Yep, just like you practiced riding your bike when you were a kid . . . . and eventually mastered, joy is an art too and like anything you want to learn or get better at, it requires some practice.
Practice can seem daunting or even like too much hard work but this kind of practice is different, getting off the couch is always good (in so many ways) but you don’t even have to do that, it’s really a matter of shifting your perspective and it’s actually easier than you think.
Our brains are plastic after all, this means that they have the extraordinary ability to modify their structure and function following changes in our bodies and our environment. We’re never too old or too entrenched to change.
The key is to start small and start at the beginning, just like when you were learning to ride your bike, you only do it for a short time and for a short distance.
Joy is cultivated and grown not discovered, you find it inside yourself and not from others or in objects, things outside of yourself. It is true that a new car or relationship or pair of shoes can ‘seem’ like they make us happy and provide us with joy but if this was actually the case then we would remain happy after attaining these objects, but as we know the joy of a new toy does not last long. This helps us understand that it is not true joy but a fleeting pleasure, it does not have staying power and therefore is only temporary.
What we really want to develop is steadfast joy that lives inside us no matter what our circumstances are or what is going on around us.
This is possible to achieve through a practice of consciously and repetitively practicing joy in our everyday lives, just as we practiced riding our bike until it became a habit and embedded into our neuron pathways, we no longer had to ‘think’ about how to ride our bike, it was automatic.
Negative thinking is a mental habit just like positive thinking is, if you are prone to negativity this is because you practice it more often so you are better at it, conversely if you practice positivity you will naturally become more positive simply because you are practicing the habit of happiness. Think of it as your new golf swing!
It’s the natural law of attraction, what you think, say and do, become you, If you think negatively, negative things come your way, just like a boomerang, your thoughts and visions and persuasions are returned, like attracts like – it’s simple science. In saying this, positivity works in exactly the same way.
Positivity will naturally attract new opportunities, joy really does attract joy.
Make a mental note to actively look for the joy in your everyday – it may only be something small such as having a sunny day so that you can get your washing dry or being thankful that you live in a safe and tolerant county where you have access to clean water, electricity, education, food and housing! It may seem minor but there are millions of people around the world who do not.
Start with an area of your life you want to bring JOY to. It could be your health, your body, your work, relationships, your self conﬁdence, future opportunities or anything else you can think of, it really doesn’t matter what you bring joy to, it works in for everything.
Start with something you feel is more manageable or the area that is most important for you and go from there. Remember, just like cleaning your teeth, you need to do a few minutes of actively practicing joy every day, it takes around 3 weeks to form a new habit, and joy is exactly that, a habit.
Then create a simple, but powerful objective. Here are some examples:
“I nourish myself with the food I eat”, “I nourish myself with the words I speak to myself and to others”. “I nourish myself with thoughts and actions of compassion and love”. “I nourish myself by giving and receiving”. Just these few words can be a powerful assistant and will naturally send out positive vibrational waves for you to flourish.
Develop thankfulness and a deep appreciation for your life, you are LIFE, even if things don’t seem to be going your way or as you planned them, there is always something to be grateful for, just make a mental note of it, pop it on a sticky note and attach it to your fridge or computer as a reminder that you are on the path of practicing joy. Keep a journal or diary or doodle your joys in a notepad because they become powerful symbols and reminders when times get tough and will help you remember your courage and determination and provide a helpful nudge in the right direction when you need it.
The universe (or god, whichever you prefer) rewards effort even in challenging situations, take small steps and keep moving forward in the direction of your joy, do more of what you love and less of what you dislike, be the giver, find ways to give, make a difference, big or small, in someone else’s life, it need not be money or things, but the gift of time or company can do wonderful things.
Look for the best in people and in situations even when you don’t want to, this takes perseverance, but it is absolutely worth it, as the benefits that come are clearly scalable as the great flow of life moves forward within you.
Always look for ways in which you are similar, not the ways in which you are different. Spend time with people who bring out the best in you and help you shine and be that for someone else too. Equally, spending time with difficult people, our ‘teachers’ can be extraordinarily beneficial as they help show us the areas of our lives we may need to address, like a candle in a cave, the light dispels the dark and lights our path. Be a light, be love. Be joy.
Bridget Healy - Oi Co-Founder