Words by Jacquelyn Salvador
We're living in stressful times. As if our daily tasks and obligations weren't enough, we're also feeling the looming threats of climate change emergency, political chaos, and more and more visible social problems around the world.
The stress is enough to make one just want to retreat from the world, sometimes. This is a challenge to do the opposite and engage - in intentional ways.
Because yes, retreat can feel easier and safer and less stressful, but in the long-term it's only enabling those things to rage on. Instead, something I've found useful is to be very intentional about cultivating and nourishing a sense of joy and engagement with the world - something that keeps us going on those difficult days.
Joy can help us press through the inevitable stress and challenges of our days.
How do we get intentional about something as ephemeral as joy?
It starts with sitting down and reflecting on our experience of joy and in which circumstances it appears in our lives. Here are some useful questions to start to explore what brings you joy and how to engage it:
When did you feel a sense of joy this week, even in tiny glimpses?
What were you doing, specifically? Who were you with? What did you see, smell, hear, or feel? Paint a vivid picture of it in your mind, and record the details that contributed to that joy.
If you look back at your week, what makes you smile now? What can you be grateful for?
Even if it didn't feel like much in the moment, what can you now see as a "light spot" in your life? Something that helps contribute to your sense of wellbeing, either at a basic level (food and shelter) or at a more nuanced and privileged level (that oh-so-good yoga class, seeing a good movie with a friend or partner, your upcoming vacation week).
What are you most excited about in your future plans? Or what makes you excited/joyful just thinking about it?
It might be an experience, a place or environment, a person or a set of people, an accomplishment...let your imagination bring forth the moments that put a smile on your face.
These simple questions should already start setting you toward your sources of joy, and here’s a simple list of items that might also help jog your sense of joy and help “reset” in times of need:
Places with inspiring view/surroundings
Travel - new places!
Spending time with friends or your romantic partner
Making new connections
Calling someone you love
Writing a postcard or a letter to someone
Colouring or other art-based activities
Playing a sport
Music - creating or listening (especially live)
Baking or otherwise preparing something wonderful to eat (bubble tea, healthy dessert, etc.)
Getting all dressed up for nothing
Play a game (board games, brain games on your phone, etc.)
Each person has their own unique “mix” of what brings joy, so take this list as a simple suggestion and starting point, and see if you can identify more items. Then keep it somewhere accessible for when you notice yourself needing a boost.
The simple act of thinking about and looking over these possibilities is certain to lift your spirits.
Small, intentional action can inspire you to actually get out there and feel that joy that we all need in life.
Author of 360 Living: Practical guidance for a balanced life, Jacquelyn is a tireless seeker of personal betterment, and she's on a personal mission to help others find their own best version of life. Her own (ongoing) journey of personal happiness started out with years of chasing the perfect approach to "the good life," but she eventually realised she was anything but happy, so she packed life into a backpack and hit the road to find it for herself on a backpacking adventure around Europe. Along the way, she teamed up with the Authentic Happiness Project to help others on their own journey of personal happiness (backpacking optional) through an empowering combination of inspiration, learning, and personal reflection.
Jacquelyn lives and works as a yoga instructor with Affordable Yoga & Fitness in Paris, France, helping others find better health and happiness through mindful movement. She shares her adventures in the art of living a good life on Instagram at @jj_moves.
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