“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew…Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful...and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.” ― Desmond Tutu
On a recent road trip, I listened to the audio version of The Book of Joy, written by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams. I’ve been exploring the concepts of Joy and Wholeheartedness over the past few years, and this book has long been on my Reading List as a part of that exploration.
I’m glad I finally got to it. The book is set up as a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop, facilitated and interpreted by Abrams. While the book contains many gems well worth the time it takes to mine them, one of the best treasures I discovered was simply the expanded definition of joy that Abrams outlines in the book, which he compiled from other researchers like Paul Ekman and Matthieu Ricard.
Reading through all the nuanced ways joy slips into our lives made me realize I experience far more joy on a daily basis than I previously thought. This points to one of the basic truths of human experience, that we tend to not see the things in our lives that we do not name. A man may have many blessings in his life, but if all he names are his small, daily disappointments, he will be miserable.
So as you read Abram’s list, put a mental checkmark next to each form of joy you experience on a regular basis.
Pleasure (of the five senses)
Amusement (from a chuckle to a belly laugh)
Contentment (a calmer kind of satisfaction)
Excitement (in response to novelty or challenge)
Relief (following upon another emotion, such as fear, anxiety, and even pleasure)
Wonder (before something astonishing and admirable)
Ecstasy or Bliss (transporting us outside ourselves)
Exultation (at having accomplishing a difficult or daring task)
Radiant Pride (when our loved ones earn a special honor)
Elevation (from having witnessed an act of kindness, generosity, or compassion)
Gratitude (the appreciation of a selfless act of which one is the beneficiary)
Rejoicing (in someone else’s happiness)
Delight or Enchantment (a shining kind of contentment)
Spiritual Radiance (a serene joy born from deep well-being and benevolence)
What did you discover? If you’re like me, you may be surprised to find that there’s actually more joy in your life than you thought.
With that in mind, here are 3 simple ways you can create more joy in your life, starting today:
1. Practice appreciating all the ways joy is already present in your life. For the next few weeks, keep a notebook or journal next to your bed. Every night before you turn out the light, write down two or three ways joy showed up in your day using the list of definitions above as a guide.
2. Choose one expression of joy from the list above that you want more of in your life. Then create a simple action you can take to cultivate that expression of joy in yourself. For example, if you want more “Pleasure (of the five senses),” consider taking a cooking class, or getting a regular massage. If you want more “Amusement (from a chuckle to a belly laugh),” consider signing up for an Improv Comedy class, or create a watchlist of favorite comedians or funny movies, and start watching at least one each week.
3. Find a new way to bring joy to others. Both “elevation” and “gratitude” are forms of joy that we can evoke in other people through our actions. Whenever we perform even small acts of kindness, generosity, selflessness, or compassion, the joy in other people rises, which in turn, raises our own joy as well. Using the headings of “Kindness, Generosity, Selflessness, and Compassion” as a guide, think of one, simple action you can begin to practice that will create more joy in others. Then do it, and pay attention to the impact, so you too can feel the joy.
We could all use a lot more joy in our lives these days. How wonderful it is to know that we each have the power to create it.
How will you create more joy in your life this week?