Joy is valuable, inspirational, fulfilling, and best of all—attainable; if you act with intent.
If you are living an intentional life, then I challenge you to make joyful living one of your intentions for 2021.
“I like joy; I want to be joyous. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that`s all I want. I like being happy, and I want to make others happy.”
― Doris Day
Making the decision to experience more joy in our lives should be paramount: it’s more important than brushing one’s teeth or washing your car; and the rewards are far more beneficial in daily living.
Describing joy is like trying to pin down the color green—because any words that we use it are simply a shadow of the fullness that is contained in whatever “Joy” actually is. Instead of trying to understand what joy is, why not just try to see the real value in experiencing a joyful life?
Mother Theresa spoke of joy often, “If you are joyful, do not worry about lukewarmness. Joy will shine in your eyes and in your look, in your conversation and in your countenance. You will not be able to hide it because joy overflows.”
According to Krishnamurti, “People don’t realize how important it is to wake up every morning with a song in your heart. The song stands for a sense of joy in existence, a joy that is free of any good or bad choices.”
Author Henry Nouwen wrote, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
Many of us believe that joy something that just happens, usually when we least expect it. But whenever I wanted something, (a partner, financial security, or an education), I made a decision to work towards that goal, I didn’t just wait for something to happen. I visualized, I walked through the fear to ask someone out on a date, I worked hard, I attended college—and I did my homework in all of those areas.
Years ago, I made a commitment to myself. It came in the form of a mission statement for my business (1986). Our mission was to spread love to as many people in the world as possible, and to train others to spread that love in an even wider circle. Today, I know that “Joy” was really the product that I sell (and that love was simply a natural byproduct of all that joyful intention). I’ve committed my whole life to bringing joy, love, laughter, and togetherness to families across the world, and in that time I’ve learned a few things.
Joy is valuable. Joy is attainable. Joy sustains me, and spreading joy is world changing; even if the experience of joy happens one person at a time.
“I trust all joy”
― Theodore Roethke
Joy is attainable. It’s not something so magical or spiritual that it can’t be reached. Joy is simple and you are already experiencing it, right now.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Think about some of the joyful moments in your life, we all have had them, we may just have not have labeled them as joyful, because that term is too illusive, too high a spiritual goal, or possibly even feels dangerous to even contemplate. The truth is that joy is very simply defined and attained. If I asked you to think of a time when you felt joy…you might balk, and say something like, “I’ve felt good, but I’ve never felt joy.” Our heads want to make that experience too hard to achieve.
Yet, Webster’s online dictionary defines Joy as:
a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: DELIGHT
b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion: GAIETY
2: a state of happiness or felicity: BLISS
3: a source or cause of delight
In other words, joy is a positive feeling (happiness), caused by well-being, or good fortune (or even the anticipation of success). Joy is also the expression of that happiness or even the source of delight.
Joy is a pleasurable feeling (caused or anticipated), the expression of that feeling; and/or even the source of more good feelings. Joy is a very good thing, but it’s not magical or unattainable.
I asked you to think of a time when you felt happy (that might be easier to bring to mind). Remember that puppy, or that moment when your partner started spontaneously singing, or the smell of the grass that one day; these moments when you felt happy are also times of joy. Take a moment to remember what your times of happiness were.
When I wrote that Joy might be dangerous to contemplate, I’m not kidding. Many of us were taught (by our parents, or by experience) not to trust happiness. One day when I was waiting for my date to get ready to go out, and she started singing in the bathroom, I experienced a rush of good feelings. Then, my very next thought was, “NO, don’t feel too good! That’s how you set yourself up for pain.”
I remember this moment distinctly, because that was the very first time I told myself, “Wait…I’m going to allow myself to feel this happy feeling. This experience is a good thing.” This was the first time I remember choosing Joy over fear.
“Fear of joy is the darkest of captivities.”
― Phil Kaye
“Oh happy pessimists! What a joy it is to them to be able to prove again and again that there is no joy.”
― Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
― William Butler Yeats
Allow yourself to notice and to feel all the good things that are in your life right now, and if you feel yourself trying to squash that good feeling, notice it. Catch yourself holding back the good, and then, permit good feelings to grow. If you were taught to never express your good feelings or good fortune, then know that that advice may not be serving you anymore. Joy leads to joy. Happiness leads to happiness—not heartbreak.
Spiritual leaders have been telling us this fact for thousands of years.
Mother Teresa wrote, “Joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
Britain’s Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote in his article The Pursuit of Joy, “After describing the ceremony that took place, the Torah concludes: “Then you will rejoice in all the good things that the Lord your God has given you and your family, along with the Levites and the stranger in your midst” (26:11).
John Calvin wrote, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
Happiness, bliss, joy, and delight are not only available and attainable, these feelings are valuable. So, my challenge to you is to create a practice of starting each day with the intention of noticing joy, expressing that feeling, and sharing your experience with others.
Start every day with an intention to explore joy in your day. Create a habit of repeating any three activities that will help you to create more and more joy throughout the year.
Maybe, start by writing 5 gratitude’s every single morning, just go get yourself started.
Meditate or pray on joy, and be present for the experience of what happens next.
Perhaps put a reminder in your phone to reach out to a different friend every day and wish them happiness and joy throughout the day.
If you start your day by reading the “news”, then take every bit of new information that brings you fear and worry with a grain of salt. What I mean, buy this statement, is expressed by an old saying, “Dog bites man is not news; man bites dog—now that’s news.” In other words, the news of the day that is reported is in essence unusual. All the fear and the bad things that are reported are not what is overwhelmingly happing in the universe. They are the exceptions. So protect yourself from falling into the trap of thinking that those things you read in the newspaper or see on the news are the norm—literally those things that wind up being reported aren’t normal, because the normal things in life aren’t newsworthy.
Start taking not of anything that brings you happiness. Do these things more often.
Use these ideas, or create a habit of whatever works for you. Check in with yourself at three, six, nine and 12 months and evaluate what changes the intention of creating a more joyful life makes for you. Maybe you could share those insights all with us as well!
It’s not our experience of Joy, but our expression of Joy that affects the entire world.
Dune Johnson aka Looney Dooney is the foremost family-fun expert, and has devoted his life to bring joy, laughter, and togetherness to every event he does. For more helpful tips to creating joy in your family events; visit his blog, or read his latest book, “The Timing of Chicken Feathers.”