We all have certain beliefs that society deems will make us happy. There are those of us who believe in fairytales where everyone lives happily ever after. If you’re one of them, then you are not alone because many of us grew up with this notion as truth. Or maybe you believe in the perception that being rich, skinny, or famous equals joy. The truth is that everyone is entitled to live joyfully. Regardless of your beliefs, life is not perfect and there is no magic potion to living a joyful life, rather it takes effort, awareness, and resilience to stay on the joy path. Therefore, it doesn’t mean that we must stop believing in fairytales or put our dreams aside, instead hope helps to keep joy alive.
We show you how to dispel three joy myths that get in the way of living a joy-filled life.
Joy Myth 1: Happiness and joy are one and the same.
Our research and experience show quite the opposite. Happiness is fleeting because it’s based on external factors or circumstances like attaining more money, objects, or the perfect life. Often, people can get caught in what we call the “happiness trap” when being happy is dependent on the next boost, and therefore, it is short-lived. For example, if we get the promotion, we are happy, and then it fades away. Or we get the new car that we saved up for, it feels great the moment we drive off the lot—however, the “new car” effect goes away and so does the happy feeling.
Conversely, joy is an inside job. According to the teachings of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, joy is a deep feeling of contentment and is cultivated over a lifetime. It requires us to notice what’s good and right in our world. When we are satisfied from within, it helps us through difficult and challenging times. One way to start is by fostering joy daily with the simple practice of noticing and appreciating what we refer to as “joy gems”—life’s little pleasures such as a hot shower, a child’s belly laugh, eating your favorite dessert or seeing a sunset. Simply put, happiness is temporary, and joy is everlasting.
Joy Myth 2: Everything must be perfect to be joyful.
Perfection is the greatest obstacle for living a more joy-filled life. How often do we go through life missing the good stuff because it isn’t good enough? Too often we focus on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. Many of us are guilty of putting our lives on hold and missing opportunities, while we wait for the perfect person, job, house, etc. to come along to make our lives better.
The desire to find perfection can prolong our discontentment, and build resentment, anger, or sadness—a joyless path. The secret is to lower expectations about how life has to be, and instead, experience the joy that is right in front of you. After all, no one is perfect, and no one is living the perfect life. When we can accept life’s imperfections, the world opens up, and joy becomes more present, more often… and so, the joy journey begins.
Joy Myth 3: Joy is out of our control.
The third of our joy myths implies that having a joyful life relies on others’ approval or situations to align before we can experience it. The truth is being joy-filled is a choice and within our control. It’s our innate right and is available to each of us at any moment. Joy doesn’t discriminate based on age, lifestyle, culture, religion, or anything else. It resides in each of us if we are willing to pause long enough to notice it. Being joy-filled requires us to set an intention to live a life of joy even during difficult times.
When we take time each day to think positive thoughts or experience joy, even in the smallest moments, it helps us through the tough times with more ease. Each day, good or bad, there is a choice. One quick way to increase joy is to notice your thoughts. Are they positive or negative? Choose to start your day in a positive way; your mind is powerful. Take a moment and breathe deeply, name three reasons to be grateful, or find one thing to do today that is in your control and brings joy. What will it be? Take a walk, call a friend, watch a funny show, or cook a yummy meal—whatever you decide, cherish it fully. Choose joy daily and remind yourself of what you do have control over, and then let go of the rest.
These three joy myths get in the way of living a truly joy-filled life. Start today and cultivate joy from the inside out. Take a moment now and notice the joy gems, be grateful for what you have and what’s good, rather than what’s not. Beware of the happiness trap. The good news is that even in this imperfect world, we can choose to live more joyfully. After all, joy provides comfort and helps you endure even through the most stressful of times. Remember, you have the ultimate say and control. What will you decide? Our hope is that you choose joy.