One of the places people often get stumped when it comes to joy is knowing what it means tangibly, what are the concrete things you need to do in order to have a joyful life.
It’s asking the question, what does joy look like to you?
But there’s a little more to it than just knowing what you enjoy, it’s also about finding the right balance of what I like to call the 3 elements of joyful living.
What’s brilliant about these 3 elements is that they act like a framework, and can help you to pinpoint what type of experiences you need to be paying more attention to (or what experiences are missing) in order to ramp up feelings of regular, effusive joy.
Imagine for a second that you’re at a backyard party. At the centre of the gathering is a beautiful fire that warms you, relaxes you and makes you feel peaceful. Above you are strung beautiful fairy lights that add sparkle, a sense of magic and delight. And because you’re gathering on New Year’s Eve, there is a spectacular display of fireworks at the end of the night that is attention-grabbing, amazing, and brief.
The fire pit, the fairy lights and the fireworks each represent one of the 3 elements of joyful living. You need all 3 of them to create the experience of a joyful life, but you need to pay the most attention to one in particular (and it’s probably not the one you think).
So let’s break this down…
The Firepit (Everyday Joy)
A firepit gives off warmth and light and can make you feel relaxed, peaceful and content.
And that’s what can happen when you bring into your life daily joy.
Everyday joy is a series of small, simple things that take a small amount of time and only a little effort, yet are consistently enriching and add to a sense of overall wellbeing. These small things bring a smile to your face, a warmth to your heart, they make you soften and give your spirits a boost – just like the firepit.
Daily moments of joy are often connected to simple pleasures – focusing on the 5 senses to bring you those mini moments of goodness. It’s different for each of us, but it could be: savouring a cup of coffee; sitting in the sunshine and feeling the warmth on your skin; getting a hug from a friend or partner; taking a walk in nature; doing a yoga class; meditating; reading a fun novel; watching some inspirational videos or your favourite comedy; or calling a friend for a quick chat.
When I ask my Joy School students what lights them up and brings them joy, they often don’t know initially, as they’ve not really thought about it. So if you’re not sure, then it’s an opportunity for some fun exploration and discovery of what simple pleasures light your fire.
A really great thing to do is start to keep a list of things you enjoy, big or small. Pop it on the fridge or in the back of your journal and see if you can begin to include a handful of these things in your every day. Take a look at your days and weeks and consider where you could put in more of these small, pleasurable moments. (Tip: it may sound counterintuitive, but planning in your moments of joy is a great way to start to get them in regularly and make them a habit).
And here’s the thing most people don’t realise….
Not the big stuff (which I’ll talk more about in a minute), but everyday joy is what will bring you the greatest return on investment. These small moments are like deposits into a joy bank account that has a fantastic rate of interest. So these moments build on each other like compound interest and return to you spontaneous feelings of joy, longer-lasting joy, more peace, more presence and a better quality of life.
Those sparkly fairy lights (or mini adventures)
No matter where you hang them, fairy lights create a beautiful ambience, they can turn an ordinary space into a magical one, and stir up a sense of delight, fun and possibility. Just like the second element of a joyful living, what I like to call mini adventures.
Mini adventures are what they say on the tin, a break from the ordinary, an exploration of something new or different. Not something we do every day, these experiences or events are treats. They make us feel like we’re enjoying life and actually living, not just going through the motions. And they often satisfy our need for excitement, play, and exploration.
For instance, this could be going to the theatre, going to seeing an art exhibition, exploring a new area near where you live, going for a weekend away, if you like learning it could be doing a workshop, or organising a party with a group of friends, or going on a walking weekend, hosting a family dinner or taking a day out at a theme park.
Mini adventures can involve more time and money than daily joy habits, but they are less frequent, say once a week, fortnight or month depending on what the activity is. But they are important because, just like the fairy lights, they add real sparkle to our lives. They are things to look forward to, experiences to share and positive memories to draw upon when times are tough.
So what are your fairy lights? Create another list with all the min-adventures you’d like to have and start to put those in your weeks and months too. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to be something that delights you and stirs your sense of wonder about the world. (If you want some extra inspiration for mini-adventures and simple pleasures, take a look at 20 Ways to Feel Joy Rich When You Are Cash Poor.)
The fireworks (or Milestone moments)
The big daddy fireworks display is like all those milestone moments in your life – they’re unmissable, they are much-anticipated, and they are fleeting.
Milestone moments often equate to things we want to have ticked off our list off things to have accomplished in life – they’re your big goals or dreams.
They could be things like: taking the ultimate holiday; landing a sought-after promotion; buying your favourite car; moving into your dream home; getting married; climbing Everest; bungee jumping in New Zealand; going to the most expensive restaurant in the city – you get the idea. They could be big life events, or they could be experiences on your bucket list. Either way they are rare, and we don’t often repeat them.
These big goals are a natural reflection of our human desire to evolve, grow and strive for more. They are psychologically important as they give us a sense of progress and achievement, which is fantastic. And you may be thinking, this is where it’s at, this is where your true happiness lies, getting as many of these big things in place as possible, achieving as much as possible. But it’s not.
These milestone moments are infrequent and fleeting. They are markers in the journey of your life, not the things that will bring you a steady presence of joy and peace. You can’t go on holidays every day, you probably don’t want to get married more than once, you don’t want to move all the time. By their very nature these things cannot bring you regular joy.
And this is the trap a lot of people fall into, believing I’ll feel happy when… I get that job, I move into that house, I take that holiday. Sure, you will for a day or two, but when the feeling doesn’t last you’ll turn to the next thing, and then the next thing, and then the next thing.
Milestone moments are like the fleeting fireworks you never forget, and by their very nature cannot deliver daily joy.
But this my friend, is the best news ever. It means you can see these things for what they are – amazing experiences dotted through your life that can be enjoyed in the moment and savoured for as long as possible – but not rely on them to bring you a pervading sense of joy and peace.
For that, it’s the simplest of activities on a daily basis and the semi-regular mini-adventures that will give your life its richness, and you a sense of vitality and wellbeing.
So the question is, do you need to stoke your firepit, string up more fairy lights or set off some cracker fireworks? 🙂
If you’re not sure, start by creating your 3 lists of everyday joys, mini-adventures and milestone moments, then take a look at your diary to see what’s missing, then get planning! As a rough example, you might like to, say, have 3-5 everyday joys, then on top of that you have mini adventures maybe once a week or once a fortnight or more depending on finances and time; and then milestone moments maybe you have just a few a year like one big holiday or one major treat, again depending on your circumstances.
I’d love to hear what adventures big and small this post inspires in you so please leave a comment below.
Till next time,
Have fun following your joy 🙂