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R U OK? How finding Joy is a mindfulness practice

Sep 8, 2021

by Carey Little
Clinical Psychologist

The dictionary tells us that “Joy” is a feeling of good pleasure; or someone or something that provides a deep and internalised sense of well-being. “Enjoy” is to take delight or pleasure in an action, activity, or occasion; possess and benefit from something. Joy is an internal feeling of being at peace or content if only for a moment. Happiness is often outwardly expressed and triggered by people and things.

Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the things that give us joy, or to believe we deserve to find joy as we run around in our lives.  Research shows that finding pleasure in the small things is important to maintaining good mental health. Often, we can get lost in thinking that joy only comes from material goods or a major event in life like a wedding or a birthday. Joy, in all actuality, can be found in many different small ways and will have the same effect. More, it turns out that joy from material and extrinsic sources, like spending money is short lived and has less impact than some of the smaller pleasures. In the pandemic, and especially for those in lockdown, we need to remember this more than ever. Joy in something can endure difficulty because it connects to meaning and our values. Joy can be thought of then as tapping into something deeper than happiness. Joy is likely found in doing something that takes us away into a state where we are so immersed in an energised focus.

Small pleasures can be easily overlooked. In my street, which on a Saturday is a busy thoroughfare to a market, a neighbour has a jasmine bush overflowing with rampant boughs of sweet-smelling flowers that tower up to the first floor of his terrace and sweep the street under the fence. This morning, he put up a note on his gate by the bush, which said:

“STOP! Smell the Jasmine because I don’t have roses!

Have the best day you can!”

What a great reminder to slow down and take a moment. What a great way to come into the present moment. To observe how the jasmine makes us feel, to notice which of the senses the jasmine engages. To see how the bees buzz in and out of the blooms. How the wind massages the fronds and how pungent the smell. I get terrible hay fever from jasmine despite loving the smell, but I can still stop from across the road and drink in all its gloriousness and feel the joy that brings me. No thoughts of what is to come later today, no intrusion of the thoughts and actions already gone and past. Just here and now with sight and smell. No consciousness of time. Many people do not realise this small action of noticing and observing, even just for one minute, is a mindfulness practice. It slows down thought and gives room to see more around us that our worries. Getting caught up in social media and on devices interrupts our opportunities to take a moment of joy. Taking a moment with a young person or child to stop and see the simpler things can be great for reducing anxiety.

Perhaps sniffing the roses or the jasmine is not your thing. So, what small things do give you pause? What small things do give you joy?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Play some of your favourite music
  • Play an instrument
  • Sing (at the top of your lungs is best, but even a little humming as you go about things can give you pleasure)
  • Caress your favourite towel, blanket, jumper or soft toy
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Draw something; draw something or colour something with your kids or your partner
  • Read a book; pick up a book and look at the pictures
  • Pat an animal or hug your pet
  • Feel the sun on your face through the window

The list is infinite and personal.

Struggling? See these links for some ideas from others
http://meanttobehappy.com/31-things-that-add-joy-to-my-life/
http://manythingsmegan.com/100-things-that-bring-me-joy/

What are things that give you joy, bring you into the moment and let you lose yourself? Take time on September 9th – R U OK day – to make some joy in your life and celebrate the simplicity of mindfulness, maybe just not as you know it!