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  • How to Add More Joy (& Less Stress) to Your LIfe

    stress free

    Joy is one of the best antidotes to stress there is. It’s also one of the first things we give up when faced with responsibilities. We even shun it when it comes to our down time. We often choose to sit in front of the TV or computer at the end of the day when we’re tired. While it can be relaxing to just sit and let the TV or interwebs entertain you, it doesn’t bust your stress the way joy can.

    Find Your Joy

    The first thing you have to do in order to use joy most effectively is to answer this question: What brings me joy? I can’t answer that for you. But I can give you a suggestion on how you can find the answer or answers for yourself. That’s right, you may very well come up with more than one answer. In fact, I hope you do.

    Take some time and remember the moments in your life when you felt the most joyous. What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? Write down all of these memories with as much detail as possible. What about that experience brought you joy? Was it the activity, the company you were with, the setting, some combination of those, or something else entirely?

    As you do this, remember… there are different types of joy.

    • There’s exuberant joy – This is high energy joy… For me, it’s the type of joy I experience when I attend live music events and when I dance uninhibitedly. Other people experience it while participating in physical activities (like surfing, scuba diving, skiing, etc), playing their favorite sport, performing, etc. Feeling energized afterward, even if you’re physically exhausted, is a key component to this type of joy.
    • There’s quiet joy – This is serene joy… it’s the type I feel when sitting in nature and being fully present for the experience. Others may feel it when they snuggle with a child/grandchild/pet, participate in contemplative practices, etc. Being fully present and über calm is a key component to this type of joy.
    • There’s AWE-some joy – This is awe-inspired joy… the type of joy I feel when I watch the sun set, the stars come out, or the sun rise. Many people feel this type of joy when they watch or experience the birth of a child, visit natural wonders like the Grand Canyon or Niagra Falls, have a personal mystical/religious/spiritual experience, see the aurora borealis, etc. Feeling a sense of awe is a key component of this type of joy. Please note, this is awe – as in wonderstruck, amazed, filled with reverential respect; not awwww, as in what a cute puppy. *Yeah, it might bug me when people use the wrong aw/awe in their writing. Stepping down off my soapbox now.*

    Do More of What Brings You Joy

    This may seem like the obvious next step, but you’d be surprised by how many excuses people have for not doing more of what brings them joy. Not surprisingly, time and money are the usual villains, but they don’t have to be. In case you tend to have a few excuses reasons of your own, here are a few suggestions as to how to find more time or to make it more affordable:

    • Check out your local library to see if they have resources or programs that can help you. My local public library has a “Check it out” program where each library card holder can check out a one-day membership to most of the local museums and botanical gardens, tickets to final dress rehearsal performances at local theaters, sports tickets, etc. They also have author talks, genealogy lock-ins, film fests, and many other special exhibits and performances. My favorite is their Music in the Stacks program where roughly once a month a local band or musician plays somewhere in the library amongst the books (in the stacks); there’s no cost to the library patrons to listen to or watch the performance.
    • Check for extended hours at the places involved in bringing you joy. For instance, I love spending time in nature, but I live in the city so I need to go to the local nature center or botanic gardens to get my nature fix. The problem with that is they both usually close at 5pm and I work until 7. Buuuttt… on Tuesdays the botanic gardens is open until 9pm. Boom! Problem solved. And the nature center lets you walk the trails after they close, you just have to park outside the gate and walk in. No problem. I found both of these options simply by searching their websites and/or calling about extended hours.
    • Look for free concerts, festivals, and the like in or near your town. Consult local media sites, look in your local free entertainment publications, check out your library’s resources for finding local events, ask your friends on social media to tell you of any free admission festivals in your area, or simply google “festival in [your town].”
    • Plan a vacation around what brings you (and the rest of your family) joy. If you’re going to take a vacation anyway, you may as well plan something joyful for everyone. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to do everyone else’s joyful activity, but each person should have the opportunity to do something that brings them joy. We did this recently and it was, hands down, the BEST vacation we’ve ever had.
    • Make joy a priority. That’s really the only way that you’ll find the time and money (if needed)  to make joy a habit in your life, at least initially. Ask yourself questions like: Do you get more pleasure from watching TV or watching the sun set? Do you feel better after sitting on the couch for a couple hours or doing one of the activities on your joy list? Which activities on your list are best suited to each time of day and which are all-purpose, any-time-of-day activities? Which activities must be planned and which are suited to spontaneity?  

    Now go out there and get your joy on. If you’re waiting for an invitation, this is it. 

    Now it’s your turn. What brings you joy? Let me know in the comments below. If you need help figuring out how to find the time, money, or opportunities to engage in something that brings you joy, let me know that too, and I’ll see if we can’t crowdsource an answer for you.

    Oh yeah, don’t forget to share this post. Share the post. Share the Joy.