I need to ask you a favor. I am serious.
Are you willing to play?
Go out and find a child playing in a sandbox or eating an ice cream cone with sprinkles.
Really, I am not joking.
Do you remember feeling that way? What happened?
Well, the common answer is we grew up. We learned about responsibility, stress entered our lives and we encountered hardships.
Hmm. Did we grow up or did we grow away from, grow apart from our natural state?
My take: We started to become future-focused. We started pursuing and comparing. Someone told us to count our blessings and we lost our connection to joy.
How? I will get to that.
First, let me tell you how I see things. But to do that we need to untie the knot that has become happiness equals positivity which equals joy.
Happiness and Joy are not the same thing.
When psychologists use the term happiness, they tend to mean a specific emotion that people feel when good things happen. Happiness is more of a subjective measurement of how we feel our life is going, over a period of time, based on a number of factors. It tends to do with “doing or having”. We feel happy when we reach a goal or when we buy something, but it fades. Interestingly research has even proven we actually have an upper limit to happiness.
Gay Hendricks in his book The Big Leap talks about how we each have an upper limit to the amount of happiness we can tolerate. In fact, he states that many times we sabotage ourselves to return to a more acceptable level of happiness. Other research has shown that roughly 50% of our happiness is influenced by our genetics.
So what does this all mean?
It means we have been focusing on the wrong thing. Happiness doesn’t equal life satisfaction or even feelings of fulfillment. Happiness is fleeting, but it is the feeling of joy that is lasting.
Yes, I hear your question: “But if happiness and joy are not the same thing, what is joy?”
I would argue that joy is, first and foremost, a focus. That is how I can talk about having experienced joy in my childhood despite my abusive alcoholic father. Or how I can talk about having experienced immense joy with my wife during her journey with a terminal illness. Because I focused on joy. Joy, at its root, is not the absence of sadness. In fact, joy has the amazing capacity to co-exist alongside sadness and sorrow. I dare say it is present even in the most trying of times because joy is a deep inner contentment for the wonder and beauty in life.
Throughout my own life journey, I learned that we cannot pursue joy as we pursue happiness. Instead, we need to lean into joy. We need to let joy seize us. We can’t seize it. And we let it seize us by being open to that wonder and beauty.
Joy is a feeling of contentment for all the abundance in life
But we have been trained to look at life with a lens of lack. We believe we need “this or that.” That is how we grew away from joy as we grew up. We grew apart from our natural state because we bought into the idea of “needing”. This does not mean we should not have goals and ambitions, but those are future-focused. And the honest truth is that joy lives only in the present moment. And you know what, the present moment is the only place life takes place.
Another factor blocking our joy is it has become something frowned upon or thought as childish for an adult.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
We labeled it immature because stress, anxiety, and hardship entered our lives. And given we are a tribal species, well, we conformed to the belief that childish enthusiasm needs to be reined in to be a responsible adult. I offer the idea that the most mature thing we can do is reconnect to joy because it fuels everything.
Why is it universal for people to stop and feel something deep inside them when they see a rainbow? Why is it universal for people to stop, admire, and feel elated when looking at fireworks? Because that is a moment of joy. We inadvertently allow ourselves to be seized for that brief moment. What if we were more conscious about it? What if we just focused on joy?
Research states that the feeling of joy stimulates the impulse to jump up and down. It is that feeling of being a kid in a candy store. Think about when you were a kid and played with balloons or bubbles. Do you remember that feeling? Well, there you go, that was joy. And funny enough we didn’t have to work to achieve it. We didn’t have to pursue it. We knew how to connect to it because it is our natural state. Let’s reconnect to joy. Let’s learn to play and jump up and down again.
By the way, I keep bubbles and a kaleidoscope on my desk.
Huddol helps you wake up to your very best self:
- Overcome negative self-talk and shift your mindset
- Build life-changing habits that nurture well-being and help you achieve your goals
- Cultivate deep self-awareness and learn the art of self-mastery
- Build relationships and family connections that nurture gratitude
- Say goodbye to pain, fatigue, burnout and stress and access boundless energy
- Explore the ancient practices of meditation, stillness and mind-body alignment