“Put joy be in your journey—not in some distant destination.” — Linda Janasz
Joy is something we access, not something we pursue. Joy is a “capacity” we all have; we can train it and develop it.
It’s available and everywhere — however, it needs to be an intention and a practice in order for us to feel it, see it, and “be it.” Mindfulness research show us that we can cultivate joy through practices to counter our default mode of negativity, aversion and grasping.
Since our brain’s primary job is to help us survive, this leads us to have a natural bias toward negativity. It’s our default nature to scan for real or imagined threats.
We also long for things we don’t have. We seek pleasure, avoid discomfort, and on top of that, we enjoy complaining, which reinforces negativity. These patterns create much of the chronic stress that we experience.
Often neglected, it’s all too easy for us to lose our sense of joy and confuse happiness as dependent on our conditions.
There are many benefits to cultivating joy, which is considered an empowering emotion. It enables us to experience more optimism, increases our focus and creativity, boosts our immune system, and even helps us fight stress and pain. When we attend to joy, we enhance our experience of it.
How do we experience joy? We have tiny chemical “messengers” cells in our neurotransmitters that transmit signals between neurons and bodily cells. These neurotransmitters are responsible for those warm and powerful feelings.
(To learn more about how to experience joy, click here!)
Think of a time when you experienced joy? You may notice how this feels in your body and mind. Ask yourself, where and how do I experience this emotion? Psychologists call this “memorizing”, which is a practice that allows our neurotransmitters to fire and rewire and strengthens this state. Psychologist Rick Hanson says, “If you can develop a strong ‘sense memory’ of the experience, you can reactivate it deliberately when you want to.”
Working Wisdom Practices to Increase Joy:
- Take regular daily 10 second mindful moments and anchor in slow/deep breath regulation.
- Notice habitual thought patterns.
- Ask yourself: What do I do, think, and say each day? This practice reminds me that joy isn’t outside me; it’s inside me.
- Put joy on the calendar. Find ways to infuse more delight and joy into your days and moments: Whether it be music, movement, compassion, presence, or gratitude.
Since, joy is a contagious emotion that spreads (in a good way), our sense of joy can impact and inspire others. Each one of us can bring more joy and ease to our personal and professional lives. This way we can bring joy to the world. Regardless of what is going on around us, we can feel happier, be more productive, and ultimately enjoy ourselves a bit more along the way.
Hillel said, in Ethics of the Fathers, ”If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?”