Pursue Joy

A few weeks ago I listened to a radio show by Radleigh Valentine and he said on average, people laugh 15 times a day. Fifteen times! And then he asked, “Do you remember if you laughed at all yesterday?” He pointed out it’s easy to remember the unpleasant things – the times we’re sad or scared or anxious – but the joyful times, the laughing times, are easier to forget. He encouraged his listeners to take note of when they laugh, to see if it adds up to 15 times. And then he said something really interesting: Plan for joy.

When he said, “Plan for joy,” I wanted to pause his radio show so I could take that in. It hadn’t occurred to me I would need to plan for joy – I assumed joy would sort of happen if I bumbled around in my life. But you know what? That’s not true – I mean, sure, I stumble across joy every once in awhile, like an adventurer coming into a clearing – but it wasn’t necessarily something I planned for or actively pursued. I assumed I’d experience joy once my life was peachy keen – when my financial situation improved, the love of my life came along, etc. I think you know this already, but it’s a good reminder: joy is the quiet moments, the small events that we may not remember long after they happen. It’s having a friend call you up spontaneously asking to hang out. It’s laughing along with a television show. It’s finding out the book you put on hold at the library has become available.

Joy can be spontaneous, but it can also be planned and pursued – and that’s what struck me the most about Radleigh’s show. In an interesting juxtaposition, I had a powerful therapy session this week. I went from fearful, anxious, and insecure in one moment to laughing, goofy, and joyful in the next. My therapist had me remember a moment I felt joyful, loved, and appreciated, and embody it. She asked me to notice what colors I associated with the experience, and then asked if a movement or sound accompanied it. It did – joy for me looks like strutting with my toes flexed and my heels out singing along to “Let’s go fly a kite” or Life of Brian’s “Always look on the bright side of life.”

What amazes me is no matter how icky I feel, strutting around my cottage and singing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” automatically puts a smile on my face and lifts my mood. I can be melodramatic and get caught up in what’s wrong with my life. Lately, like I wrote on my birthday, I’m noticing what’s right. I’m seeking joy even in the midst of the things I do not like. And I’m remembering joy is not winning the lottery or buying a new car -- it’s humming to myself while I walk; it’s remembering all the times I laughed yesterday; it’s making an active effort to improve my mood because I am planning for and pursuing joy.

I dream of a world where we remember we can access joy at any time. A world where we all have that one song that brings a smile to our faces. A world where we remember the times we laugh. A world where we not only experience joy, but we pursue it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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