One of the fundamental tools of achieving a joyful life is actually taking the decision to choose joy. In other words, managing our mindset.
To do that we need to believe that we always have a choice in how we to respond to circumstances.
This is where it gets interesting. Our choices are often dictated by our beliefs and values – but what if our beliefs and values have been chosen for us by someone else?
Step 1 – Beliefs and Values
In fact, many of our B & Vs are actually remnants of what were told was true when we were children.
So, the first thing to do is work out what are actually your beliefs and values and which of them belong to your parents or other authority figures that have been important in our lives.
Then, question them. Do you actually believe them to be true? Or did you just take them on trust?
When I was young it was considered to be a ‘bad thing’ to marry outside your religion. It made some people very angry, and even broke families up. Most people now know that was a sign of the times and not a fundamental truth in itself, and we’ve changed our views and adapted our values accordingly. Now it’s more important to have a loving and supportive partner than insist they share the same beliefs.
It comes down to this; in order to live a more contented life with a good dose of joy, we need to have that joy as one of our highest values, and we need to believe that to be a good thing, an essential thing, a right thing and something that is of our highest priority.
Step 2 – Habits
How we habitually react and respond will change if our values change.
We all know of someone who is negative in their outlook. Nothing is good enough for them. Would it surprise you to know that they probably don’t actually know they’re doing that? Often, for whatever reason they have developed the habit of looking for the negative in life and that’s what they find and report, and call it realism.
In contrast, optimists have developed the habit of looking for the positives in life, and that is what they find and report. This is also realism.
The funny thing is that realism is subjective. One person’s reality is another’s fantasy. It’s actually simple neuroscience; you tell the brain to show you evidence for what you believe and it will do so. Neither the positive nor the negative outlook is any truer than the other, but one is definitely much more resourceful than the other.
Many of us will have grown up in families where it was considered bad form to express too much joy, or affection or even enthusiasm, and so we tempered our feelings to fit in with society.
The problem is, even as we grow into independent adults we may still temper those feelings unnecessarily, and even express disapproval of those around us who are in the habit of expressing happiness. I know that as a child I was often told to ‘calm down’ and that I would be seen as ‘soft’ or ‘simple’ if I expressed joy or enthusiasm.
Think of a time when something happened that made you feel very happy. Did you censor your physical and emotional reaction? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get to work in changing those habits.
If you’re a habitual grump and it’s not working for you, you can change. Rehearse how you would feel and how you will express it the next time something good happens. It needn’t be a leap in the air and a loud ‘Yeeha!’. It could just as easily be a smile and a word of praise, thanks or encouragement.
Step 3 – Be Kind to Yourself
When you choose to live a joyful life It’s the beginning of a long and winding road .
Like any new skill we’re not going to get it right all of the time and that is just fine.
However, starting on this purposeful road will set you up with the ability to achieve and maintain a greater level of contentment, fulfilment, happiness and joy. In turn that will help safeguard your emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual health, and that is also something we could do with much more of.
Until next time, stay happy. It will intrigue some people, and totally infuriate others!
PS – if you would like a free daily dose of practical joy to kick off your day, follow me on Twitter @thejoyprotocol, or email me with ‘Daily Dose’ in the subject line .