As Americans, happiness is something that comes up in conversation a lot. “It’s a nice-paying job, but are you happy?” “We fight sometimes, but overall we’re happy.” “I’m happy summer is finally over and it’s not so dang hot anymore.” We’re even told by receptionists and customer service reps that they’d be “happy” to assist us. But no matter how much we focus on reaching happiness and staying there, it’s a state of nirvana that remains elusive to so many.
The most definitive sign that we’ve reached peak happiness was when Oprah announced that she’s no longer so focused on the concept. “‘Happiness’ is not even a word I use for myself because happiness seems temporal,” she told goop in a podcast interview. Happiness is an all-encompassing ideal that is supposed to last like an eternal flame–but in reality, how you feel changes day by day, even minute by minute. So it’s no wonder that we are tired of chasing the state of immaculate contentment that “happiness” represents.
What’s increasingly replacing happiness is the concept of joy. A new generation of wellness gurus advocate for pursuing joy, a burst of positive emotion that can be measured by physical expression, rather than happiness or long-term satisfaction. Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful: The Surprising Power Of Ordinary Things To Create Extraordinary Happiness, says, “it is far easier to create more moments of joy, and design joy into our lives, than it is to go about thinking about how to make ourselves happier.”
Indeed, when you think about happiness, you might be discouraged by the distance between where you are now, and where you think you need to be to be happy. The best possible scenario is that you’re motivated by the challenge–but how easy is it to feel it’s impossible to be happy *now*, and to put off living your life until you’ve proven yourself?
On the other hand, joy allows you to experience positivity now without holding back until you’ve finally secured your dream job and found your ideal partner. Ironically, feeling immediate joy can help you attain your long-term happiness, according to wellness expert and bestselling author Gabby Bernstein. “Joy is the most powerful vibration you can embody. When you calibrate your energy to the experience of joy, you become a magnet for your desires,” she says. Joy is essential to becoming a “Super Attractor,” which Bernstein defines as someone who is in tune with the energy of the universe and can manifest her desired life. (Sign me up!!) Even if you don’t subscribe to hocus-pocus, it’s easy to see why a smiling, joyful person might attract more good will and opportunities galore than a frowning, cynical, or morose person. If you have positive energy that brightens your corner, the world will take notice.
All this new information hit me like a load of bricks, I must say. I’m nothing if not a striver for happiness, specifically eudaimonia: a lofty Greek feeling of wholesome wellness created by the practice of virtues and a sense of being one with the world. OMG. But the pursuit of eudaimonia often means I am stressed out of my mind working late nights for my passions. Sometimes I’ve felt close to getting unhinged, so hard-pressed I was to write, advocate, compost, care for my animals, buy organic groceries, and on and on ad nauseam. I am virtuous, all right–but the truly carefree and joyful moments in my life are few and far between.
In an effort to spark joy, I tried living for joy for a few days. Lee suggests that color is one of the most powerful ways to amp up joy, so I deliberately put on colorful outfits that I’ve consciously avoided for work because they make it harder to concentrate on tasks at hand. Normally I prefer white, navy, black, etc because they make me calm and focused. Wearing a bright pink dress along with amped up blush and red lipstick really got my energy up, even if I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down for joy.
Also, instead of eating whatever nutritious and healthy thing I could whip up in 15 minutes, I ate much more for my pleasure. I am usually wary of eating for joy, but for a few days I just let it go and thought about what would tickle my fancy the most. On Friday night I went out for Thai food and got pad see ew, and then the next morning I had a vegan roasted vegetable sandwich (dipped in extra olive oil!!) at a bakery next to me. I was surprised to discover that what most changed wasn’t that I was eating a lot more or necessarily unhealthily–but that I wanted to eat outside more, because preparing my own food and hand-washing the dishes can be a grind sometimes. This was a lesson in that my time is also valuable and that if there is a way I can minimize my chores, I’ll experience joy more readily. Or just, like, move to an apartment with a dishwasher.
I’m not sure whether I’ve become a Super Attractor yet, but even a few days’ worth of joy reset has made me feel a lot less weighed down. And in order to pursue goodness–whether joy or eudaimonia or what-have-you–I really need to feel less weighed down.
How To Add More Joy
- Wear bright colors. It doesn’t matter as much which hue you choose, as long as it’s bright and makes *you* feel good.
- Sport sparkling jewels. Who doesn’t feel perkier with light-catching statement earrings or a necklace?
- Turn up the color with lipstick and blush.
- Listen to your favorite, upbeat music. For me this has meant listening to Lana Del Rey, who isn’t exactly known for being happy-go-lucky, but listen to whomever floats your joy boat.
- Spritz on some perfume. Putting on a perfume or essential oil blend perks up my mood instantly. I also love my Saje essential oil diffuser to fill my entire living quarters with soothing vibes.
- Outsource drudgery. This is a hard one because I will always have to clean my cats’ litter box. But will dining out once in a while save you from mental and physical burnout? Will it help if you dropped off laundry?
- Round things help. Lee suggests that angular furniture / architecture elicits a stress response, while round things help you relax. For example, can you really be mad staring at a dumpling? No, because it’s round.
- Go for symmetry. Lee also advises that symmetry helps your brain calm down. Apply this rule when you arrange your cushions on the couch, make your bed, and hang your photos.
What gives you a burst of joy?
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