Oh What Fun! Why Making Time for Joy Makes a Difference
My clients look at me with a puzzled expression when we talk about what they do to cultivate joy in their life. These high-achieving, lovely people can’t come up with any hobbies or pleasurable activities that they currently do, and they fumble to remember hobbies and activities that they once enjoyed.
They are not a lone. Loss of joy is a real epidemic in our society today. We don’t have time for joy. We think that scrolling Facebook and Instagram create real joy. Maybe. But maybe not. Social media scrolling can ignite comparisons and negative thinking that break us down rather than lift us up.
We are not praised or rewarded for taking time to engage in joy activities. Reading a book or magazine for pleasure, sitting outside, taking a non-power walk without multi-tasking, or watching a rom-com on a Friday night just for the heck of it are activities as foreign as items on a Greek menu. These seem to be on the list of things that we’ll get to…someday…when everything is calm. When you have everything figured out. When time stretches before you. I would like to make a case for doing those activities now and not using the “when….then” position to postpone joy. It feels irresponsible to do something joyful when there are dishes to do, laundry to fold, shopping lists to create, and an endless number of work tasks to do.
The reason I listed those joy activities is above is because those are all activities that I have consciously embarked on over the past two months. My life has felt frantic and frenetic. My choices and thoughts have had a lot to do with feeling caught in that harried pace.
I decided to choose differently and that included choosing to think differently. I gave myself permission to have fun…what a concept?!
I didn’t stop there, though. I acted on that thought and read a book for pleasure (okay, full disclosure it was a book in preparation for our new Binge Eating program, but it was a true story and it was great. It’s HERE if you are interested). I sat outside with my son and read books about outer space (By the way, did you know Pluto is no longer a planet?!). I rested in the grass outside with my husband and looked at the sky and talked about nothing that was on our shared To-Do list. I took a leisurely walk and looked at flowers on my lunch break.
And the biggest change is that I’ve been watching funny movies each week. It’s become a Friday night habit. I, like many of my clients, often didn’t feel “productive” watching a movie, especially light-hearted flicks like Wine Country, Always Be My Maybe, and Murder Mystery (I’m laughing aloud now as I think about the “second goat” line!). Yes, they are predictable. They are also funny, and laughing does a body good :) Laughter is relaxing and reduces stress. Less stress allows our nervous system to chill out. We can switch from the stress response to the relaxation response mode of the nervous system. Healing happens in the in the relaxation response. That’s the reason why laughter is said to be the best medicine.
In addition, being less stressed helps us to feel better and to show up better (at work or at home). And when I’m less stressed, I enjoy my life more.
Here are some ideas to bring more joy into your life. Give yourself permission to try one (or more!):
Watch a funny movie (you knew that one was coming).
Listen to music and dance.
Try a new activity. Think about activities you enjoyed as a child (e.g, roller skating, biking, swimming).
Do something artsy. Take a class or borrow the kids’ crayons. It doesn’t have to be a Picasso do cultivate joy.
Read a fiction book.
Day trip to a new or a favorite town.
Look around the next time you are stuck in traffic or on a walk. Find beauty or humor in the little things.
Take a nap.
Surprise a friend with a call or a letter (on real paper) or a visit.
Whether your preferred method of creating joy is goat yoga, running through your sprinkler, or hanging out with funny people, make time for it now…not later. Creating joy creates a healthier, happier you.