I have spent some time thinking about what happy feels like versus joyful. They feel different. I believe they come from different places, and our ability to increase them in our lives might be done differently as well. Noticing where and how they occur in my life was the first step to understanding the components, factors and juju involved.
Happy is good. I think happy is something that happens based on my response to external factors and how I choose to see them. My choice in how I see them is based on my biases, expectations and internal rules of the road. What I mean is those factors help grow or inhibit my happiness. An ability to see the silver linings, see set-backs as opportunities for growth or learning instead of a perceived failure, are some of those factors. The sense of play that can be teased out of almost any situation and grow a culture in it with friends and family is another component. Like attracts like, so if I only see rude people, or misery, it is a reflection of where I am in life, and if I see humor and kindness more than anything then I am reflecting that. This does not mean that I dismiss the ugly things that happen but I look to the learning, the action towards helping, the meaning and move toward the solution and underlying causes rather than focus solely on the problem.
Happiness feels more external in my response and reaction to the world, with how I focus my lenses in life. I can grow it by my actions, by my gratitude and practices. Things like exercise, meditation, naps, time with friends and being alone to play and reflect help cultivate the happy gene. One major factor science shows us is time in nature, even 20-30 minutes a week in nature, helps alleviate stress and enforce well-being. All of these factors and components we choose to build in our lives help us to cultivate happiness.
Let’s break this down more in the practical sense: Make a list of five things you love to do. They can be small like taking a nap, or larger like travel, it doesn’t matter just make note. Then next to each thing write when was the last time you did it, and if you have to estimate it do that. Then notice how often you invite things in your life that make you happy. Notice if you make time for things you have passion for. Look at the reasons you have not made time, created space. Even risked looking foolish to try something you haven’t done in years. Don’t judge just notice, and then decide what one small thing you can do this week. Then plan when, put it in your calendar, tell someone so you are accountable or better yet invite them along. Then go do it. Then do another, and another… as a practice it take motion, emotion and reflection and repeating the cycle.
So what about joy? Joy feels very different to me. Joy wells up from inside like a huge warm wave of love, being one with the world, of appreciation and feeling whole. It is a soul connection and an inside job for sure. We in a moment of observation, reflection or happenstance are swept away in emotion that brings tears to our eyes. It is connection to source, to light, to love that wells up from our roots and fills us in awe and peace.
Increasing joy has been a tougher nut to crack. I think because a small part of it is driven by the external factors but mostly it feels organic and out of control, a little like a 7th grade science project with a volcano bubbling out on the linoleum floor. It comes from our relationship to ourselves, to self-love and connection. Happy sets the stage for joy; it creates practices that raise our mood, our vibration and wellness. It creates an atmosphere where we notice miracles, great wonders and love all around us. Then we feel joyful, we feel connected.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
― Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi
Living from our soul, our light and our love means being willing to look foolish, leaving fear behind, and opening to the world. It is wholehearted living, being vulnerable and willing to suspend judgement and listen. It is lightening our load by dropping expectations, being in the moment and appreciating deeply the gift of life, those around us and opportunities we have. It is about helping others to achieve their dreams and us living ours if only by simple acts of kindness, compassion and play.
So we start with happy and graduate into joyful in our practices. Find ways to let things go, to not judge yourself and others too harshly, find things that make you feel good, loved, successful, peaceful and full of purpose. Make connection to those you love and build moments of laughter and memories. As the holidays are bounding in, be mindful of how you want to spend them. How do you want to be during them, what actions, words and behaviors are going to define you? What are you going to give to this one beautiful life as you go tripping through it? Pay attention, notice, look for the love, laughter and build your joy bank for short days and long nights. Choose love, choose light, choose something decadent or funny or uplifting and bring along everyone around you for the journey. Cheers and make mine a nog!