Are you happy? Is there joy in your life?
It is so hard for some folks to find joy. Maybe they think they aren’t entitled, or they have the feeling that it’s somehow inappropriate. It’s as if once you become a grown up you must put your shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone keeping a stiff upper lip, and suffer through the rest of your life. Happiness is for the indolent or the indulgent. It’s silent suffering for the rest of us.
Ah, the good old Puritan Work Ethic.
I am here to tell you that it is possible to have both work and joy. It’s possible to have a balance between the two, in a perfect Joy/Work ratio. If you don’t have enough joy in your life, your Joy/Work ratio might be out of balance. Here are just a few things you can do today to right the scales.
- Figure out what brings you joy. Do you know how many people have to think about what brings them joy? Plenty, that’s how many. So take a little inventory. Do you find joy with people, or with things? In certain places? With certain aromas? When do you feel joy? As long as it’s legal and doesn’t hurt anyone else, you are good to go.
- Be conscious of opportunities for joy. The Buddhists practice “mindfulness”, which includes being aware of one’s surroundings and interactions. In my own life, I realized I got great joy out of the way light plays on living plants and trees. So, I take time to look at the backlit leaves of the red maple outside my office window. I find myself driving or walking and noting the color of tulips, or the pink of the dogwood, or the earthy brown of a moldering tree. And I feel very, very joyful. Be aware of what brings you to that place of joy and be mindful of opportunities to express it.
- Make time for joy. Once you figure out what brings you true joy, whether it’s having deep conversations with friends, or watching a baseball fly out of the park, fair, on a summer afternoon, or digging in the dirt, or painting, or yoga, or love – make time for it. Don’t put off your joy until tomorrow, you Puritan you. Tomorrow, as we have all learned by now, may not come the way we think it will.
- Express gratitude. It’s been said that it’s impossible to feel both sad and grateful at the same time. Remind yourself just how grateful you are. Then, tell people you value them, journal your grateful thoughts, live in a perpetual state of gratitude. Joy will ensue.
When I was a child, I was enamored of a Hanna-Barbera show – the animated “Gulliver’s Travels.” One of the Lilliputians was a rotund little doom-and-gloom guy whose stock catch-phrase was “We’re doomed. We’ll never make it.” Although I’ve been know to have used this exact catchphrase myself from time to time, I’ve come to figure out that predicting doom usually insures it. I now avoid such predictions at all costs, and seek out the joy in a situation.
There is almost always some joy, somewhere. Real joy is so… joyful. It’s that unbearable lightness of being. It’s like bubbles in good champagne. It’s in a baby’s belly laugh. Dare I say it? Joy is happiness, distilled in a moment.
Yep, I used the H-word. Happiness. Don’t be frightened of the idea of being happy. Happiness is good. Happiness can change your life.
Dr. Jon Haidt, noted researcher at the University of Virginia and author of The Happiness Hypothesis, suggests that the H-word can be rendered in the following formula: H = S + C + V. “S” is your set point – whether you see the glass half empty or half full. “C” stands for the conditions of your life – a long commute, a disability, poverty. “V” covers your voluntary activities, or those things you choose to do: to volunteer, to take a class, to make changes in your life.
To make the quickest jump in H, you can focus on your C and your V. But to dramatically shift the texture and tenor of your life, attack your S. Learning to see the glass as half full, regardless of the circumstances, will profoundly raise your H.
Unabashedly welcome joy into your life. It’ll make you happy.