In a world that’s fraught with chaos, finding joy can often feel elusive, irrelevant and perhaps for some other time.
I was talking to a beautiful group of women the other night on this very topic and want to share the conversation with you. Perhaps finding more joy in every day life is something you’d like to pay more attention to but, knowing where to start can feel difficult.
I want to give you a little context about how joy entered my world, give you some inspiration for allowing it into yours and also shed some light on the obstacles we encounter. Shining a light on those obstacles can help us remove them or at least manoeuver them.
How I discovered joy
For any of you who follow my work, you’re well-versed in how I discovered joy. Some 10+ years now, addiction to alcohol had me in its firm grip. I had to enter rehab and get my life completely sorted out. The full story of that journey is here. It’s one of those best/worst moments in life. At the time, the absolute worst as I was decimated mentally, physically and emotionally with little hope. And the best, because I the lessons I found through that journey have transformed my life forever and, for that, I am deeply grateful.
2 lessons that came out of that were these: First, I realized how much energy I’d put into my own self-destruction and wondered what I might be able to do if I used that energy for good? Second, if I was going to all the trouble to turn my ENTIRE life around, I really wanted to know a deep sense of joy.
Joy is a practice
For me, joy is a practice. It began in those early days of my recovery by asking if it was even possible. It was completely experimental. What actually brought me joy? It was trial and error and even then, it changes over time. I would ask myself, what would bring me joy today? I look for simple opportunities to integrate joy all the time. Yoga brought me joy because being at one with my body was not only brand new but, it was also nourishing. Friends brought me joy. Quiet time also brought me joy. Walks also went a long way. In other words, it’s personal and it’s the simple things.
It’s like anything, if we go looking for it, we might just find it. Joy is no different.
There are 2 important disclaimers to make.
1. Being joyful does not mean life is perfect
I think our culture gives us the idea that if we’re happy, life must be perfect. I’m honestly not even sure what that could possibly mean. In my experience, when we live mindfully and choose joy, it’s a mindset and a willingness to feel good. This can be vulnerable and it can be messy. Life is never ‘perfect’ but, it can be quite incredible.
2. Finding joy means we’re happy all the time
Sorry to break the news but, finding joy doesn’t mean we’re happy all the time. Life still happens and we’ve got to meet what’s coming up for us. However, when we’re looking for joy, we might find ourselves better able to cope. And, some days are just plain awful. On these days, we might not “feel” joy but, we can do things that align us with it and help us ultimately get back to it. For example, having a good cry, venting or having a tough conversation might not be joyful in the moment but, might be necessary just the same in getting us back to a state of joy, peace and well-being.
Obstacles to Joy
In my 7+ years of May You Know Joy, I’ve talked to thousands of people about joy – whether it’s in workshops, at events or through casual conversations. A few obstacles to joy often come up and I want to share them with you. I want you to know they’re normal and that we can get around them.
1. We’re not worth it
Believing we’re not worth it – this is a BIG one. Social media can have us feeling like happiness is for other folks. We also might have had troubling experiences that led us to believe this is true. We might need to seek out the help of a professional to sort through things. But, at the core, I know that joy is inside all of us. It’s inside me and you. You are absolutely worth and you need to be open to it and willing to feel it. Try it out and please allow it in. Joyful, open hearts just might save you and me and the world.
2. I don’t know what makes me happy
“I don’t know what makes me happy” is very common. In my work, I’ve particularly spoken to a lot of women. We live hectic lives and really want time off. However, sometimes, when we get free time we don’t even know what to do. We’ve gotten so disconnected from joy that we don’t even know what makes us happy. To this, I say: experiment. Test it out. Do things that you think MIGHT make you happy. Keep what works and leave the rest and have fun while you’re trying it! The second part to this is you need to be willing to feel joy. When you’re feeling happy, pause and really notice what it feels like. Smile and savour it. We need to embody it over and over so, we can expand into it.
3. It’s for later
When it comes to joy, we can also believe that it’s for later. We’ll feel happy when we’re thinner, when we get the promotion, when we find the perfect partner, when we retire or when that big problem gets resolved. First, if you can’t find joy now, it will be tough to connect with later. Second, joy is for right now. Emily Dickinson has this beautiful quote that says “forever is made of nows”. Don’t let life pass you by. A joyful life is a string of beautiful, simple joyful events. Look for them, create them and feel them. That’s big joy!
How to get started finding joy
Here are 5 simple suggestions for how to get started finding joy: