Would you agree with me if I said that joy is the most motivating feeling in the world. Unfortunately there is no single formula that will bring joy to all. In life everyone is responsible for their own joy and sometimes we neglect that responsibility. Of course what I mean is not an instantaneous joy. I’m talking about starting the day on the right foot. I’m talking about using joy almost as a shield against the world (of illusions).
How are we going to achieve this? Will we all play Pollyanna, will we make jokes or keep watching cat videos? I think all of these only have a momentary effect. If we wait for things to bring us joy, we might not find them all the time. Joy must be found within not outside. Let’s get a closer look.
STEP 1: Recognizing joy.
Let’s say you’re doing something you like, this can be eating something. Think about how much you like it, how good it tastes, concentrate on how much you enjoy that moment. Most of us never make the most of that lovely, crunchy, mouth watering cookie. We shove it in our mouth, and we quickly swallow without hardly chewing it. What if we just savour it like it is the last cookie we will ever eat. I can hear you say there are many more cookies on the plate. But maybe this really is the last cookie we’ll eat. We must savour every thing every moment. Every bite, every sip, every step. How many people did you hug during quarantine? I’m sure before the quarantine, you never imagined you wouldn’t be able to hug your own mom and dad, your friends or maybe even your child. Maybe before the pandemic while you were eating your favorite biscuit with your tea, you never even thought of how hard it was going to become to find it on the supermarket shelves.
STEP 2: Removing obstacles.
It’s quite simple actually. First think of what is blocking your joy at the moment. If you were a kid -we all still are- how would you approach this problem? Think about this today. What is the most obvious mood killer in your life right now? Don’t worry about sounding too superficial, think, what’s bothering you the most if you think like a child. Kids can break down and start crying over the smallest things even if it’s the real end of the world, so why can’t we? What if I’m a kid and I reply without shame. Well the thing that bothers me the most is the extra pounds I gained and having an unhealthy diet. There I said it. It’s not so hard. With everything going on in the world right now, people dying, sick, unemployed, underpaid, it feels shameful to be worried about weight gain.
If I were a kid I would not feel ashamed of my problem. That is why I quit feeling ashamed and I’m sharing it with you here. I just noticed I am grieving my successful weight loss in the past and asked myself what can I do. How can I beat my setback about weight loss and my inaction? What can be the 1-2 small steps that I can take today? One of the reasons I can’t exercise is because I feel out of shape and struggle to go through a workout. I decided that even though I’m quite experienced I’m going to choose a beginner workout today. Then I remembered something Barış Özcan had said about goals, which I also read in a book (but I won’t mention the book now as I will write an entire blog post on it). The idea is to divide your goal in two. So my goal of exercising for an hour everyday has become half an hour. Today I’ve done a beginner level workout for 30 minutes and it felt great.
The solution is simple: Notice what is stopping you, accept it (don’t be ashamed, acknowledge it, try to understand it like you would with a child) and take a simple step or two, don’t push yourself for 2 steps, one is more than enough. Doing something consistently always works. So my new goal is just 30 minutes of exercise per day.
STEP 3: Making others laugh.
Joy is also one of those things that multiply when you share. I’m not suggesting that you become a clown and make others laugh but you cry on the inside. Making others laugh will be good for you. Watch a funny movie together. Watch cat videos. Reminisce a fun day. I remember, when my Dad passed away, when we were doing his prayers at home with friends and family, we also had an Imam with us, he was leading the prayer. As we take our shoes off before entering the house, the Imam also had to take off his shoes but someone had given him women’s slippers and he hadn’t noticed (or maybe he was too kind to protest). I remember at a certain point during the prayer we noticed his slippers and it was so hard not to laugh. When everyone left we laughed heartily for a couple of minutes at the absurdity of the situation. Joy and laughter can be found even at the hardest situations. Remember that happiness is our birthright. Believe me if you look at the world with smiling eyes you will find so many things to laugh at.
STEP 4: Setting an intention.
Occasionally my side who desperately wants to make art and be an intellectual wants to believe that pain feeds creativity. During quarantine I understood that holding on to pain only leads to depression and it doesn’t necessarily make you more creative. Yesterday I watched the first season of After Life. It’s about a man who loses his lovely wife to cancer and he is suicidal. You won’t believe me but it’s a comedy. I recommend it to everyone with all my heart. It’s funny and heartbreaking at the same time. It reminds you how life is worth living and it is a gift that can expire any minute so we must enjoy it while we can. My intention is to start each that with the intention to enjoy it. I’m gonna hold on to joy instead of pain. You may call me out on playing Pollyanna if you like.
If you have read this far, thank you. This was a long one. Do you believe we can use joy as a shield against the world and draw our strength from it? Please share what you think with me in the comments.