Joy is one of those feelings that often comes upon us unplanned, but we have the capacity to seek out, create and cultivate joy intentionally as well.
What is joy anyway and why is it challenging to feel it more?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), joy is “a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exaltation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction.”
Sounds good right? The challenge is, humans aren’t naturally wired for joy. Our default is to notice what isn’t going well. Paying attention to what might harm us is how we survived as a species. But in the modern world, we don’t generally need to be on constant alert for danger. Still, this ingrained negativity bias isn’t easy to combat. In fact, research shows it takes five positive events to overcome the effects of a single negative one.
The good news is, we can actively cultivate joy in our lives with a little practice. Here are five ways you can bring more joy into your daily life:
Slow Down, Be Present
First things first. If you want to notice what’s good, you have to pause and pay attention. Start with becoming aware of the space around you. How does the air feel on your skin? What kind of light is in the room or outside? Who or what do you hear? Notice your surroundings then try a simple breath practice to come into the present moment.
Notice What's NOT Wrong
We tend to focus on what isn’t going right, what doesn’t work. It’s human nature. It takes intentionality and practice to look for what is working. Maybe your day isn’t going as planned, but can you think of a moment when everything felt right or even just okay? It can be as simple as recognizing the friend who returned your text right away or a package that arrived on time. Notice and soak up the good.
Fake It 'Til You Make It
Sounds like a cliche, but there’s actually real science that shows “faking” happiness improves your mood. When you catch yourself in either a neutral or maybe even a negative space, just plaster a smile on your face and notice how that changes the way you feel. Try a smile meditation to get started.
Appreciate Small Moments
Joy doesn’t need a big event to make an appearance. Sure, we feel joy during momentous occasions like the birth of child, but small moments can bring big joy too. Pay attention to the mundane and ordinary, everyday occurrences you might take for granted: a beautiful sunset, a new bloom on your rose bush, your dog wagging her tail. You get the picture.
Say "Yes" to Your Inner Child
Children seem to possess an innate inclination towards joy. What if we could harness that openness as adults? We can! Play is a wonderful way to bump head-on into joy. Think of the games you played as a kid, the activities that made you joyful and try them now as a grown-up. Make a playdate with your inner child; be silly, be goofy and fill up with joy.