5 Practices to Cultivate Joy
Joy is inherent. Joy is what you are born to experience. While happiness usually stems from outside sources, joy is from within and lasting. Joy is how you express your unique self in this world. We can easily see it in young children. They are delighted by the simplest things, they are authentic and real in their expression of it. Joy cannot be faked. Joy is a powerful, attracting energy that pulls positive experiences, opportunities, and people toward us.
What brings joy is as individual as there are people. We each have different ways of experiencing joy. For some, it may be related to life purpose, family, creativity, or traveling. Joy is experienced when we consistently follow the calling of our heart and the things that make us come alive. The path to joy inevitably means stepping beyond fears and insecurities and returning to who we are meant to be. Joy will lead to lightheartedness, laughter, and ease. When we feel joyful, we trust the divine unfolding of our life and we navigate difficulties with more grace.
Cultivating joy is a daily practice and commitment. The following five practices, with consistency, will move you beyond false beliefs and fears and put you back into the ease that comes from living your life in alignment with who you are.
1. Practice Gratitude
Us humans tend to think the same repetitive thoughts day in and day out. To make changes in your life experience, you need to start switching negative thoughts to positive ones. Before you can make any lasting changes, you have to change who you habitually show up as in this world. The only way to do that is to start putting your focus on where you want your life to be. Gratitude helps you to put the focus on what is going well in your life. It raises your mood and will lead to more positive thoughts. If you write down ten things you are grateful for before you go to bed at night, it will also help any nighttime anxiety and help you sleep better.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
We are so incredibly hard on ourselves all the time. To become more joyful, you need to bring love and empathy to yourself. If you find that you are often beating yourself up over diet, exercise, or other habits that you feel are holding you back, you are robbing yourself of joy. Being kind to yourself won’t make you gain weight, or stop you from going to the gym or fall into laziness. Punishment and shame are old ways you may have been parented with, but you get to change that now. Give yourself the love you deserve and watch your self-confidence and self-love take off.
3. Live your truth
As children, we had to conform to survive. As adults, we get to decide who we want to be. You cannot connect to your inherent joy if you consistently put your needs on the back burner, or if you often find yourself doing things you know you don’t want to do. Every time you do something that you know you don’t want to do, it creates dissonance in your body. Pay attention to that sense of discomfort. It is there to tell you that you are about to do something that is not in alignment with what your soul knows to be true. When you consistently sidestep your own inner guidance, it creates anger and resentment. Joy is created when you honor yourself and trust that others will be able to handle your response.
4. Who do you surround yourself with?
We are surrounded by Co-workers, family, and friends every day. Who are the people you spend the most time with? Do they leave you feeling exhilarated? If you spent large parts of your life surrounded by people that focus on the negative, complain, gossip, argue, and create drama, it becomes challenging to stay positive. Seek out the company of people that lift you up, that you can laugh with and that support you. It doesn’t mean that you need to let go of the cynical crowd immediately, but it does mean limiting your time with them and setting up boundaries of the behavior you will no longer tolerate.
5. Go do what brings you joy
When was the last time you did the thing that makes your heart sing? Do you remember what that was? Find an opportunity each day to do something that lifts your spirit. If you struggle with identifying what that is, tune into your inner child. What did she used to love to do? Our interests don’t usually stray that much from those of our youth. Did you enjoy riding a bike? Go do that! Did being outside in nature make you gleeful as a child? Go on and get out there! If you really cannot remember what you loved doing as a child, get out there and explore that now. Take an art class, get horseback riding lessons, join a choir. Exploring and rediscovering what brings you joy can be a tremendous amount of fun, and you never know what you’ll discover.
Changes don’t happen overnight. But you do have the choice in each moment to chase joy or to fall victim to your fears and false beliefs. It takes the same exact amount of energy to start something new as it does staying stuck in old patterns. Get out there! Chase your joy!