Exploring Joy

Exploring Joy

Jessica Meins on Joy

I’ve known Jess via Twitter and Instagram for a while now and her writing and perspectives have resonated with me since we first connected. And I love the title and content of her website: A Curious Joyful Life.

Curiosity and joy are themes I’ve long valued and explored. So I was delighted when Jess agreed to share some thoughts and links on the subject of joy. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did.

Jessica Meins

1. Joy: too childlike and feminine?

“Adults who exhibit genuine joy are often dismissed as childish, too feminine, unserious, or self-indulgent, so we hold ourselves back from joy.”

I love this tweet — a quote from the recent Ted conference — on how joy is seen as too childlike and / or feminine and how it prevents us from expressing it.

Also Ingrid Fetell Lee, who gave the talks, says a lot about how our environment can bring us a lot of joy in the work place:

“Joy begins with the senses. What we should be doing is embracing joy, and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often.”

And this:

“Each moment [of joy] is small, but over time, they add up to more than the sum of their parts. So instead of chasing happiness, maybe what we should be doing is embracing joy and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often.” @ingridfetell #TED2018

It seems to me that her whole ethos is that joy is more mindful than happiness. Joy is in a moment — a feast for the senses — happiness is a state that we often have a check list for which if we do not tick every box, we feel like we cannot be. Whereas joy can be seen and sought out regardless of our life circumstances. Children personify this.

2. Happy Place

Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place (episode six) is with a woman called Zephyr Wildman‏ who is a yoga teacher. She lost her husband leaving her with two young children and the way she deals with this is inspirational.

But it is her discussion of the importance of Vitality in grief or depression that makes the most sense to me re: joy:

“Finding things that bring you vitality.. watching funny things.. Being around art. music… During grief we go into depression and sadness and that is hard to feel any vitality in. And then being accountable for ones thoughts — self awareness is key. Instead of blaming everybody else — like my husband dying — what is unmanageable etc and then doing something different that I normally would do. It’s doing something different that brings a sense of vitality and life back.”

This is a paraphrasing… but I feel that Vitality — the life energy that she’s mentioning — is really what joy is.

3. The Book of Joy

This is such a wonderful book in how it talks about joy and happiness. I especially love this short quote that we can be more joyful with reframing the problem, gratitude for what we do have, kindness and generosity:

“the three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.”

I think reframing is such a big thing for humans and why we need to talk to other people when we are sad/angry/afraid — because sometimes we cannot reframe on our own.

4. The cultivation of gratitude and joy

This video of Brené Brown on Oprah is an oldie but a goodie.

Brené Brown is my go to girl for most things. I love her on joy…

“when we lose our tolerance to be vulnerable, joy becomes foreboding”

She talks about how our vulnerability is linked to our ability to experience joy. This is such a British habit as well — in all the self deprecating, stiff upper lip talk that we cover fear and joy up with.

She says that to fight foreboding joy we need to practice gratitude.

Adore this.

5. Choosing joy every day

Bozoma Saint John, the Chief Brand Officer at Uber, [talks about] the loss of her daughter the day she was born, and her husband from cancer.

Despite her devastating loss, Saint John knew she had to “come back and be joyful” for her second daughter, Lael. She refused to raise Lael as a “fearful mother.”

After experiencing two significant deaths in her life, Saint John learned that happiness is a daily choice: “It’s not like one day you wake up and magically you feel better.”

Isn’t it interesting that often the people who’ve experienced the greatest loss can teach us the greatest joy?

Final thoughts…

One of the questions that inevitably comes up when thinking about joy, is how is it different from happiness? So, to finish off, I asked Jess to share her own thoughts about where joy and happiness crossover, and where they differ. Here’s what she had to say:

During my time thinking about joy, I came across many articles about happiness and it made me consider more deeply the difference between them and the similarities.

My gut feeling was that joy is something that you can personify — a mantra for living life regardless of circumstances. Happiness seems more conditional.

Joy to me seems physical, spiritual, soulful, whereas happiness seems more intellectual and rational.

That rush of feeling when you see a baby laugh, a puppy or a beautiful tree — that to me is joy. It seems like an automatic reaction — however on the flip side I believe it can also be curated and chosen — if you live life from a joyful perspective, you appreciate the small things.

Going deeper however, I realised I may have been a bit harsh on happiness. I still believe joy to be that vitality; the human essence at the heart of us. However, I also think there are two types of happiness.

There is the emotion of happiness which is the fleeting, fizzing feeling that one may get from something particularly nice happening that day, a new purchase, or a compliment from a respected friend.

And then there is the happiness that resides inside us. The happiness that we develop through tending carefully to our emotions, building a life that is structured around the things that we truly value, being kind and fostering genuine connections and love. That’s a happiness that I can hold onto, that’s a happiness which is equal parts unbridled joy and rational fulfilment.

Huge thanks to Jess for contributing so much to this issue. You can connect with her via Twitter, Instagram, and her website.

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