5 Steps to Unleashing Joy

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

How much of the time is the authentic YOU showing up in the world?

Do you have a different persona for your work, home life, friends, strangers, and the check-in person at the airport?

Stress, grief, past or current pain or trauma, illness, or anxiety can cause us to retreat inward.

Just like preparing a house to survive the impact of a hurricane, we can close the shutters, protect fragile points of entry, conserve resources, stock up on necessities, and retreat inside.

If you have found yourself hiding the real you from the world, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Unless you are age four or under, crafting an ever-shifting-persona is a natural protection mechanism.

We learn as we grow-up that opening up and being authentic can lead to a slug of pain and a slap of heartache. Intuitively we find out what psychologists have tested to be true: people like those who mimic or mirror their body language. People also find it easier to like those who are similar or share the same interests and passions.

So is it any wonder that all at once everyone is wearing the same color of teal or using the same slang? Is it a surprise that individuals in a group can converge in dress, tastes, interests, and values?

The question is: do you want to open up and be more yourself at the risk of getting hurt and losing friends?

Step 1: Find Your Joy

Can you name five concrete experiences that bring you joy?

Joy is delight fused with serenity and evokes a sense of connection to others, nature, or the divine. Joy is playful and generous.

The first step towards opening up and being authentically you is to uncover what brings you joy. List at least five experiences which bring joy into your life on a daily basis.

Next, you can explore and remember what caused a flash of unexpected joy in the past few months. Recall moments of bliss from your life and write them down too.

List at least five surprises which bring joy into your life sporadically.

Be warned against ascribing to your cultural or familial imprinted definitions of delight. Whereas joy for everyone around you could be a rainbow sprinkled ice-cream cone, for you, it could be a cup of tea and dramatic rain clouds shifting across the sky.

Looking for some daily joy-list inspiration? Here’s my daily joy-list:

1. The first sip of espresso in the morning.
2. Strolling barefoot through the dew-covered grass and examining my garden.
3. Laughter or delight (anyone’s around me, or mine).
4. An unexpected bright dash of color and white space.
5. A smile from a someone I don’t know.
6. Hugs.
7. Listening to the rhythmic breath of my sleeping children.
8. Writing.
9. Chocolate and a captivating book.
10. The last ten minutes of yoga.

Looking for some irregular joy-list inspiration? Here’s my sporadic joy-list:

1. Breathing fresh air and taking a break from the digital while hiking up a mountain, or skiing down one.
2. A day spent swimming in the lake and then picnicking on the shore.
3. Seeing someone I love who lives far away again.
4. Dressing up to celebrate someone.
5. Mastering a new skill.
6. Connecting with someone new, or someone dear, in a deeper way.
7. Going dancing.
8. Cutting and arranging fresh-cut flowers or greenery from my garden.
9. Giving the perfect gift or crafting the perfect experience for someone.
10. Spending a day walking and playing in the woods.

Ready to make your own personalized joy-lists?

Step 2: Schedule in More Joy Moments

It turns out, you can actually add more joy to your life at little cost. Who knew?

By scheduling more of what brings YOU joy into your life, you will be illuminating the authentic you; you’ll begin to be more of you with everyone, everywhere you go.

The truth is that joy is contagious. The positive energy bounces off you and out into the world. People around you will feel your ‘good vibrations’ and respond with a smile.

Unless they are grumpy sour-faces. Then they will resent you like hell until of course, they ask you why you are so dang happy.

In which case, you can tell them. You can even show them your list, and ask them for their Joy Top Five.

Step 3: Relate in a New Way

When you meet someone new, which YOU do you present? What is the first question you ask?

The first question a lot of people ask is, ‘so, what do you do?’ or ‘what do you study?’ or ‘where are you from?’

It is natural for all of us to be comparing. The ego likes to rank where we stand. We can have the very best intentions, but when we ask about someone’s job, it will be challenging to resist ascribing judgment based on their profession. The same is true for where they come from.

Try it. If I say that I’m an award-winning artist living in New York City, what happens? If I shift to telling you I’m studying astrophysics in Russia, what is your reaction? What about if I answer I am a housekeeper in England?

Now try asking someone about their sources of joy in their daily life. What will happen?

They will most likely answer honestly.

People don’t tend to lie about what brings them delight. You can sense a genuine answer by the way their eyes light up when they talk about their source of joy.

Then you will either find out that you:

1. Share a common source of joy
2. Discover something new and authentic about the person
3. Could try the idea on for yourself

Step 4: Be Brave. Control the Conversation.

Perhaps it’s time to shift the conversation.

The pressure of kicking-butt at work and adding being a source of support and joy to those we love can get intense.

Most of the time, we have a feeling that we are letting someone, or something important in our lives, down. We just know we could or should be a better parent, partner, friend, daughter, son, sibling, employee, entrepreneur, artist, cook, or [insert what matters to you most].

The problem is that the world today is so loud and so busy, that it can all feel overwhelming.

It can feel overwhelmingly negative.

Sure, we’ve all read that optimists live longer, enjoy better health, and attract more friends and success. The problem is that when stress, anxiety, illness, or just pure bad-luck kick in, that extra dose of negative news or interaction with your boss can pitch you into negativity.

Just like joy vibrates outward and is contagious, so too is a dark mood and outlook. Get one person complaining bitterly and watch the conversation take a turn for the worst.

The next time those around you are in a stressed out funk, try shaking them up a bit. Ask them about their favorite time of day, or the last time delight flooded out the noise of pressure and expectation.

Step 5: Yoga Yourself

Why does yoga boost your self-esteem? You start to build an inner fire when you show up every day on your yoga mat. You will feel proud that you commit to practice and follow through, even if this commitment is just ten minutes per day.

With time you will master poses you never thought possible, achieve flexibility you only dreamed of, and gradually slim to a healthy weight. There will be a surge of confidence the first time you kick up into a handstand, or your heels touch the floor in downward dog.

When you start a regular yoga practice you begin to show up for yourself by taking responsibility for your physical, mental, and perhaps spiritual wellness too. By engaging in self-respect, if not self-love, you will raise your self-esteem.

Step 6: Give Dark Emotions Space to Be.

Yes, you read that correctly. First I told you to write out a joy-list, to add more of those experiences into your life, and to talk more about joy with everyone you meet.

Now I’m telling you to sit on the ground and do nothing.

Yes, I mean literally.

Meditation is a way to open yourself up and to be more of yourself by feeling connected to everyone and everything.

Meditation will unleash your joy in a way nothing else can.

Sitting and watching your thoughts glide past as you focus on your breath will unleash some negative emotions.

The noise and business of life can block out the anger, sadness, shame, and fear. All of those emotions can bubble up while you sit still, in silence. You may have been unaware they were just below the surface.

Do you know what is gorgeous about giving dark emotions space to surface? It may take weeks, or months, or years, but the fear will seep away.

With time, the negative emotions will roll through you without invoking a knee-jerk reaction to smother them with food, entertainment, noise, achievement, work, or positive experiences.

You will be able to allow anger, sadness, pain, and fear to flow in without losing your balance.

You will be able to stop running and to stop grasping, knowing all things pass, and this, whatever it is, will move too.

TAKE ACTION:

Step 1: Write your daily, monthly, and year JOY-LISTS.

Step 2: Schedule JOY into your daily life, as well as mini-month joy-cations.

 Step 3: Relate to people in a new way by asking and sharing sources of joy.

Step 4: Turn the conversation to sources of happiness instead of negativity, gossiping, or complaining.

Step 5: Yoga Time: Find a YouTube video or head to your local yoga studio.

Step 6: Meditate. You can start with just five minutes a day to make a difference. 

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Heather Lenz, a writer, yoga instructor, wellness coach, and CEO of the wellness company Delicious Glow. She wishes you to feel empowered to live your definition of a healthy, happy, and more purpose-filled life.

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