Finding joy is vital to living a meaningful life. Between all the peaks and valleys of the human experience, we need positivity to keep us afloat. Positivity, in this case, is quite literally “the little things.”

I didn’t grow up in a house that nurtured joy. Don’t get me wrong; I led a happy and relatively carefree childhood. I didn’t worry about anything a child shouldn’t, and it wasn’t until my adolescence that I would have considered myself to be depressed or sad. However, I did not live in a home that stopped to smell the roses. But, rather, one that would grumble about how the roses weren’t red enough or blocked the view of the poppies.

The thing is, depression can be something we hide deep. We keep it concealed as much as possible so that it’s only our habits — like reclusiveness — that give us away. Chronic discontentment, though, that’s something you wear. It’s swirling all around us, trying to mix itself in unnoticed.

Is constant disappointment a symptom of high expectations? I have friends like this. Nothing is ever good enough or the way it should be. It’s not snobby, but it is full of judgment; often self-judgment.

This is for those of us that will not allow joy to stay. 

Why won’t we let joy remain in our lives? Is it better to hold everything to such a high standard that we remain unfulfilled? That we are constantly in flux between anger and disappointment?

Why am I late?

This bridge is always closed!

I asked for this medium rare!

Dwelling on unmet expectations is just a recipe for becoming discontent and unattached.

Ned Hallowell, MD, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happinesssays,

Joy is the intense moments—the moments of success, the moments of connection, the moments of really appreciating beauty and saying, ‘Oh wow, I’m so lucky to be alive!’

Finding joy is one of those things that help us to get through the challenges of life. Without finding joy, the weight of our misfortunes can seem unbearable.

We all have graciousness in ourselves, which increases our capacity for joy because we are grateful for what we’re given. It’s not just big life accomplishments that bring us joy, but small instances that light up our lives. Furthermore, we each possess the inner awareness to see other people and gestures for what they are. For example, maybe your partner is a grump lately, but they’ve been putting in extra hours to take you on a vacation, or to buy your son or daughter a bike. What can you do to help them in finding joy in the fact that they have an opportunity to spoil the ones they love?

We all have the capacity for selfishness as well as deep selflessness. There are times that we think only of ourselves and how the actions of others affect our feelings. However, when we take the road less traveled — the one of mindfulness and patience — we discover the intention and gift beneath the actions of others. Our loved ones are trying to cater to us. It might not be in the way we’d prefer, but should we have a choice in that?

Each one of us has it within ourselves to live in contentment and joy. Sometimes, it’s just about recognizing all the great things about your life! Joy is not merely the things that excite us but the things that allow us to forget the things that do. The wind in your hair, wine on a lover’s breath, the sound of rain on your window pane. These are the things that allow us to find joy in the mundane, in the stressful, and the monotonous.

Due to the dopamine released by being creative, we know we can experience happiness by being co-creators in our lives. A calm and relaxed state is known to increase our creative flow and by giving into our creativity, we can feel fulfilled. We each have the capability to “dance like no one’s watching” and to play like we’re kids again.

Sometimes when I feel detached from my actions or what I’m doing, I do a self-check. I do this by picturing my favorite photo of myself as a child. In it my cheeks are fat, my smile is wide, and my expression is exuberant. When I visualize myself during this time I remember who I am. I remember experiencing joy and remember that nothing is so terrible, that I will rise above it all.

Remember that you have the ability to live a life full of joy! The best part is, you don’t have to change a thing!

Are you allowing joy to stay? Where are you finding joy?

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