2019 has begun. The time of new year resolutions. The new year can bring a sense of renewed hope causing many of us to enthusiastically create new year resolutions and goals to achieve. We resolve to go to the gym more, eat healthier, budget better, move up on the career ladder. Despite diligent efforts, life takes ahold once again, and our goal feels more and more distant and unachievable. This can be especially true if we have the goal to be pain-free. Then, perhaps, we call ourselves a “failure”, a “hopeless case”, or other self-damaging words. I’ve been there, done that.
Of course goals of better eating, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, lifting more weights, ordering less take out, going for a walk, drinking less, etc. are all good and beneficial for us, but do you ever stop to think about how much joy they bring you?
What if you make a new year’s resolution instead to take action/s right now, today, each day, each week, each month this year to bring more joy into your life? What did you, do you, hope to do that will bring you joy?
How do you define joy? How much time do you deserve to be joyful? Can you find joy within a moment of what you are doing? It is difficult to slow down to experience joy in our busy world, but aren’t you worth it?
Perhaps you find joy in listening to music, learning an instrument, painting, doodling, spending more time with family or in nature with awareness and gratitude while you allow your senses time to take in the sounds, smells, sights, and how these make your body and your emotional self feel.
Being with Joy
Ask yourself, “What helps me to forget about the what, why, and when of life so that I can feel and truly be in a moment of joy?” To “be” in the moment means to feel completely immersed in what you are doing. Your mind isn’t being overtaken by thoughts and worries and you feel a lost sense of time. The joy you are experiencing is not fleeting but penetrating you deep within in which you feel peace, love, or pure happiness.
Joy Makes Us Healthier
The more joy and laughter a person feels and experiences in life, the healthier he or she becomes. The immune system improves, heart disease drops, feelings of optimists increases, sleep improves, stress hormone levels decrease, anxiety decreases, patience increases, muscle tension decreases, and aches and pains decrease. Dr. Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by a Patient, wrote about how humor and laughter (along with high doses of Vitamin C) healed him from crippling pain from ankylosing spondylitis. After reading this book, I made a point of watching I Love Lucy reruns on a daily basis. It was something I looked forward to and it brought me great joy and laugher. That half-hour was my daily therapy.
Joy Changes Our Perspective
Taking action to do something on a regular basis that brings you joy, even if for a few moments, can be life changing. It can lead to a way of being. Like attracts like. You begin to seek other people who bring you joy, you become a magnet for other joyful people to enter your life, you see through rose-colored glasses more often and somehow the world looks a little different and brighter, more manageable.
When in pain, life can be very, very hard and we lose our sense of joy.
Finding meaning and purpose in a day through joy shifts our focus from pain and ruminating thoughts, worries, and fears. The more we focus on joy, the more we are telling our nervous system that it can regulate itself and not be in fight/flight/or freeze mode. Then our minds and hearts can open to finding and enjoying the possibilities of each moment and each day.
Pain does not have to leave you devoid of joy. Pain is one aspect of life, not your whole life. You, not pain, have control over how you want to perceive each day and how to add joy into your life. You may not feel joy every day, and that is okay. It is about trying and looking for it even in the most mundane of circumstances. You are like an investigator with a magnifying glass, looking, examining your life to discover where you can find that space—that opportunity—to bring in joy. It can be while stuck in traffic and singing as loud as you can to a song, or finding a funny GIF while at work when you need a good laugh, or stopping, pausing, and just resting awareness on your heart and giving yourself a moment of nourishment. Joy is nourishing as you allow it to permeate you, even if for only a few minutes.
Engaging in a spontaneous or planned action that leads to an internal experience of great pleasure only has to be a few minutes a day to be effective. Experiencing joy does not have to be time consuming.
“What will bring me joy today?”
When you wake up with this question, it can give you a head start in the day. What can you do to bring happiness into your day? How can you more enjoy your work, your relationships, or tedious errands? It can be as simple as watching a funny video on YouTube for a break at work. For me, I take time out every day to play with my seven-year-old daughter. I stop, watch her, and allow my heart to fill with love and appreciation for her. This brings me incredible joy and creates a precious memory that I can call on later if I need some cheering up.
Joyful Ideas. Below are 24 ways to bring more joy into your life:
1. Create Your Sacred Space
Create your own private, special place, whether it a separate room or a corner in a room. Decorate with pictures, flowers, candles, sports memorabilia, or a curtain for seclusion. Make your space quiet and calming. Create a ritual to relax in your private retreat. Light a candle in honor of yourself, meditate, journal, or relax and listen to music here. You may prefer to have your place somewhere outside of the home, such as a section of the library or a café.
2. A Smile is Worth a Thousand Positive Statements
Even if you are feeling depressed, tired, or achy, try smiling. The action stimulates the brain in a positive way. Pretend you are happy, and you may become happy.
3. Have Fun and Play
Some examples of fun activities: cooking, watch a comedy, draw a scene from outside your window, watch children play outside, read an intriguing book, color in a children’s or adult coloring book, get an adult paint-by-number kit (it is so relaxing!), listen to music, doodle with pipe cleaners at your desk (make flowers, trees, animals, etc.) play a musical instrument, dance to music in your house, sing, play with grandchildren, take pictures, download an app and create abstract art from your photos, make a simple craft or wood working project, go fishing, find simple crafts through Pinterest, take a creative class at an art store or through continuing adult education, attend a short lecture, attend an activity at the library.
It is vital to our health to engage in activities that give us enjoyment. Start a new or old hobby. Hobbies bring out a sense of pride, self-assurance, and feelings of fulfillment and purpose despite pain and illness. If you do not have a hobby, try one. Bring out your inner child.
4. Make a Joke Book
Find one joke a week and create a joke book. Have a contest with a friend or loved one to see who can find the funniest joke by the end of the week. Or create this book with child or grandchild, niece or nephew.
5. Download a Gratitude App
I admit that I spent many nights trying to remember, but often forgetting to write down what I was thankful for each day. Behold, a gratitude app. with its own alarm for a reminder to be grateful. Yes, my chaotic mind relies on this reminder. Instead of trying each night when I was exhausted from the day, every morning I began writing in my gratitude app for what I was grateful which was going to happen that day. I also took pictures and stored them on the app. My daughter began doing it with me during breakfast, making it more fun. This changed my focus for the day. I began each day with setting an intention and positively affirming that it was going to be a good day. I found it incredibly powerful and my moods and days noticeably improved.
6. Give Back
Sometimes there is no greater joy and distraction from our own problems than by giving back to others. Find a local charity to volunteer at, drop food off at a local food pantry, deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound people, or join a pain advocacy group, buy a cup of coffee for a stranger or friend, or give hand warmers to a homeless person.
You can also use your wisdom to help others. Who better to help others with a chronic illness than someone who knows about it first hand? You can become a pain ambassador at the US Pain Foundation. Or start a blog and connect with others. Chronic Illness Bloggers is a huge network, as is the community of writers for The Mighty. Join a Facebook group or forum which can create a wonderful network of supportive people for yourself while you also offer support to others.
Here are Some More Ideas:
- 7. Take a slow walk around the block and notice all the colors, textures, sounds around you.
- 8. Take a hot bubble bath before bed with candles and relaxing music.
- 9. Read one chapter of a thrilling fiction book every night before bed.
- 10. Play two songs on the piano or play an instrument for 5 minutes each day.
- 11. Watch the sunset every night this week.
- 12. Invite a friend over for tea one day or on a regular basis and savor this time together.
- 13. Work in the garden for 30 minutes with breaks or stretching as needed.
- 14. Paint a picture for one hour with breaks as needed.
- 15. Go to a park and watch children play.
- 16. Color with your child or loved one before bed.
- 17. Get an adult coloring book or paint-by-numbers kit to work on.
- 18. Find a craft project to do with your child or a friend.
- 19. Invite a mom to stay for your child’s playdate for grown-up social time.
- 20. Pack a picnic to have with your friend/partner in the park, backyard, or living room.
- 21. Sing to the radio in the morning on your way to work.
- 22. Watch a nightly comedy routine on Netflix.
- 23. Put on a song and dance alone or with someone in your house.
- 24. Get a some colored lens glasses and notice if your mood changes as you walk around the house or outside and look under a “new light”.