Wednesday this week I discovered barre 101, I was transported back to being a seven year old girl in ballet class. It has been ages since exercise brought such a feeling of pure joy. Even though I know that I am not the ballerina I dreamed about being as a child, that little child is still in there and she was jumping up and down with glee! I was more than just happy, I was completely there in the moment, nothing else mattered.
According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book “The how of happiness”, 40% of happiness is within our power to change, this includes doing things that we love, connecting with others and the natural environment, through appreciation and gratitude.
Levels of happiness are not definitively affected by money or possessions, studies show that 1 year after winning the lottery people return to being as happy as they were before they won, and the same goes for trauma or negative events such as losing a limb or the use of one’s legs. This phenomenon is called hedonistic adaptation, the belief that changing our circumstances will deliver happiness. There are some exceptions to this rule such as the happiness derived from having children or the unhappiness from losing them.
Hedonistic adaptation is also seen in the way people think that one thing will make them happy, for example “I just need to find the right husband/wife/partner” or “I will be happy when I make a million dollars, then I can retire” or “Things would be perfect if I just had an extra bedroom”. Happiness is subjective and fleeting, as once these goals are achieved we look for the next thing to make us happy, and it seems the more we value happiness the less likely we are to achieve it, as we are more likely to feel disappointment when what we thought would make us happy doesn’t.2
Psychologists studying happiness are finding that lasting happiness is more likely to be achieved through a state of joy, from helping, being connected to others and the world around you, by accepting things as they are, living in the present moment and being grateful.1,3,4
Joy is a state of being and comes from within, and is in a spiritual context an attitude of the heart. It is in this state that we can remain happy regardless of the circumstances of our lives, relationships or financial situation, i.e. joy is a conscious commitment to be happy in the moment regardless of life’s challenges.
So how do we cultivate joy?
- Cultivate the attitude of gratitude – not just being grateful for things we have or nice things people do for us but appreciating the moment we are in right now, and focusing on the positive aspects of life. Make a daily list of 5 things you were grateful for each day and you will find your levels of overall happiness increase.
- Intent to have a great day, wake up and smile, be positive
- Practice meditation and mindfulness – this helps you appreciate the present moment
- Practice random acts of kindness – doing for others brings connection and appreciation
- Bring the joy – in his latest podcast Brendon Buchard talks about ways to bring joy to your life and others
“Unhealthy fear robs us of our joy because it causes us to have blurred vision and selective memory, which results in diminished capacity to see options and opportunities. Joy is about being satisfied at the soul level despite feelings or circumstances.” Rose Rivers, PhD, RN, NEA-BC
Benefits of cultivating joy in our lives are multiple, studies show that people who are joyful find the feeling of happiness through a variety of ways, they find health benefits such as better sleep, higher levels of energy and less depression, they are more creative and have a greater social network. In the words of Robert Emmons, Joy is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life”.1,3,4
- Lyubomirsky, s. (2007). The how of happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want. London, England: Penguin Books.
- Dambrun, M., Ricard, M., Després, G., Drelon, E., Gibelin, E., Gibelin, M., … Michaux, O. (2012). Measuring Happiness: From Fluctuating Happiness to Authentic–Durable Happiness. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 16. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00016
- Mauss, I. B., Tamir, M., Anderson, C. L., & Savino, N. S. (2011). Can Seeking Happiness Make People Happy? Paradoxical Effects of Valuing Happiness.Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 11(4), 807–815. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0022010
- Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: a review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890-905. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005