“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nouwen
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama
I love these quotes from Henri Nouwen and the Dalai Lama. They seem to be saying two things:
- finding joy and happiness are possible and all around us,
- we determine if we have joy or not. We need to be actively choosing joy, not passively waiting to “feel” joy. Our daily actions matter when it comes to whether we have joy in our lives.
Okay, okay, that’s all well and good, but how do we choose joy? How do we create happiness?
I started 2017 with the word of “spark joy” it was because I had a revelation at dinner with my family. My sons were surprised (and honestly looked a little worried) when I was laughing with them at the dinner table.
It wasn’t a polite “I’m half listening” laugh, nor was it a polite “I have no idea what you’re referring to” laugh. I genuinely thought my son’s impressions were funny and reacted with joy.
It hit me that my children don’t see their mom joyful or lighthearted. It is such a rare thing that they react with surprise and wonder what’s happening when I do. It saddened me.
I also realized that I am pretty rusty at knowing what “sparks joy” in me and those around me.
The First Step
It’s June now – six months later – and I’ve realized that there’s an important first step in this finding joy process. It starts with awareness. It starts with observing how you feel in situations. It starts with curiosity.
Some people might advise jumping into new activities and challenges. For some people that might be the right choice. I have tried that too since the beginning of the year. There’s a better first step though.
For those of us who feel like we’ve been going through the motions for a long time and unaware of what we’re actually feeling while we’re doing our daily activities – gentle awareness is going to be our first step.
For those of us with rusty joy meters, we just need to get back to our five senses and grow in awareness of how things feel to us as we do them.
Things that Bring Me Joy
Since I’ve been gently observing and making note of how things feel as I do them, here are some things that bring me joy:
- reading fiction in bed late at night and early in the morning
- based on true life movies
- drinking piping hot coffee in the morning while staring out of the window
- the beach
- waking up while it’s still dark
- taking a solo silent retreat once a year
Bringing Awareness to Your Life
I heard from readers that they too had “rusty” joy meters when I shared my word of the year. I suspect that this is going to be a common feeling, especially for parents of young ones. There are a lot of daily tasks that need to be done whether it brings joy or not.
That’s true, friend. HOWEVER…here’s what I want to challenge you to do.
As you are doing these daily tasks (dishes, changing diapers, cooking meals, transporting kids, and all the other 101 things you do within your day), pause and check in with yourself on your physical and emotional reactions.
Do you feel upset? Tight in the shoulders? Relaxed? Tired? Numb? Happy?
Every time you feel content or happy, I want you to document it in some way. I started a list on my phone and my planner. Do whatever works for you. They don’t have to be big things. They can be, but they don’t have to be.
We can choose joy on a daily basis…but the first step is knowing what brings us joy in the first place. Growing in our awareness by pausing and writing down the things that bring us joy in our everyday tasks and activities is the first step in creating a life of happiness.
What brings joy to you? I’d love to know in the comments!
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