What brings you joy? I mean the deep down silly joy that maybe not everyone understands. It could even be something that seems a little selfish, like the mom who hides from her kids to eat a chocolate bar in peace. Or something that seems a little weird, like the big guy who collects ceramic unicorns. Whatever it is, now is the time to celebrate it.
Those of us in the northern hemisphere are experiencing ever shorter days and chilly temps on top of holiday overwhelm and the usual day to day stressors that we carry around. That means our joy is sucked out of us at the very time of year we ought to be practically overflowing with it. What is the solution? That’s right, whatever brings us the most joy. In my case, right now anyway, new books and monkey socks.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear on one point. I am not suggesting in any way that material things can bring you eternal joy. On the contrary, material things bring temporary joy but quickly lose their luster. They require you to need more and more of them to keep giving you the same high. This is the definition of an addictive substance. Retail therapy is not an effective or healthy way to find joy. In fact, you can find joy without any material items at all. Remember the Whos down in Whoville? This is the type of joy I’m talking about. Pure, irrational joy that comes from within.
My little girl and I find Joy every morning. We physically look for her around our house. Our family’s Elf on the Shelf is named Joy. My daughter came up with that name herself, probably because Disney Pixar’s movie Inside Out was on high rotation when the elf first appeared. I think it’s a brilliant name for a Christmas elf. Plus, we get to talk about finding Joy. The allegory is lost on her for now, but perhaps when she gets older she will appreciate our conversations about how to find Joy in our lives.
Sometimes we not only have to look for joy but create it ourselves. This sounds like a process that would render superficial or inauthentic joy. However, I believe we can create true and lasting joy ourselves. In fact, making our own joy ourselves may be the only way to do it.
Think about a situation that is dark and desperate. In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Archbishop Desmond Tutu talks about apartheid in his country of South Africa. Many stories of hardship and desperation came from this time, but also stories of inspiration. “When we look at the news, we must keep this more holistic view. Yes, this or that terrible thing has happened…but at the same time there are many more positive things happening in our world.”
Recognizing that nothing is all bad or all good is one way to create joy. It’s the concept of duality. If there’s a right, there is also a left (or there couldn’t be a right). If there is bad, there is also good, or there couldn’t be bad. We don’t deny that bad things happen but choose to focus on the good.
How is this good?
Find joy by reframing the situation into something positive. What is good about this bad situation? I consciously ask myself this question. I’m stuck in traffic. Ok, how is this good? Find the good even when – especially when – the situation seems so terrible that nothing good could possibly be found.
Be patient. Sometimes it takes time for the good to become evident. Take my experience earlier this year. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. What good could possibly come of that? Well, it turns out, I discovered some things about myself. I am a good caretaker. I am also good at staying calm and positive through very stressful situations. I am good at fostering positive, uplifting feelings in those around me. My family’s experience was part of the catalyst that sparked this blog and my wellness coaching business.
Does this view seem selfish? In the above paragraph, I said nothing about how this could be a positive experience for my husband. Yes, it is a self-centered viewpoint. The thing is, he has to find his own meaning and his own positive takeaways from this experience. Each person finds their own joy, then shares that joy with others. Sometimes in the form of good cheer, sometimes by telling a story, or whatever their inspiration drives them to do. I could inspire him to find his joy, but could not do it for him.
What does all of this have to do with new books and monkey socks?
I got new books yesterday and monkey socks were sent to me earlier this week. They brought a smile to my face. Even though they are material things and therefore cannot be the source of lasting joy, books are sources of knowledge and monkey socks make me laugh. So they are more than material things. They evoke feeling. You are allowed the temporary joy of silly little material things. You don’t have to feel guilty in deriving pleasure from monkey socks. Especially if this pleasure breaks you out of a funk and inspires you to cultivate true joy.
Finding and creating joy is a process. It may take practice. Especially if you have been down in a deep funk for a long time. Remember to consciously ask yourself, “What is good about this?” Then wait for the answer. It may be readily apparent, it may show up later, or you may have to just trust that is there somewhere even if you can’t see it.
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