Every year at about this time it’s fun to start thinking about what intentions and goals you want to set for the upcoming year.
Love. Greater prosperity. Better health and fitness. A stronger mindfulness practice. A trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go. To write, paint, build, record, or complete that epic project you’ve had inside you.
All of this is good stuff. Great stuff. But what’s it all for?
At first glance it’s to feel supported, vital, clear, alive, expressed, and loved.
But if you felt all those things – just imagine – then what would you feel? My guess: joyful.
When you look at it this way, it starts to seem that nearly everything we do, even when it doesn’t initially seem that way, is an attempt to seek happiness.
So why not go straight for what you want and decide to cultivate joy?
WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL JOYFUL?
My theory is that the deep joy we’re seeking is not a byproduct of a particular event, such as getting what you want. Instead it’s more like a state of mind cultivated through being present for and appreciating your life.
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
Amazing vulnerability researcher of TED Talk fame, Brené Brown, says that she has not come across a deeply joyful person who does not actively practice gratitude. And not just an “attitude of gratitude,” but a tangible daily gratitude practice of some kind. She says that our belief that being joyful will make us feel grateful is actually backwards. In reality, it’s practicing gratitude that makes us feel joyful.
This is a huge clue!
She’s basically saying that you can go after the big goals in your life – love, a trip, or writing your novel – and that may very well satisfy you. But to feel joyful, you have to take on an active, daily practice of being grateful for the blessings in your life.
This then begs the question: What are some simple, tangible things you can do to cultivate gratitude and thus joy?
How about… A gratitude journal. Keeping a sheet of paper on your fridge or somewhere visible where you write down the blessings you feel grateful for. Saying what you’re grateful for daily with those you live with. If you live alone, texting a friend who wants to do this each day with what you’re grateful for that day. Or, if you’re an artsy type – perhaps taking a picture or keeping a sketchbook where you document your daily gratitudes. Or if you’re technically inclined, there a great app you can use!
“Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark we don’t let ourselves enjoy the light. A joyful light is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.”
P.S. A little video of Oprah + Brené to inspire a little joy in your life . . .
Photo by Lisa Wiseman Photography