I have been speaking about joy as a key emotion, one that the body stores, for quite a few years now—and I have a different offering for you about joy and how it is experienced inside your body. Happy is one thing, but joy is something felt deep within the entire body and muscle memory system. Take for example the smell of perfume or cologne that your first great-love used to wear, the smell of a cherry tobacco pipe that your Grandpa used to smoke, or the leather car seats of a new car. Notice how, when something tickles your olfactory senses, you are instantly transported back in time to a place where you felt a height of emotion. Your whole body gets involved. Joy is deeply felt inside when we remember it and when we experience it for the first time.
Joy doesn't just come in the loud moments. Joy shows up in silence. It shows up in the quiet as well as the excitement, and, most of all, in the present. Even if you are reliving memories and re-experiencing moments of joy, you are taking them from the past and bringing them exactly to the present. It's a moment of getting still and sitting with the joy as it comes. That's when you close your eyes, take it all in and savor it for everything that joy is.
Joy is not a buzzword. It is an emotional experience that opens up the senses and nourishes your soul. It ignites your muscles and your mind. While I would love to make this a simple list of things that could add joy to your life, which I will, I want to invite you to find joy for yourself that isn't easily listed. Joy is deeply personal and heartfelt. Finding a bit more joy in your life requires you to put yourself out there into new adventures and new experiences. As I list five ways to add joy to your life, I will ask that you add to this list as you read and see what comes into your thoughts as something you want to discover. Joy comes with purpose, and taking a chance and switching up the regular moves with a few side steps, skips, and twirls. So, let's dive in!
- The biggest and easiest way to add joy to your life that I can offer is to take a trip. Gifts don't have to come in boxes; they could just as easily come as adventures. Change it up and give yourself permission to use some of your savings and see a part of the world you have always wanted to see. The amount of tickling that this will do to all of your senses is beyond description. Seeing other parts of the world and how other people live opens us up and expands our perception of the world. It's an extremely sacred gift for yourself; take it when you can.
- Take a new class somewhere near you. Whether it be a cooking class, cake decorating, dance class, photography class…whatever it is, it requires you to step to the right and get out of your comfort zone to elevate your own daily experiences of life. Once you start looking for one, you'll be shocked at how many things have been right down the road from you all along. If you've been contemplating doing something like this, this is your sign to go for it.
- Change up one of your meals a day. This idea comes to us from the Mediterranean. Food is magic if you know what to do with it. In the Mediterranean, the key is to simplify it. You don't have to learn some new elaborate recipe at all. I'm talking bread, olive oil, cheese, and maybe a nice glass of wine or a mocktail if alcohol is out of the question. Take small, simple, ripe foods that are currently in season and make a little charcuterie for yourself or for whomever you would like to share a meal with. Slice up some fresh bread and take a small amount of olive oil and stir into it some fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil, and thyme (this is the trifecta of spices in Malta) and then sprinkle the herb-infused olive oil over the bread and eat it as is, or lightly toast it. Add some fresh greens and top it with some fresh feta and maybe some pomegranates since it's that time of the year. Top the greens with the same herb-infused olive oil. No need to have to do more than that one drizzling! Something so simple and delightful will immediately make you slow down and be intentional with your meal practice. It's about being present in the food and to the experience as the food enhances your awareness of taste, touch, and smell.
- Make a date with someone important to you. If you've been meaning to call your best friend or family member, pick up that phone and schedule a date. Go have coffee or tea or wine. Go make that date a priority. Meals are not meant to be eaten alone, and neither are your coffee breaks. In the Mediterranean this counts as a whole meal, going for coffee. It's slow-paced and satisfying. It's stimulating conversation and it elevates a regular day. I do this so much more in the Mediterranean than I ever did back in the United State. All the time, people ask me to meet up for coffee, and I've finally started taking them up on it. It turns out that my days do seem just a little bit more alive when I do this. We are hard-wired to crave human interaction. Stop hiding behind that keyboard and go get your coffee on.
- This one comes down to you. The other suggestions all asked that you expand in some way and add more or do something out of the ordinary. Joy can come in the smallest and simplest of ways. This one is all about you. This calls for you to sit still for some part of every day for at least seven days and see what you notice about yourself. Learn to take some time out and get quiet so that you can hear yourself think and feel your feelings. It's a time of simple self-reflection and checking in with yourself so that you can ask yourself questions and be clear enough to listen for your natural responses. We spend so much time being told what to think, what to buy, and what to do with almost every aspect of our lives. We are consumed by the outside world so much of the day. I'm asking you to sit still with no distractions for however long you want to be still in some part of each day and then notice how that affects your whole system. It will open a pathway for joy. Let it in.
Joy doesn't have to be some life-changing, explosive experience. It can be felt in a multitude of ways as you open up to its presence. Joy is a sacred energy, and it usually comes with its best friends, purpose and gratitude. To add more joy to your life, simply be open to noticing it when it shows up. Things show up when you do!