joy doesn’t only live in the life-changing big moments, joy lives in the little things. Using your senses is an emotional anchor, creating a deeper awareness of sights, sounds and smells that make up the beauty around you. It’s something we do consciously as much as it is an awareness that happens naturally when we slow down and just be.
The positive emotional feelings that joy brings make us better able to manage the negative emotional experiences we all go through. When you feel life lacks joy what you are really saying your life is missing the balance needed to regain equilibrium after a sad, hurtful or negative experience.
Finding Joy in the Everyday
Joy should never be a luxury. It’s not that hard to find; often it is right in front of you and all you need to do is pay attention. Joy is found in the everyday if we learn to see with our heart as well as our eyes.
Joy means different things to different people. When I am engaged in a good book or trying a new recipe there is a feeling of contentment and accomplishment that translates into joy. I experience peace in the solitude of a sunrise and a cup of coffee and dinner with friends.
For some people joy is found in nature and for others it’s music, a craft project or a day spent with grandchildren. It is never far from us and when we schedule it into our routine, we are never without it. Joy creates moments and feelings that live within us all the days of our lives.
Moments in Time
It takes the practice of joy-centered mindfulness to notice the night sky, a child’s smile or the sound of rain falling outside a window. These moments in time are available to all of us, all of the time. By learning to appreciate what brings us joy we are inclined to seek it out and repeat it.
Joy teaches us to see the world in new ways. Today I will be grateful and find pleasure in simple things. Today, I choose joy.