In our results-based society it is often unpopular to speak of finding joy in every moment. But whilst we insist on pushing full speed towards the finish line, with blinkers on, we risk missing the opportunity to find joy along the journey. Wouldn't it be better to enjoy each step along the path? If you would like to live with more joy, follow these simple steps to tap into your inner resource of abundant joy. After all, ‘it's good to have an end to journey towards, but in the end it's the journey that counts.'
5 key steps to a joy-full life
An attitude of gratitude is an instant winner. When we stop to be grateful for who we are and what we have, we notice that there is beauty all around. We open to possibilities that we might otherwise miss. A by-product of practising gratitude is a positive attitude. The benefits of a positive outlook are numerous. Adopting a happier disposition allows us to turn from thoughts of lack to thoughts of abundance. When we are grateful for what we have we avoid comparing our lot with others. A popular phrase explains that ‘comparison is the thief of joy.' Instead of submitting to a comparison based living, and focusing on what others have and what is lacking in our own lives, if we take the blinkers off we can start to notice the abundance of each day. Keeping a gratitude diary and taking time to note several things each day that we are grateful for is a wonderful way to become aware of the joy already present in our lives.
2. Practice compassion
Practicing compassion starts with being kind to ourselves. If we learn to let ourselves off the hook we are more likely to be accepting of others. Practising compassion allows us to see that we are all seeking the same thing. A well-known Buddhist teaching says that it is our continued pattern of thinking of ourselves as separate from others that causes suffering. When we live from the point of view that we are all connected we can learn to see the good in others. To invite more compassion into our lives we can practice being less critical of ourselves and others. Each time we find ourselves being negative or critical if we can learn to soften and look for the good in each situation, our daily lives will brighten.
3. Let go of inner dialogue
It is easy to get bogged down by the never ending to do list, the ‘what ifs' and ‘hows' of our inner analysis. Whilst life can get busy and often tasks require consideration, in over-analysing situations we create unnecessary stress and worry. Such continual overstimulation can lead to a heightened state of being and an over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system. It takes a few minutes of controlled breathwork to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system and find calm.We can start to let go of the inner dialogue and press the pause button by starting to notice the breath. By bringing our awareness to the breath there is no space for thoughts. Through asana and pranayama we learn to quieten the mind and truly experience the present moment.Once we realise that we carry an inner peace with us no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can let go of the unease caused by an overactive mind.
4. Lend a hand
What better way to find joy than by giving to others? Every day we are called to live with kindness. Giving, without expecting reward, is a wonderful way to live with joy. Starting today, do one thing to bring joy to others. Perhaps we can give up our seat on a busy train, or offer to lend a hand to a burdened colleague. With each kind action we can be a force for good in the world, spreading joy to all we meet. Whilst this seems like a grand aim, Gandhi taught that if we want to find peace we need to work to increase the peace in the world through our words and actions. Notice each opportunity as you go about your day to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.
If in doubt, and you need a quick pick me up or instant happiness boost, allow the corners of the mouth to curl into a smile. Sounds simple? It is! Smiling releases tension in the jaw and increases positivity. As Mother Teresa taught, “Peace begins with a smile.” If we find that we are being too serious and losing our sense of joy, we can do something that makes us smile. When we release and are absorbed in something we love, our faces soften, we smile and release tension. The positive benefits are long lasting. Just think about how you feel after a yoga class: peaceful? At ease? Also notice how your actions turn towards love in whatever situation you find yourself in after you step off the mat. Find something that makes you smile and joyful and you have a sanctuary to visit whenever you need a little more joy.
By following these simple steps we can be a force for good, brightening up our own lives and the lives of those around us.