Joy is the Holy Grail of feelings. We all strive to be joyful, yearn to find joy in our lives.
But, if you are honest, when did you last feel really joyful? When did you last "jump for joy"? When was the last time your heart was bursting with love, happiness and the sheer joy of being alive?
For most of us it's so long ago, we can't even remember.
Maybe in early childhood, when life was less complicated and serious. Before our struggles and responsibilities beat all the joy out of us. Before too much suffering, rejection, abuse, neglect sucked it from our injured hearts.
And yet, we never stop searching for it.
We sense that it should be a natural part of our Being. Its complete absence from our life bothers us, causes us pain, distress and anxiety.
What are we doing wrong?!
We listen to celebrities and gurus tell us about what joy feels like. Describe how they rediscovered it and how "you can do it too". Every day our minds are flooded with TV commercials implying that we can find joy if we buy a trendy perfume, a fast car or certain brand of dish soap.
And we try. We buy. But still, joy eludes us.
A new exercise regime, meditation practice or purchase may give us pleasure for a while, but it never lasts.
And we start to think: "Maybe I'm not good enough? Maybe I just don't deserve joy in my life? Maybe joy is only for people who are better than me, more spiritually inclined. Who cope better with the trials and tribulations of life?"
But it has nothing to do with your deservedness, your societal status, scent or level of enlightenment (or lack thereof).
The 3 simple (but tragic) reasons why you cannot find joy in everyday life
Joy is absent from our lives because, as a species and society, we make 3 disastrous mistakes that have become so normal that we aren't even aware of them any longer.
1. We allow unqualified tools to be our leaders
The mind developed as a marvellous tool designed through evolution to keep us safe and alive. It was meant to be used whenever we need it to solve problems, analyse situations and evaluate dangers.
And then to be put down, like a hammer or a laptop, when the job is done.
But at some point, the mind took over. We started to identify with it, we believed that we were our mind and mistook all our thoughts for the absolute truth.
Nowadays, for most people, the mind is in charge. Producing incessant thoughts, it worries, criticises, overthinks, overanalyses, catastrophises, warns.
Because that's its job! It is meant to foresee threats and suffering and to defend us against them. It's a warning system with integrated problem solving capability. Very useful in sticky situations.
But it is not qualified to run our lives!
All it knows is how to solve problems, avoid danger and maintain survival. And that's what it does. And if there aren't any problems to solve, it will create them, so it has something useful to do. Causing endless suffering, anxiety and stress in the process.
And all these problems the mind creates to justify its existence drain the joy from our life.
2. We ignore our inner state and look for salvation on the outside
As a society, we are extremely focussed on externalities. We believe that our happiness (and our worth) depends on our circumstances, our looks and weight, our finances and relationship status.
We seek joy on the outside.
We get a new partner so they can make us happy. And feel disappointed when they don't meet our expectations.
Because joy can never come from goods, possessions, other people or new circumstances. Joy comes from the inside. It is part of our true Being. Like worth, love and peace.
And if we listen to our true Self, joy will emerge from the depths.
The only problem is that the tool we put in charge makes too much noise. Occupies us no end with anxious, depressing, negative thoughts.
And joy remains unheard. Swallowed by the deafening racket of an overwhelmed mind.
3. We build walls to keep others out
We all experience heart-ache, rejection, abandonment. All of us went through trauma, disappointment and failure.
And the common reaction to these experiences is to close our heart.
To build an enormous wall around ourselves, block all exits, nail the windows shut. So the pain can't enter. The suffering stays outside and no one can ever hurt us again.
The trouble is that closing our hearts blocks our energy flow. And without balanced flow, joy suffocates like a budgie in a coal mine filling up with carbon monoxide.
Our desperate attempt to shield ourselves against further suffering backfires. We closed our heart for protection and now live in the stuffy darkness. All we see is black hopelessness drowning our life.
An easy (but effective) way to invite joy back into your life
When we experience trauma, rejection or neglect, we tend to close our heart to eliminate the chance of being hurt again. This numbs the negative emotions and makes it easier to cope.
But there are 2 problems with this:
- 1We also lock out positive emotions such as love, happiness and joy.
- 2We lock in the grief and anger that is already in our heart which now has no way to escape.
Eventually this may lead to feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and depression. You closed all the windows and doors, pulled the shutters and now live in darkness.
Closing our hearts in times of suffering is an automatic reaction. We want to protect ourselves. But it is crucial to learn how to open the heart again, so we can let fresh air and sunshine in.
So here is a simple and easy, but powerful, visualisation to help you do just that:
"Sit or lie down comfortably. Don't cross your arms or legs. Now close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. Try to relax.
Focus on your heart in the centre of your chest. Does it feel heavy or light? Dark or bright?
Now simply imagine that you open your heart. Use a visual that appeals to you. You might think of opening the shutters of a window, the unfolding of a beautiful flower. Or, like me, the opening of an automatic door on the starship Enterprise with the typical "Si-woosh" sound (#proudtobeageek).
Once your heart is open, flush it through with lots of love for as long as it feels good and comfortable."
Repeat this exercise once a day. It will help to eliminate feelings of darkness and hopelessness and boost your happiness level.
3 mind-blowing action steps to reclaim joy in everyday life
You don't need to wait for your circumstances to change to find joy in your everyday life. No need to make more money, find love, overcome all your struggles and shortcomings.
You don't have to delay until you are worthy of happiness and joy. You don't have to prove your worth. Because you ARE worth. Right now. Right where you are.
And it's time to take action with these 3 simple steps:
You deserve happiness, joy, a fulfilled life. They are in your grasp, never out of reach.
So, what are you waiting for?
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