In today’s distressed world, our happiness and contentment tend to be linked to so many outside factors that we have lost the ability to tune in to our own intrinsic sense of joy and peace. In addition, we have our own inner thoughts to fight with. Most of us have had our share of painful or traumatic experiences which leave us with significant emotional scars. So how can we reconnect with our inner joyous nature?
Focus on the positive
Thanks to evolution, even when of equal intensity, we remember things of a more negative nature like unpleasant thoughts or social interactions, than neutral or positive things. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on our behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative. It’s not that the positive is not there, but from our nature, we don’t really focus on it.
Joy and fun
If you seek happiness that is enduring, you need to distinguish the difference between ‘fun’ and ‘joy’. Yes, fun and joy both feel good, yet they are two different concepts that you experience in life.
Fun is something you experience while taking some action. You may be watching a movie in the cinema, spending the day at a spa, or trying that new restaurant in town. You have fun doing something. Yet fun is momentary. You DO something that is fun. And then you are done doing the fun activity. The memories may last a long time but the event ends.
Joy is more passive. You feel joy when thoughts (good emotional interpretations of events) cross your mind. Joy is more of an inner experience, a silent knowing of peace. You tend to experience joy as feeling content. You feel joy inside. Joy is watching your planted seeds grow into beautiful flowers, seeing your cat and dog getting along at last, or enjoying the nice summer breeze on your skin. No one else necessarily needs to be present. Joy is completely an inside job unique to each individual.
Find something small that brings you joy
So what brings you joy? Find something that brings you joy and do it every day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be listening to a certain song, drawing something, drinking your favorite tea, sitting in the quiet, going for a walk, spending time with your pet. Something small and basic, whatever it is. Just make sure you’re carving out time in your day to do something that lifts your mood. No matter how small.
Maybe you are thinking now that you don’t have time in your busy daily schedule to do something nice for yourself. But having fun and feeling joy isn’t just, well, fun. A 2013 study shows that having fun also promotes our overall well-being and success. And I am sure you make time to do something nice with your friends, so why not do the same for the most important relationship you have in your life: the one with yourself?
How to start doing something that brings you joy
Alright, enough reasons to start to bring some joy in your day! A few tips to start doing it and to get to know what actually brings you joy:
- Free up some time: Do you have a few spare minutes? Your joy creation moment does not need to take long, listening to a song or drinking your favorite tea for example. But maybe you can even afford to scratch something off your calendar? Set aside a time for fun, and keep it like it was a doctor’s appointment.
- Do something you loved to do as a kid: I liked to dance in front of the mirror, make a mess with clay and bake cookies. What did you like to do during your childhood? Try to bring more of that playfulness back into your life. And also, see children as your teacher. They make everything they do into something fun. So try to make things fun that you usually don’t like. Take things less seriously.
- Do something you’ve always wanted to do: For me, that would be making my own macrame bracelets, baking a vegan ten layer cake, or starting my own indoor vegetable garden. If you’re not sure how to do it, the internet can tell you for sure. Or take a class, then you will definitely set time aside for your joyful moment.
- Seek a creative interest: Drawing, writing or making music all have therapeutic effects. Or just turn on a song you love: Brain images show that music can generate feel-good hormones.
Find your passion
Of course, it would help a lot to be able to do what you love, all day long by turning your passion into your job. Or maybe you just want to keep your passion as your free-time activity, that’s also perfectly fine. But first, you have to find your passion. A lot of people have the misconception that they should know what their passion is. But not everybody knows. Anyhow, your passion is related to something you love doing. So if an activity popped up in your mind for doing something small that brings joy into your life, that’s probably close to what your passion is.
Some other tips to find your passion:
- Identify the high points of your day: Try to note when you’ve got that happy, joyful, “in the zone” feeling. Or reflect back at the end of the day to see what made you feel good. Then try to do those activities more.
- Find out what brings you in a flow state: Whatever your flow, it will make you feel effective, confident and in control. For me, it’s when I am writing blogs. I totally forget time, get disconnected from my physical signals (that’s not really self-loving though…), but at the same time I feel great and I have the feeling that I get sh*t done.
- Have a look on what you spend hours reading about: For myself, when I get passionate about something, I’ll read about it for hours on end. I’ll spend days on the Internet finding out more.
- Find the answer to the following questions: they will all bring you closer to finding your passion:
- What drives you?
- What truly matters to you?
- How do you want to bring value to people’s lives?
- What would you do if money weren’t a thing?
- What excites and fascinates you?
- Who inspires you? (and why?)
Celebrate the small things
And then, last but not least: celebrate the small things. The smallest victories, achievements, progress. Just celebrate yourself. People don’t do that enough. Write down in your journal: ‘What did I do well today?’. So you didn’t go outside today for your daily walk, but you did drink a glass of water when you woke up. Well done! You might not have cooked a fresh meal for lunch, but you finally finished that task that’s been on your list for ages. Awesome! You are probably disappointed by what you have not achieved so you do not see what you have done well. Try to find the moments every day when you have achieved something. No matter how small it is.
Also answer the question: ‘What’s my favorite moment of today?’ It will help you to get away from your inherent negativity bias and focus on the positive moments in your life. Also, it will help you to identify what brings you joy and will maybe even lead you to find your passion.
What are you waiting for? Get up and do something joyful! Or think of something you will do later today: How are you going to create a moment for yourself to feel joyful?