Being joyful, truly joyful is not so easy. Nobody said it would be, but deep down, we were all secretly hoping to be joyful all day every day. And spoonie or not, we’re looking for it all day every day. That’s why there’s lots of pictures out there on the socials of people doing cool things. It’s really not because they wanna seem cool to other people – although that’s probably a factor – it’s most people are genuinely looking for things that bring them joy.
So where to look for joy if you’re a spoonie?
Having chronic pain, or a chronic illness means being home most of the time or all of the time. Looking for joy is a bit more complicated. If this were any other time, I would first need to explain how boring and monotone it is to be home all day. Like, people understand it, kinda, but I would have to really get into it for a paragraph or five in order for non-spoonies to really feel it.
But hey, it’s may 2020, so spoonie or not: you get it. No need to explain, you’ve been bored at home for over two months now. So thanks to coronavirus (which sucks) we don’t need to explain that anymore (which is, I’m not gonna lie, kinda nice).
Um. You were gonna tell me about being joyful?
Right, yes. Okay so now that we’ve established we can skip that whole part, let’s get on with the main question of today. How do you live a joyful life when there’s no bungeejumping, no trips to Disneyland, concerts, mountain biking, days at the beach, broadway shows or camping trips? Or fun outdoor brunches with friends (because that’s not just something you see in tv-shows, that actually happens, people do that in real life. Right?)
I have been thinking about this a lot. A lot a lot. Throughout the course of my chronic pain, I became aware that my ability to be joyful might be the part of my personality I’m most grateful for. So how exactly does that work? How can you be joyful in spite of the physical pain and all the emotional stuff that comes with that? I wanted to get a better grip on that to see if I can develop that specific character trait even more (is it a character trait? I don’t know what else to call it). Cause it comes in handy sometimes lemme tell you
3 ways to practice being more joyful
Tip #1 – Take Pictures
They don’t have to be perfect amazing pictures. Forget about instagrammable or artsy. You’re not posting any of them, you’re just taking a picture to become more aware of joyful moments.
And I know, listen Iknow. You already tried that and guess what – it didn’t stick. Well, that’s why the important thing is not to force it too much. You don’t have to take a picture everyday. And it’s okay if you’re taking a picture of something that you already took before. Your moment of joy doesn’t have to be a new thing every time (I got about a hundred pictures of delicious latte’s on my phone, who cares they’re not bothering anyone. Unless you post all of those on instagram – which, please don’t).
Besides, this habit doesn’t directly ‘work’ in a tangible way anyway. It’s more that the practice of making a couple of joy pics a week, adds up. Like going to the gym – for your soul ; )
Over time you start to realize, you actually have little joy moments pretty often. Scrolling back through my own pictures – even if they weren’t the most amazing instagrammable pics you ever saw – made me a more grateful and joyful person.
Even better, it helps in the less joyful moments as well.
You’ll start to trust that, even though right now sucks, in a little while, a small joy will present itself to you. Your bad days will still be bad days. Because we all have those sometimes. But you’ll know that little moments always come around – and you also know better how to bring them about yourself, because you have a catalogue on your phone of joyful moments past. You can start tracking the things that made you want to snap a joy pic.
Little bonus tip, keep your joy pics in a different folder on your phone, so they don’t drown in the multitude of pictures you have but are easy to scroll through.
Tip #2 – Be sad
Wait – what?
Yeah, okay, I couldn’t resist taking all the nuance out of it, just for the sake of shocking you.
What this tip is about though, is that sadness and joy have a lot do to with each other. Counter intuitive? I think not. Throughout my chronic pain journey, I was forced to learn letting myself be sad more often. I used to never allow myself to feel negative emotions – or process them if I did feel them. I thought not crying was a sign of strength, that you were a tough person if you never let anything ‘get you down’.
So having chronic pain for example, I just didn’t deal with the emotional side of that, partly cause perfectionism, partly just out of fear for all the sadness.
But the last couple of years I’ve started to cry more often. And that didn’t happen overnight. Weird as it sounds, I really had to learn how to cry. Or maybe it was more about unlearning this “not-crying-habit” I had cultivated.
But it feels like now that the negativity gets an outlet, there’s more room for joy to come in. Maybe the more I accept the bad parts, the less control they have over me and I’m able to be more joyful. Does that make sense?
In short: thanks to my chronic pain journey, I learned that crying can be as healing as laughing. And once I stopped running away from the first, the second became easier as well.
Another bonus tip, watch Pixar’s Inside Out. If you have difficulty emoting, that movie will show you your own brain, how it works and the importance of sadness. And it will do all that a fun way. Also Amy Poehler.
Tip #3 – Fuel yourself with some joyful humans
So here’s the thing. I’m not in any way an expert on the topic of practicing joy.
Luckily, there are a lot of people out there who know way the heck more about this than me. And people who are way the heck more joyful than me. The great thing, is that reading their books, really does rub off on you. As does watching their youtube videos, or watching interviews, anything. Actually seeing people who are truly joyful is super contagious.
Being joyful gets a lot easier when it becomes more of a habit than a destination. And habits need to be developed and maintained, which is why supplying yourself continually with people who got this joy-thing down will help immensely.
For two true experts on the topic of practicing joy I’d suggest reading The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmund Tutu. It’s amazing and I love it.
These two men (who both have been through A LOT), are the most joyful, wise and silly humans on the planet, reading about them and learning from them was in and of itself a joyful activity
And to wrap it up, here are some pictures of them, the most adorable bromance there ever was