Without moments of joy, life becomes oppressively difficult and feels rather pointless. I know too many of you reading this can relate; like life is an endless list of tasks, met with frustrations and failures.
But life can be more pleasurable; you can get along with others more easily, feel more confident, and hold a better perspective on the world. The trick? Create small moments of happiness that impact your creativity, productivity, and rapport with coworkers. You’ll feel so much better about life — and yourself.
Four ways to find the joy that already exists inside of you
1. Create a Bitmoji that reminds you of your favorite parts of yourself.
Creating an avatar using one of the many apps available is fun and allows you to zero in on your physical traits and choose how to represent yourself in clever and creative ways.
Avatars and Bitmojis help affirm positive aspects of yourself you value while reinforcing supportive emotions you can celebrate.
2. Build a secret make-believe world that is yours alone to play in.
Think back to childhood make-believe when you created worlds, happy places within your control. Why not make a world like that for yourself now? Invite others in if you choose, but always have fun with this.
This can be just theoretical and stay in your playful mind’s eye, or you can let your artistic skills run free and write it out, draw or paint it, represent it with mixed material collage using paint, writing, and art, build a model or make a map using any of the above methods.
Give your special place a name and fill it with your choice of flora, fauna, animals, buildings, and people. Give it a history, stories, and a rich legacy. Write a book about your world!
Besides having creative fun and relieving stress, this project lets you focus on what you inherently value as you build your special world, and deeply integrate the joy. Play returns us to the sense of wonder that is inherent in joy. The more frequently you return here and enjoy yourself, the more automatic it becomes.
3. Map out a scavenger hunt for the sake of fun.
Technology makes this extra fun by letting you create highly creative clues, either electronic, paper, or a combination. A scavenger hunt is particularly fun when you plan it for other people, but you could also map out a themed route for yourself.
If you’re housebound, take a virtual scavenger hunt. Rather than mindlessly surfing the web, set up a hunt to locate the top 10 locations where monasteries were first established (for example). To make it a fun scavenger hunt, you need clever clues. Include a riddle, poem, or rhyme. And don’t forget the prize at the end!
4. Live your life with a theme.
Choose a theme for your month or year, and plot out activities to explore that theme. Include books to read, movies and exhibitions to see, people or places to research or visit, and schedule theme-based events on the calendar. Give your theme a name or a slogan, and write it in multiple places to remind you of the fun you’re having with it.
But be careful not to make the pursuit of joy feel like a responsibility. Any sense of failure or dissatisfaction will backlash and make you feel worse! Once joy becomes obligatory, it loses its benefit.
Brain research shows joy is a measurable physical reaction in the brain’s cortex, and happiness directly correlates to physical health. The result is a higher level of antibodies, and lower levels of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, colds, and upper-respiratory infection.
We are hard-wired for joy
So, if it makes us feel so great and has such obvious benefits, why aren’t we making it a priority?
It turns out that we don’t fully understand joy. What it is, how to experience it, and how to sustain it. Most of us chase after surface happiness to wear a smile or crack jokes when we’re with friends. But we’re not reaching the authentic level of transformative joy.
credit: photo boo pro/ shutterstock
The difference between happiness and joy
Happiness is the pleasure-based pursuit of happiness designed to enjoy ourselves and relieve stress. Joy, however, is value-based and concerned with meaningful activities in all areas of life. Experiencing joy is what gives life meaning.
Joy is found through a belief there is something greater than ourselves, so we have a sense of living with purpose. The pursuit of happiness, while beneficial, doesn’t have the transformative effects of joy. The pursuit of meaning and intimacy results in lasting benefits of a healthier life and greater life satisfaction.
Because authentic joy is values-based, it’s intensely personal. You must decide the best way to cultivate more of it in your life, but here are a few creative ways to start. You’ll see that what adds depth to these exercises is that they require value decisions, transforming the task from light-hearted fun to a deeper level of meaningful satisfaction.
Joy is not a moral obligation. It’s a choice and a mindset. When you choose values-based joy you not only have a lot more fun and feel happier, you also feel transported both physically and emotionally in unexpected ways.
Jan L. Bowen is an author, keynote speaker, thought leader, and facilitator with over 25 years of successful corporate leadership who specializes in helping leaders find their balance.