Why deciding to be happy starts with inviting JOY into your life

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(This post is the fourth in a series of 8 posts that I am publishing every week on the topics of self-worth and self-compassion; you can read the others HERE.)

In the last few posts, I wrote about how self acceptance frees you up from the shackles of feeling unworthy and undeserving of love and how we can set boundaries to protect our most valuable resources- our energy and our time. In this post, I shift gears a bit and discuss why we need to invite JOY into our lives.

In a world that is filled with suffering, discontentment and conflict it is often only too easy to undervalue joy. This is true for those who feel deeply connected to others and care about these issues and it is equally true for anyone else who is seeking meaningful happiness in their lives. Even those who are in the profession of serving others can end up feeling burnt out over time if they are not intentional about mining for joy in their lives.

What about you? Are you willing to set an intention to "be happy" no matter the current circumstances in your life?

It helps to realise and to accept that everything changes. Our bodies, our circumstances, our minds, the seasons- everything!  Hence, there is nothing in our lives that can bring us everlasting happiness. That is not to say that there is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is train our minds to cultivate joy and live in a way that allows us to be truly happy with the way things are in our lives. We can learn to see and appreciate all the little and big ways that joy permeates our life and allow for more happiness in our lives even as we aspire to grow and change for the better.

All of this starts with setting the right intention (which is quite different from setting a goal); that is, an intention to invite happiness into your life. In order to do this, you must be open to finding and embracing joy in your life.

Ask yourself these questions in an open and compassionate manner-

Are you truly open to the possibility of finding true joy in your life at exactly this moment; the way that your life is right now?

Are you willing to allow joy to happen in your life?

OR

 are you waiting for the magical moment to arrive where you can decide to be happy?

Once you are clear on this, you may actually start to see all the ways that joy is already present in your life.

We are NOT trying to force joy into our lives and think only positive thoughts all the time. This is simply not possible and we would fail miserably at this. What we CAN do is to set a clear intention and train our minds to create an environment where joy can thrive. You will also find that as you start paying attention to your life, you will notice moments of joy when you least expect it and in the most unlikely places. This is equally true for those days in your life that are completely ordinary and those times in your life that are difficult.

As the wise fox explained to the Little Prince (in the book by the same name) "It's the time you spend on your rose that makes it so important"

In other words, it was paying attention to that single flower that brought the prince great pleasure.

Being present in your own life makes it possible for you to recognise the thoughts that arise given a particular stimulus and helps you to switch from habitual autopilot mode and make conscious choices that are more constructive. It also helps us to remain open to what life has to offer us, reframe our experiences when needed and be more open to joy.

Take out some today from your busy schedule (even 5 minutes will do) and see if you can do any of the following-

simply sit with yourself and see what comes up for you in your body and pay attention to your thoughts without trying to change them  

as you have your cup of coffee (or tea), notice the aroma, the taste and how it makes you feel as you sip and savour it

take a walk and pay attention to every step that you take; the grass or the ground beneath your feet, the breeze in the air and how it makes you feel

listen to a piece of your favourite music and pay attention to the lyrics and/or each instrument and how it affects your mood and makes you feel

We can miss out on the joyful moments in our lives if we fail to acknowledge the many ways that our lives are blessed every single day- both big and small. A grateful heart is in fact a prerequisite for a joyful life especially when times are difficult. It is impossible to feel bitter, angry and resentful when our hearts are filled with gratitude for what we have. A grateful heart also helps us to see the wonder that is around us and makes it apparent just how available joy is in our lives.

Joy is really the simplest form of gratitude

- Karl Barth

It is of course much easier to find joy when things are going well. What happens when difficult times arise? Obstacles, challenges, pain and suffering due to circumstances beyond our control is an integral part of our lives that we simply cannot avoid. However, how we choose to respond to these circumstances is very much in our hands.

Infact, the practice of accepting difficult emotions and circumstances is a vital part of inviting joy into our lives. The more we are able to understand and come to terms with our lives when things become difficult, the greater the possibility that we can keep an open mind so that we can meet our suffering with love and compassion.

As singer/songwriter Roger Miller had said

"Some people walk in the rain. Others get wet"

So I ask you once again, are you willing to be open to the possibility of finding joy in your life irrespective of the circumstances?  

Given below are some of the ways that you can reflect on what joy means to you and how you can find more of it in your life

(courtesy: Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee and Awakening Joy by James Baraz)

  • Keeping a joy journal and making a note of any moment that you feel a sense of joy; writing down where you are, whom you are with and what you are doing
  • Creating a Mood board (either physically or on Pinterest) is another useful way of curating people, things, places and activities that bring you joy
  • Imagining and reliving a joyful moment; think about how it makes you feel right now; making a list of all the things that you would like to do at this moment and then set about doing what you can
  • Making a "joy" album by going through photos on your computer/phone and printing those that give you a sense of happiness; making a "happiness" video along the same lines or curating a music list on a streaming service of your choice
  • Developing a healthy relationship with your body and taking care of it
  • Finding a joy buddy; partner with someone who is also on the same journey as you so that both of you are accountable to each other
  • Indulging in creative and nourishing activities on a regular basis

I hope you realise by now that joy is your birth right. Babies are born with it and all young children express it as an inherent part of their nature. You do not have to create joy, it is already there inside, you simply have to find it again.

I find joy in those precious moments when I wrestle with my 9 year old son, learn to play a new piece of music on the piano or when I am indulging in an activity with my family like board games or family night.

People find joy in those moments when they

act with kindness and generosity

let down their hair and act silly and playful

are in the midst of nature 

indulge in something creative like their hobbies

We all have unique ways of experiencing and expressing positive emotions like joy.

It really does not matter what it looks like for each of us ; it matters that we decide to be happy and allow for joy in our lives

As the famous poet Robert Louis Stevenson had said

"Find out where joy resides and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all"