Note: This article on simplifying for joy is by contributing writer, Tammy Strobel.
Recently, I visited a friend in San Francisco. During my stay, we celebrated her birthday and indulged in experiences that filled us with joy. We walked through Golden Gate Park, immersed ourselves in Kehinde Wiley’s moving exhibit An Archaeology of Silence, and savored simple pleasures.
My weekend adventures left me wondering about joy. What is joy exactly? And would a definition – or two – help me pair words with this emotion?
Brené Brown’s book – Atlas of the Heart – answers these questions based on stories and research. Brown said, “Joy is sudden, unexpected, short-lasting, and high-intensity. It’s characterized by a connection with others, or with God, nature, or the universe. Joy expands our thinking and attention, and it fills us with a sense of freedom and abandon.”
When I read Brown’s definition, I thought to myself: Yes, that’s the feeling of joy!
Then I turned to Ross Gay – one of my favorite authors – for guidance. Gay defines delight as “an offshoot of joy.” He said the word delight “suggests both of light and without light.” Gay said, “Joy is what emerges from our tending to one another through the difficulty, making it possible to survive the difficulty … Joy emerges from that.”
I love these definitions because they remind me that joy can coexist with emotions like grief, sadness, and despair. Based on my experiences with joy and grief, this makes sense.
If you’re wondering how to bring more joy into your life, try one of the ideas below. They have helped me focus on joy; especially when I’m dealing with negative thoughts. Also, the list below isn’t all encompassing; it’s meant to be a starting point.
7 Ways Simplifying For Joy Can Help You Savor The Sweetness
1. Keep a joy journal
My morning routine is the best part of my day. I love sitting at the dining room table with my journals, a cup of coffee, and my cat. Typically, I write about moments of joy and delight. This writing exercise only takes 5-10 minutes, and it gives me a happiness boost for the rest of the day. Consider starting a joy journal. Write about experiences, relationships, and simple pleasures that make you feel joyful. Over time, you’ll notice themes and patterns in your writings. Try to incorporate these joyful activities into your daily routine.
2. Simplifying for joy means trying new things
I love trying new things, especially hobbies. For example, I took an introduction to drawing class last year, and learned how to bake simple French cakes at home.
I’ve also been talking to strangers more often because it brightens my day. Last weekend, I took the Amtrak train home and chatted with a friendly woman – called Ann. It was her first time taking Amtrak and she loved the experience. She said, “I was able to read half a novel; something I never have time to do. And, I was able to look at the beautiful views.” It was delightful bonding with Ann over the joy of train travel!
3. Reflect on your strengths
Applying my strengths to my jobs – like writing, research, and communication – has made work so much more enjoyable. This is true of my hobbies, too. Learning new skills and building on my strengths is fun. Plus, I’ve learned that work doesn’t have to be joyless.
4. Turn off your phone, and spend some time alone
Recently, I’ve been turning off my phone, leaving it at home, and spending time alone on short bike rides and walks. Being device free has given me time to reflect on what brings me joy, and I’m more in tune with my feelings. I’m getting more and more comfortable turning off my phone. This feels so good!
5. What type of media are you consuming?
When I feel joyless, one question that I ask myself is – What type of media are you consuming? If I’m feeling sad or anxious, doom-scrolling won’t bring me joy. Instead, I turn to forms of media that inspire me like novels, music, and art. Most of the time, these types of media guide me back to joy.
6. Talk to loved ones
Talking to loved ones makes me feel grateful and joyful. For example, I have recurring weekly calls with a few good friends. In the past, I’ve asked my friends for support; especially when I couldn’t figure out what made me feel joyful. Close friends tend to offer insightful perspectives on my interests, passions, and what lights me up.
7. Make a list of simple pleasures
Simplifying my life helped me rediscover the joy of simple pleasures like noticing my surroundings. For example, I spotted a gorgeous mural in San Francisco last weekend. The mural bore a delightful quote that made me smile: “Joy is the fuel for our collective strength.”
Get out your journal, or a piece of paper, and make a list of simple pleasures that infuse your life with joy. If you’re stuck, steal some ideas from my simple pleasures list. Then post the list in a visible place (like your refrigerator or on a mirror). Seeing the list daily will remind you to incorporate simple pleasures into your routine.
Bonus Tip: Pay attention to “upward spirals”
In Atlas of the Heart Brené Brown said, “Researchers describe the relationship between joy and gratitude as an ‘intriguing upward spiral.’ I also love this term – such a great antidote to the downward spirals that we always hear about and, unfortunately, sometimes experience.”
Pay attention to the joyful “upward spirals” that you experience. They can come from simple pleasures, hobbies, and relationships. And, continue to wonder about what makes you feel alive, grateful, and joyful.
As Ross Gay said, “So I’m writing about joy. The thing is, I’m not exactly sure what joy is. I’m constantly trying to wonder about it. In fact, I’d tell you, that’s one little definition of freedom I enjoy: wondering about joy with other people.”
If you’re looking for more joyful resources, explore the list below:
- Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
- Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay by Cyndie Spiegel
- The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
- Inciting Joy by Ross Gay