Cultivate Joy!

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 I don’t know about you, but I can certainly tell you that my life, of late, has been missing something! At first, I wasn’t quite sure about exactly what it was. I had gone over all my checklists, reviewed all the necessary tasks for caring for myself and my family, been sure to address all those nagging issues, that have gone unresolved for a long time, and still, I wasn’t able to put my finger on it.  When I began to question why I was feeling unfulfilled, always sluggish in carrying out my day-to-day routine, and a general sense of malaise, it finally occurred to me:  I was lacking joy in my life! Sometimes, we become so wrapped up in doing things, checking off the proverbial boxes, and keeping score with all the different responsibilities our lives are comprised of, that we actually forget to cultivate joy. Yes, joy must be cultivated; it is not a given for anyone. Like a solid relationship or a longstanding habit, we need to be mindfully aware of how to bring joy into our lives, and be committed to doing so.  This would beg the question:  “How do I cultivate joy in my life?”  Well, there are many ways. It is imperative to search your soul and figure out exactly what joy means to you. 

It is not the same for everyone, nor does it always remain the same, for ourselves. Like all things in life, it changes:  with our age, our circumstances, our interests and our values. Joy, for a teenager, might mean hanging out with friends, playing sports or going to a movie. For a person in their twenties and thirties, it could be found in a serious relationship, a new job, or a first home. For those of us in midlife and beyond, it could mean retirement, welcoming grandchildren or traveling.  Joy can be found in doing simple things, such as taking long walks, catching up with friends and family, spending time in solitude. It can also be found in grander efforts, such as personal growth, trying new activities, meeting new people or new goals. Cultivating joy is a personal journey, which can also include collaborating with significant people in our lives. It can be found in the sound of birds chirping, watching a child at play or reading a favorite book, in meditation, in community with others, and in so many other endeavors! There are countless ways to incorporate joy into our daily lives and to create a space in our hearts for gratitude, which also begets joy.  We need to identify our sources of joy, build into our daily routine both time for and attention to focus on the joyful moments, while making efforts to acknowledge our gratitude, along the way. Be they big or small ways, simple or elaborate happenings, solitary or communal experiences, there is joy to be had for each of us, if only we can envision it, prioritize it and appreciate it!