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Something good will happen to me. Something good will happen through me. This is how I start each morning before I even get out of bed. I say these two sentences aloud. It sets my intention for what is most important to me and what I want my focus to be throughout the day. It centers me on finding joy.
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Ever wonder how some people seem to manage tough times so well? Numerous studies suggest that joyful people have a lower heart rate and blood pressure. They also tend to live longer and have a positive view on life. And they have less loneliness, fewer aches and pains, less stress, more energy, and increased well-being. Wow!
Why don’t we talk about finding joy? We are often reluctant to share the good things happening to us. Some believe if they acknowledge it, it will go away. Or others are afraid they may be perceived as selfish or thoughtless about suffering that exists in other people’s lives.
Have you noticed how we tend to focus on the negative? A Psychology Today article, The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy, addressed how we could be having a great day – 8 hours of sleep, it’s the weekend, we had a great conversation with a friend – then one harsh word or piece of bad news ruins the day. We actually have three times more positive experiences than negative. We just don’t notice them as much. What can you do?
- Make it a daily habit to note three small specific things for which you are grateful. Research has shown that just three weeks of this consistent gratitude practice can set up new neuron connections in the brain that facilitates optimism, with the effects lasting for six months.
- We get used to boosts of happiness that we experience over time, and they no longer have the same effect. Here’s the secret – sharing our joy increases joy. Not only make note of what you are grateful for, share it verbally with others. When you get good news, don’t keep it to yourself—tell a friend. You’ll relive the moment and have the extra pleasure of your friend’s reaction.
How’s YOUR Joy?
Sarah Waite, a London-based psychologist, suggests the “wheel of life,” a personal development exercise to identify where joy is most lacking for you. Draw a large circle, divide it into 8-10 segments and label each to reflect a different area of life that you want to assess. Areas like fun and recreation, physical environment, career, finances, personal growth, romance, family and friends, and health. Shade in each wedge to reflect your current level of satisfaction and then mark where you would like it to be.
Look at the finished circle. Which areas might need some attention? It may not be the area rated the lowest, it could be the one that is most important to you. The goal is to get perspective and clarity. Then you can decide how to bring more joy into your life.
How Can You Intentionally Add Joy to Your Life?
Revisit being a kid
For years, I have had a box of records in my storage room. These are records from my childhood. We’re talking the Partridge Family, Donny Osmond, Funky Favorites compilation, to name a few. I recently surprised my parents and sisters by showing up at a family get-together with the box and a portable record player. We sang, danced, laughed, and reminisced. Do something you used to do as a kid – sing songs, splash in puddles, or go down the slide at the local playground.
I love a good dance party! Of course, mine are typically in my kitchen as I fix dinner. Imaging of the brain shows that music can release feel-good hormones. Turn up the volume, sing at the top of your lungs, and dance it out! No one is watching. And if they are, invite them to join you!
Laugh at life’s aggravators – and everything else
I recently started using voice to text to send messages. Sometimes I forget to review a text before I send it. The other day I did just that only to discover that auto-correct had not been very appropriate. Thank goodness the text was going to one of my sisters. I tried to correct the word only to have auto-correct once again make the situation worse. I started to cry – not because I was upset but because I was laughing so hard. Life is not perfect. Look for the joy, even in the challenges. In fact, looking for opportunities to laugh is an instant joy booster. Enjoy the comics, a tv comedy, a funny quote or photo. When someone around you is belly laughing, there’s a 90% chance it’ll bring a smile to your face as well.
Find your joy
Notice where joy comes from for you. Maybe it’s a quiet cup of tea, taking a walk outside, creating something, or spending time with someone special. Everyone has their own joy inspirations. It will be different for each person.
Be like Bentley
It doesn’t take much – a toy that squeaks, ice cubes from the refrigerator door, opening a bag of cheese – to get my dog, Bentley, to flip, spin or run around in circles. He loves every little thing that life has to offer and lives in the moment. He is five pounds of pure joy. And he will use all his cuteness to remind you to take a break and enjoy life too. Be like Bentley!
Joy of blessing others
Remember when you were little, the joy you got from sharing your toys or snacks with others? Even small gestures, like holding a door or checking in with someone about their day, releases oxytocin in the giver and the receiver. At home and work, acts of kindness instill an environment of belonging and strengthens relationships.
Be a blessing to others, even when you don’t feel like it or it’s not convenient. I was in an exceedingly lengthy line at the grocery store. I admit I was irritated. People were sniping at the grocery employees and not smiling at each other. Then the lady in front of me turned around and said, “you only have a few things. Why don’t you go ahead of me?” Wait, what? After a couple “are you sure? s”, I stepped in front of her and did an attitude check. As I grabbed my items to leave the store after checking out, I leaned over and told the cashier that she was doing a wonderful job – her eyes lit up behind her mask as she whispered a thank you. I waved to the gracious lady behind me wishing her a great weekend and walked out of the store ready to change the world. It does not have to be big to be a blessing. Be intentional about looking for opportunities to make someone’s day a little brighter.
Joy at Work
The blank stare. There is usually a 50/50 chance that is what I’m going to see when I ask leaders I coach “how are you creating moments of joy?” However, nearly 90% of respondents to a survey said that they expect to experience a substantial degree of joy at work, yet only 37% report that such is their actual experience. That is the “joy gap.”
Joy is not something leaders think about. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s not on their radar. It should be. Work cultures that consistently produce joy experiences result in a feeling of shared purpose, stronger connections, and sincere pride in the organization from their associates.
One leader called herself a “recovering joy gapper.” What worked for her was a task reminder for 3pm every day, that simply said JOY. This allowed her to stop and consider recognition and joy in her workplace. Sometimes it prompted a text or email to someone letting them know she noticed their great work or it encouraged her to brainstorm something fun for her team to do in celebration of the end of a big project. It only takes a little thought and effort to make a difference.
Catch the Joy and Pass It On
A LinkedIn post from a stranger (@GerryMcBride) caught my eye. He shared “my little girl is 2 and whenever she’s happy she will just shout out ‘HAPPY!’ There is nothing purer in this world than when she’s just sitting playing with toys or eating toast and just yells out ‘HAPPY’ to let the universe know that it’s doing a good job.” When was the last time you wanted to yell out ‘HAPPY?’ When was the last time you allowed yourself to do that?
Joy is contagious. It brings peace and contentment.
With joy, there is hope.
With joy, self-esteem and self-respect are indestructible.
You get to choose how you show up in the world. Be a part of the revolution. Choose JOY!
Debby Neely is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation who specializes in leadership coaching and facilitation. Her business, Neely Coaching & Training, supports both formal and informal leaders in realizing their potential and in getting results. Their mission is to help you be the best you can be.