The concept of joy is frequently misunderstood.
People see joy as this huge, powerful, eventful thing that can be a challenge to achieve.
But the reality of joy is quite different. It’s not about some grand, amazing, overwhelming notion. It’s the little things in life.
Recognizing this, you open yourself to find more joy and more things to bring you joy.
Why does it even matter?
Life is not easy. At least, not very often.
Everyone has struggles in life. There are challenges to face on every imaginable scale. In the United States, for example, there are challenges on the national level between a contentious, ugly election, and the continued lack of response to COVID-19 and its impact.
The repercussions of this impact on a more personal level. Children are learning either remotely at home — or — both remotely and part-time in school. Jobs have been lost. Businesses have been closed. Hobbies that we turn to in order to socialize and reset ourselves are on hold indefinitely.
All these things have an impact on you and me. That impact can be tremendously negative. However, finding joy can help to lessen the negativity.
This is why joy matters. Because it is not about an overwhelming sensation to turn the tide. It’s about little things here and there to remind you that life IS worthwhile.
Joy in the little things
It never ceases to amaze me how joy can be found in relatively mundane, seemingly insignificant little things.
Yet we tend to only think of it as this monstrous, all-powerful, hard-to-achieve ideal. But it’s much, much simpler than that.
These are some examples of simple matters of joyfulness:
· There is joy in taking a deep breath, letting it go, and releasing tension.
· Joy can be found in petting a dog or cat.
· Sunlight on your face and its warmth is joyful.
· Savoring your favorite food is a moment of joy.
· Hugging someone shares joy between you.
· Joy is found in finishing a project.
· A job well done.
· Laughing at a video of a bat eating piece of watermelon is joy.
· The opportunity to face the day is joyful.
Maybe you have never thought of any of these, or similar notions, as manifesting joy. But they do.
Little, simple matters are matters of joy because it is that simple.
Human beings have long sought to disassociate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom. We place ourselves far, far atop the food chain. But we are animals.
Ever watch a cat with a ball of yarn? They roll about, play without a care in pure joy. Have you seen a dog greet its human companion after a time apart? The pure joy and tensed excitement in its body are unmistakable. These are simple, little things.
Human beings are not so different from dogs and cats. Simple things can bring us joy. But it requires a perspective that we tend to neglect.
The overcomplication of everything
In the ongoing pursuit of knowledge on the part of human beings, we reject simple things for their power.
For example, observe how small children, before they are school-age, play. They have wild abandon, finding joy in little bits and pieces along the way. They are carefree, taking great joy in the simplest, uncomplicated things.
Once they enter school and interact more frequently with others, outside judgment complicates joy. To fit in, we sometimes reject our own joy so as not to look foolish. There are some, of course, who don’t, but let’s be honest — they are rare.
As adults, we accept that things that bring joy tend to cost money. Simple pleasures — seemingly insignificant joyful matters — get rejected because of the social contract. Joy in simplicity is rejected for joy in complicated relationships, the toys you own, and the impressions you make on the world.
We learn along the way that joy is a complicated notion. It does not come easily nor frequently.
Human beings reject the simple because we think ourselves above simple things. But that’s not the truth. Simple things are the base materials on which the complex things are built.
Water — essential to life — is made up of one-part hydrogen, two-parts oxygen. Three simple atoms, combined, are the basis of arguably the most important molecule for human life. Without the atoms, we can’t have the molecules. Without the molecules, WE can’t exist.
Rejecting the simple for the complicated — particularly when it comes to joy — robs you of an element you have every right to experience.
Which brings me to the next point.
You are deserving of joy
You are a worthwhile human being. There is value in your existence. What you do and who you are matters.
You don’t have to be someone of great power or influence. Let’s face it — can you imagine that Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell find joy in much of anything? I mean, anything apart from their own egos and belittling those they see as beneath them?
And that is why you are deserving of joy. I presume that you have good intentions. You seek to be a decent person and do right by others.
There is not some bar you have to rise above to receive joy. Neither is there a need for you to be someone other than who you are to encounter joy. You, in your perfectly imperfect self, are worthy and deserving of joy.
Is ANYONE undeserving? No…and yes. But that’s another matter related to how you interact with the world around you.
Givers and takers
If you see people as disposable tools for your enlargement — joy isn’t going to come easily. If you intentionally cause harm to others — you are rejecting joy. When you knowingly hurt people — physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually — you repel joy.
There is a line between putting yourself first and putting yourself above people.
Putting yourself first means you practice self-care — but still consider the impact on others. You work on your own being without intentionally harming anyone else. In striving to live the best life you can, you work to help others do the same. Putting yourself first means you give to yourself before you give to other people.
Putting yourself above people means you practice self-care — but disregard the impact on others. You work on your own being but don’t care if it harms others. In striving to live the best life you can, you actively leave others behind or even knowingly destroy them in one way or another. Putting yourself above others means you take for yourself and take from other people.
What it comes down to is that self-care is about giving. Putting yourself above people is about taking. While giving may have a negative impact — that is not intentional. Taking, in this form, knowingly will negatively impact people.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.
Taking for the good
To be fair, sometimes you must take an opportunity. And yes, that might cause harm to others in the process. But when your intent in taking that opportunity is to better both yourself and those initially feeling hurt by that — the imbalance is temporary.
For example, if a leader falls and there is no set succession, you might need to take leadership yourself. You will, in the process, hurt those who feel that they should have become the new leader. But when you take that position, your intent matters.
When you lead to better both yourself and those who did not take the opportunity themselves, they are likely to come around to your way. This is where how you lead matters. Are you a guide — or a bully?
For the record — guides empower. Bullies disempower.
Joy belongs to everyone
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. Race, creed, color, nationality, religion, nor any other label you put on yourself makes you more — or less — deserving. Joy belongs to everyone.
Just like all the rest of the animal kingdom — there are little, seemingly insignificant matters that are joyful. You can experience joy every single day.
· Joy is the wind on your face.
· The smell of fresh-baked bread and fresh-brewed coffee.
· Joy is waking up every morning.
· The smile of a baby.
· Warm clothes fresh out of the dryer.
These are not so insignificant. All the little things that evoke joy matter.
Recognizing this empowers you. Why? Because it opens you to see how — as awful as things may be in the world today — there IS joy to be found.
Why does more joy matter?
Because joy is light in the darkness. It’s feeling good in the face of things piling up to make you feel bad.
Today, life is more uncertain for everyone that it has ever been before. This has been caused by the collective consciousness being inundated with a lack of foresight. How will this distressing election turn out? When will COVID-19 be brought under control? When will a viable vaccine be available?
That’s the impersonal, big-picture uncertainty and fear. Now, we get to add the personal. Will my job be there tomorrow? What do I do with that relative who refuses to wear a mask? Will my freedom be compromised?
These are uncertain matters. There are no guaranteed answers. That is distressing at best, terrifying at its worst. Hence, finding those simple joys can keep your perspective from being nothing but dark.
Why does that matter? Because when you are feeling fearful and uncertain THAT is what you contribute to the collective consciousness.
No, you can’t ignore, deny, or reject these feelings. Nor should you. But you CAN choose if they dominate your mindset/headspace/psyche. When you practice mindfulness and become of your conscious mind, the subconscious is filtered, altered, and more pliable.
Finding joyful things — even little ones — helps this process. It reminds you that for every down there IS an up. For any fear there is hope.
Little bits of joy remind us that this life is amazing. Being here is an opportunity full of potential and possibility. There is always more to be learned — but the simple things remain the base upon which the complex is built.
Joy is not a huge, overarching ideal. It’s the little things every day that bring contentment and satisfaction.
Where will you find joy today?
Thank you for reading. I am MJ Blehart. I write about mindfulness, conscious reality creation, positivity, and similar life lessons.
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