Here's my 2017 gift to you--a tool for a more joyful year! I promise you that it's as easy as Instant Coffee, but tastes a whole lot better.
Reflecting on yet another tough year gone by, I felt compelled to write this piece to provide some simple yet enduring strategies to help you generate more joy in your life. In a time when many people seem lost, disoriented, and anxious, I feel it is possible to deploy a simple and easy practice that can bring cherished instances of joy back into your life.
Most of us can recall several moments in our life that bring a smile to our face. I label these as "instances of joy" in our lives. They may be something that we did or something good that happened to us when we were little or any time since.
Recently, while conducting a workshop for 20 teachers at a highly regarded private school, I asked them to raise their hands if they felt that they were flourishing in life. Given that they were a bunch of thoughtful teachers, their immediate response was, "Could you please define what you mean by flourishing?"I had to pause for a moment and quickly come up with a simple way to identify what I meant by the term "flourish." I then asked them the following two questions:
- How many of you sleep well at night? Only three raised their hands. There was a hesitant fourth hand that went up and slowly lowered itself.
- How many of you are not anxious and hyper-vigilant most of the time, concerned about something or the other? Another eight hands went up.
Our state of mind can be easily altered by a few simple tricks. As a survivor of three suicide attempts, I can share some of the tricks that I have used to change my mood; to flourish, or to feel more joyful. These may work for some and not for others. So please make sure you still continue to seek or rely on professional resources to support and help you on your journey to recovery and joy.
My 3 Steps to a More Joyful Mood
1. When you are anxious, frustrated, or in a bad mood, look at yourself in the mirror and smile. When I do this, it seems to change my demeanor instantly. In fact, the more dejected I am, the funnier I look to myself and the more I tend to laugh while looking into the mirror.
2. Develop your own "Joy Inventory" that you can access anytime you choose. Here's how:
a. Brainstorm for a few minutes--no more than five--on all the instances of joy you can recollect from your life. Create a laundry list of them; they may be as simple as listening to a particular song, playing a certain game, talking to a favorite person, visiting an interesting place, eating a tasty meal, etc.
b. In a column to the right side of the list, please rate each instance of joy using the following three criteria: Easy to Re-create, Not as Easy to Re-create, and Difficult to Re-create. For example, listening to your favorite song will be lot easier to actually re-create than making that trip to South Africa. Keep in mind that some things that may have brought you joy may not be worth re-creating. Please make sure that you delete any items from the list that are harmful to you or others, not just in the short term but also in the long term.
c. Sort your list on a paper or using a spreadsheet (sorry, I am a recovering geek) in such a way that those instances of joy that are easiest to re-create are at the very top. As you go down the page, you will have the instances of joy that are harder to re-create.
3. Next time you are feeling down in the dumps, or lacking joy, muster the energy to look at this list and do any of the items that are at the top of the list. Don't just remember or recollect those moments, or instances of joy -- actually re-create them. Listen to that song again. Watch that movie. Open that book or photo album. Call that friend or loved one. I have to say that this simple act brings me out of my sorry mood and brings joy back into my life almost every time.
Just try it for yourself; the entire exercise should not take you more than 10 minutes. Are you willing to invest or risk as little as 10 minutes to see if this can bring you more joy and help you flourish in life? All I ask in return is to share your experiences--good, bad or indifferent, so that we can use your advice to help others.
P.S. Please share openly and freely! Let's bring more joy to more people in 2017!