Although my job seems laid-back and mellow, I’m hardly a laid-back and mellow person (I take my job seriously!). I’m that person who is the first to put away the blanket and rush out of yoga class. In the morning, I gulp down my decaf soy latte while typing away furiously on the laptop. At least a few days a week I skip lunch in order to finish working before dinnertime (so un-Peaceful Dumpling!). Even stuff I do to relax are filled with intention and purpose–“active relaxation,” as I say.
This intense rhythm of life I’ve set for myself was wearing me down. Even though my daily life in New York had plenty of very positive aspects, I was starting to lose touch with one of the most important things: the joy of living. It was as though I’d become a reliable co-worker or trusted confidante to myself, but not a best friend that I laugh and have fun with. It took me a trip to Paris to realize this, but life really is not a race, you versus everyone, all ending at the same finish line. It’s more of a meandering walk, a journey, or an uncharted voyage, and the more you take more time to rest and take in its beauty, the happier you’ll be.
This sounds like a message I’ve been preaching through Peaceful Dumpling for a long time, but in my personal life I was secretly resistant to the idea of joie de vivre. Strangely, in the depths of my subconscious it was something I couldn’t deserve or afford. I’d thought that there are people who can afford to enjoy themselves and people who have to work hard (like, blood sweat and tears), and I’ve always belonged in the latter group. But–again, since Paris–it’s dawned on me that you’re as deserving anyone else of the “good things in life,” whatever that means for you. And not when you’ve proven yourself or accomplished your goals in some distant future–but here and now.
Ready for some tips for more joie de vivre?
1. Take things slowly.
I like to do things fast, fast fast. Sometimes so fast that I give myself little nicks while shaving my legs (ouch!!). Not only can taking things fast be painful (literally), it also robs the pleasure of doing simple things with care. Do a little experiment: give yourself extra time and dress slowly. Spend time choosing your jewelry and putting on lipstick. Even something as mundane as brushing your hair can feel so luxurious when you do it slowly.
2. Do one thing at a time.
The thing that really impressed me here is the cafe culture. There are cafes on every corner, full of people doing nothing but linger over a cup of coffee or wine. And I mean quite literally–I haven’t seen a single person working on a laptop or even reading. Mostly people chat mildly or–most likely–sit facing the street, just people watching. (I find it so very telling that when you go to a cafe as a party of two, they will seat both of you facing the street rather than each other). This runs counter to my normal mode of multitasking at any time of day. Even when I’m doing something fun for myself, I make things so much more complicated than necessary: ie) painting my nails while reading a magazine while listening to music. Try just focusing on one thing at a time and see how much more relaxing that is.
3. Nourish your soul.
You spend quite a bit of time, effort, and resources on nourishing your body: organic and local produce, homemade meals, gym membership, new running shoes. You probably also spend on nourishing your intellect, with books and tickets to shows. But how much time and effort do you spend on nourishing your soul?
Do the things that make you feel more aware–about yourself, and about life. Do something you’ve always wanted to do whether that is going on a trip, or getting a meaningful tattoo with your best friend. Take time to write down your thoughts in a journal. Meditate or go for a long walk. Have a real conversation with yourself, not just going through lists of to-do’s in your head.
4. Create rituals out of routines.
Routines keep you efficient and organized, but the key to elevating them to “joyful” parts of your life is to ritualize them. Add a little symbol of self-care to your routines to make them your own, personal rituals. A simple act of getting lunch becomes a ritual when you say hello to “your” barista. A spritz of your favorite perfume makes getting dressed a beautiful ritual instead of what you must do to go to work.
5. …But don’t be afraid of breaking your own rules.
Being health-minded, I’m no stranger to setting up rules for balanced living. I workout most days of the week, clean the apartment every Friday, drop off compost Thursdays and Sundays…While it’s good to have some rules for how you want to live, don’t let them become the guiding principles for your every decision. It’s okay if you don’t have perfectly balanced, irreproachable meals three times a day. Yesterday I had a big breakfast, then nothing until late afternoon–when we broke fast with a fresh baguette and jam. Then we made a big vegan dinner and I even had a little granola bar for dessert. That’s not how I eat at home and yet it’s fine and I woke up feeling just great (at 10 a.m., no less).
The point is, you’ve got to let go of your inner control freak to enjoy life. Be your own friend, not a disciplinarian.
What are some ways you add joie de vivre to your day?
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling