The purpose that rises above all
One thing every human seeks is joy. More commonly it is called happiness – a positive or pleasurable emotion. The evolution of joy is clearly based on our need to seek survival. From the simplest bacterium to the most evolved human, three billion years have embedded the drive for joy into life. When we take a moment to reflect, it will be joy that we seek above all else.
For the bacteria it is simple: move away from threat (anger), suffering (sadness) and starvation (fear) and seek safety (calm), comfort (contentment) and satiety (fullness). We share this with all species on the planet. For many of us, that continues to be the main game in town. An increasing number of us lurch with little awareness between anger, sadness and fear. Whole communities can be lost to joy. Many simply grasp for the easiest scraps of joy to be found in sugar, drugs, sex, domination, etc.
We can do so much better.
There are many shades of pleasurable emotion. At one end we have schadenfreude, which is to enjoy the misery of others. At the other we have bliss, exuberance and contentment. Explore your joyous options. There is no more creative and satisfying pursuit.
It is surprisingly simple. Just practise!
From the most simple, physical and proven to more esoteric here are 15 pathways to joy.
- Use your chopstick for two minutes per day
- Secure eye contact and smile at every greeting
- Watch, read or share something funny every day
- Throw your head back and laugh out loud
- Take each of the words above and find a memory that matches
- When you feel pleasure, positivity or lightness, name the emotion
- Relate a happy moment to loved ones every day
- Meditate, contemplate or pray with a different version of joy
- Make Friday a day to focus fully on maximising your expression of pleasure and joy
- When you notice a worry, exhale slowly and appreciate this moment
- When you ruminate on the past, exhale slowly and appreciate this moment
- Seriously improve your sleep discipline: length, timing and quality
- Exercise, even if a brief short burst, every single day
- Seek sunshine for 20 minutes per day
- Fast for a day a week
The single biggest delusion
Consumer economics has successfully convinced the world that happiness comes from outside. We deserve it, are entitled to, have to buy, must get, need this medicine, will be happy when…
Expecting something or someone to give you joy is clearly delusional. Consumption takes us from joy to anger, disappointment, anxiety, and shame.
Joy is internal. It is a human responsibility, not a right or entitlement. We find joy in our bodies, our emotions and our minds. This is the ultimate privilege of being human. It is your responsibility to explore, discover, train and learn how to express your joy.