With so much emphasis on the pursuit of happiness, it’s not surprising that many of us feel we’re failing. But happiness is a goal that’s built on a faulty foundation, because our human nature is prone to periods of sadness and disappointment.
Joy, however, is a state of pleasant feeling that comes from within—it doesn’t depend on worldly circumstances or even other people. Therefore, joy is sustainable and attainable for everyone who seeks it, no matter what life throws your way.
Here are some tips to help you find greater access to this state:
Why we don’t take joy in our everyday lives.
In the first place, we’re often too busy for joy. We don’t take breaks from pursuing our ambitions and grasping at what we think will bring us happiness. Our lives are so filled up with work, family responsibilities, global events and politics (and opinions about these things) that we barely have time to stretch much less practice joy.
Second, many of us spend a lot of time on social media and surfing the internet (I include myself in this group). I know people who spend hours every day scrolling Facebook or Instagram, looking through all sorts of news feeds and reading blogs like my own! There is a lot of interesting content on social media but also a lot of fake news. This can lead to negativity as well as anxiety about our future. The internet isn’t all bad though! I’ve found some inspiring people who have taught me a lot about living in the present moment through mindfulness meditation practices via Instagram and Youtube videos. If you want to learn more about the benefits of meditation for stress reduction you can check out this article here by Dr. Norman Rosenthal: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201405/transcendental-meditation-isn-t-just-for-hippies-anymore He’s been studying TM for 40 years or so now.
How to turn inward for joy and quiet.
We all know that we should be going out and enjoying ourselves. We live in a world where, thanks to social media, everyone else seems to be having the most fantastic time. We have an endless array of entertainment options at our fingertips and can, at any time, indulge on all sorts of novel experiences and goods.
So how come so many of us still feel like something is missing? How is it possible that despite the fact that we’ve allowed ourselves the freedom to go outside and enjoy life more than ever before, many of us still feel down and depressed?
One reason for this may be because we haven’t been giving ourselves enough time alone with our thoughts. Since meditation began trending in recent years as a way to boost mood and brain function, researchers have learned a great deal about how simply spending some time sitting quietly each day can be transformative for our mental wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that after just eight weeks of meditating regularly for 20 minutes per day boosted levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has anti-anxiety effects
Why your natural state is one of healing and joy
Our natural state is one of healing and joy. Many people think they are inherently flawed. That they are not enough, that they are broken, or that their life has to be a certain way in order for them to experience peace and joy. The truth is you have always been perfect, whole and complete. Your journey through life may have led you to believe otherwise but I invite you to take a moment now to remember this.
Humans are wired for joy, not sorrow. We can all find moments of joy even in our darkest moments if we choose to look for it. When we heal the mind, we create greater access to our innate well-being and true nature which is one of love and joy. We access the space where we can see clearly the purpose of our lives from an uplifted place rather than from the perspective of struggle or lack.
What is the “joy” that you seek?
What is the “joy” that you seek? Define it. Is it joy at work, or with your family, in relationships, or alone? Where do you feel joy? What does joy look like for you? Are you seeking constant happiness, or occasional pleasures, or something else entirely? The more specific and focused your definition of what joy is, the easier it will be to find it. Pay attention to how you feel when something brings a smile to your face. Take note of how long these feelings linger.
Once you have identified the kind of joy that matters most to you and where it comes from, try adding an element of mindfulness around the pursuit and enjoyment of this feeling. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness into what we are doing without judgment. In other words, bring a sense of curiosity about why something makes you happy without judging yourself for having this reaction (i.e., time spent with loved ones vs time spent watching TV). When I become aware that I am enjoying myself—whether it’s baking cupcakes with my nieces on a Saturday morning or binge-watching House Hunters International on Netflix—I tend to savor these moments more fully and have a greater appreciation for them even after they end.
The search for happiness can be perilous
Now you are embarking on a new journey, and this time around you will be guided by your personal experience. Your first question is: How can I embrace the unending cycles of pleasure, pain, and indifference without getting caught up in them?
The search for happiness can be perilous. Many people have run into trouble trying to locate the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—a feeling that was supposed to last forever. Some have become so disillusioned with their quest for eternal bliss that they’ve given up hope altogether. They’ve learned from hard experience that things don’t always work out as planned.
If you think back to when we last met, we talked about how the quest for happiness itself can be self-defeating. Happiness is not a sustainable state and many people get upset when things don’t go their way or they meet with obstacles along their path. It is important to realize that it is not possible—nor even necessary—to feel happy all of the time. You will have to deal with stress, sadness, anger and disappointment from time to time because these feelings are part and parcel of being human!
What’s the solution.
So, how do we solve this problem? How do we stop letting our busy and noisy minds block us from experiencing deeper access to joy?
The first step is to start with a peaceful mind. This would be a mind that isn’t filled with noise, low energy and stress.
If you can begin by creating a daily meditation practice, you will find more joy when you turn inward. Joy is your natural state of being! Meditating for as little as 5 minutes each day will help create a more open connection to happiness within yourself.
You also have the option of meditating on your own or with a group.
As you may have noticed in the story, the feeling of joy can be as powerful as any drug. That’s because there are similar neurochemical pathways that are activated when you’re filled with joy. The same can be said for feeling all-powerful. On a scientific level, these sensations are responsible for giving us an anchor to life. The more we’re able to experience positive emotions like joy, the less likely we are to reach out and seek validation from others. Instead, we find ways to validate ourselves, making us happier and healthier people in the process.