Living Joyfully

What is the image you have when you think of living joyfully? Is it something that you do daily? Is it a dream you have? Is it something simple?

When we’re relaxed, joy seems relatively easy to come by. But if we’re under stress, we often forget about it.

The definition of stress is, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” What’s interesting about this is how it is defined as a state. Stress is not permanent, which means it will change and we can alleviate stress by finding joy.

I recently finished reading Shawn Achor’s book called, The Happiness Advantage. Achor skillfully goes through research and studies of the positive impact of happiness and positive thinking. It has been proven in various studies that we do better when we’re happy and thinking positively and optimistically.

If you’ve been part of a team that’s doing well, you’ve experienced this. When a team is performing well, happiness gets passed from one member to another and the odds of them performing well again are greater than a team that is unhappy or stressed out.

For the next stressful state that you experience, here are a few ideas to incorporate happiness and joy to help shift you into a place where success comes much easier.

Creating space – physically and mentally: Do you have a spot where all the things like to collect? As of late, mine is in my kitchen. When the clutter is in the kitchen, it takes up space in my mind, and I get stuck thinking about removing the clutter. Miraculously, when I find a spot outside of the kitchen for the various items, my brain has more space to focus on other things. The same type of experience happens when I neglect time for self-reflection and downtime. Creating space in our lives for clearing the clutter – both physically and mentally – brings joy.

Focus on the good: The other morning I woke up at 2:00 am, sick as a dog. I was in a lot of pain, it could have been food poisoning. I kept telling myself to focus on the good and, well, it helped! I knew this pain would pass. I tried something from Achor’s book, which he talks about in an entirely different context -I smiled. It’s a good thing no one was around because it was probably pretty funny – sick girl, smiling through her pain. Oddly enough, the smiling helped too. Obviously what I’m sharing here is extreme. However, sometimes stress can be painful. Give yourself the gift of focusing on the good and smiling and see how it helps.

Surround yourself with what you love and cultivate it: What’s your favorite color? Is it in your house? When you see it, do you smile? Do you have a picture of your loved ones in a spot where stress creeps in and when you see it, you laugh, smile, take a deep breath, or relax? Give yourself the freedom of surrounding yourself with what you love.

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Move: This one is so simple and, yet, when we’re stressed, it can be challenging for us to get up and move! Exercise increases our endorphins (they make us feel good) and improves our mood. It may be as simple as standing up or going for a brisk walk. Move to feel better.

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Express yourself: Dance, sing, draw, speak… there are so many ways to express our uniqueness. Whether you’re dancing in the kitchen, singing in the car, or out on the floor showing your moves, express who you are, authentically, and joy will follow.

Laugh: Hahahahahahahahahahaha – do this out loud while thinking of something freaking hilarious and tell me how it feels. Laughter can decrease tension and even increase our immunity. What an awesome thing because it feels so good!

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Learn: Is there a subject that fascinates you and you’ve had it on your list to learn more but you’ve been too stressed to do anything about it? Now is the time, my friend. Google podcasts or audiobooks on your topic and listen during your commute or while you’re working in the yard, folding laundry, cooking, etc. Lately I’ve been fascinated with different lifestyles and have been listening to The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss. It recharges me to listen to ideas that I haven’t heard of or even thought of before. Did you know you can live really well in a penthouse in Buenos Aires for $1500 a month? I digress…

Decompress: There have been studies done that say we actually prefer doing something over nothing. Isn’t that interesting? It is to me because some days I know I’d be better off sitting on the beach staring at the waves. And, yet, when I truly think about it, I’m usually reading while I’m sitting there. What does decompression look like to you? What calms you?

Connection: Even the most introverted among us thrive on connection. If the thought of grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or colleague sends you over the edge right now because you’re super stressed, can you send a quick text to someone to let them know they’re on your mind? Keep it honest, let them know you’re in the middle of a stressful time but want to hear what’s going on with them. This simple way of connecting will keep things in perspective. And, remember, stress is a state – meaning, it’s temporary.

Living joyfully is a choice and we have the power to create it, continue it, and share it. Here’s to all the little things, big things, and in-between things, that bring a smile to your face.
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