Wellness Warriors, has finding joy been a daunting task recently? The events of the last year have left many people psychologically and emotionally drained. With all the fear surrounding our current circumstances, it can feel like the joy has been zapped from inside us. But did you know that joy can affect your lifespan? Many studies have shown that people who reported living a fulfilled life had a lower mortality rate. Interacting with our seniors, or oracles as I like to call them, at Aegis Living has taught me how vital joy really is to longevity.
I believe that we have a human mandate to bring others joy during this difficult time. I am sure you are now wondering, “How can we bring joy to others when we aren’t feeling joy for ourselves?” I think an essential first step is to distinguish between joy and happiness.
Happiness vs. Joy
Happiness is an emotion that comes from a state of well-being, which means that it isn’t long-lasting or permanent. Happiness is fleeting and is equated with feeling pleasure or contentment. For example, happiness could be taking a much-needed vacation, or the person ahead of you paying for your coffee in the Starbucks drive-thru, or attending a wedding of a longtime friend. Happiness relies on external circumstances, feelings, and emotions.
Conversely, joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It’s a more comprehensive sense of purpose and a feeling of contributing or belonging to something greater than yourself. Living a life that you can be proud of, having a feeling of purpose, and exploring your passions are all examples of things that can cultivate joy.
It makes sense that people who felt they lived a fulfilled and joyful life had a lower mortality rate. If you feel a sense of purpose, passion, and belonging, you have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to take care of yourself and others. What type of thinking and behaviors can we integrate into our lives to cultivate more joy, and in turn, more longevity?
Cultivating Joy During Difficult Times
Would you like to be a “cultivator of joy?” It’s easier than you think, Below are five simple things you can do right away to guide you on the path to a more joyful life.
Live in the moment. The first is living in the moment. I know, during this past year, I have been guilty of looking ahead and telling myself just to wait until things get better. None of us could have known how long this would go on. I remember thinking, “I will do that after quarantine is over,” and looking forward with cautious optimism. I think we have all found ourselves putting life on pause and looking ahead to when a safe vaccine is available to the public. However, when we do that, we miss the moments of life that are happening right now. Even though life today is more complicated than what we are used to, we must embrace and hold onto the precious moments we have in the present. Living in the moment is the ultimate way to appreciate what you have and evokes feelings of gratitude.
Serve Others. Serving others takes the focus off yourself and your problems. When you are of service to others, often you realize that the most important things you have to offer are not things at all. Sometimes what you have to offer, such as your time, presence, and attention, comes from a place much deeper than the material. In a previous blog, I talked about how important empathy is right now. I’ve been talking about empathy a lot lately—to my family, Aegis Living team, business peers, friends—and we need to be empathic more than ever before. For me, empathy requires action. No true act of service, however small, can ever really be wasted. Knowing that you have made a difference in someone else’s life is a reminder that humanity is all in this together. In doing so, you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. It’s the realization that you actually receive when you give.
I know firsthand how fulfilling it is to be of service to others. In my free time, I run a program called D-One where I mentor Division 1 College athletes. I am always available to take their calls and offer advice on anything from finances to serious life decisions. Even if they just need someone to listen, I am happy to be there for them. Fostering those relationships with the students helps me as much as it helps them.
On a larger scale, this last April, we launched a charitable initiative in response to the lockdown called Seattle Seniors Strong. We raised $322,000 to help homeless and homebound seniors during this trying time. Our efforts in this initiative may have been measurable, but we can do more, and we must think bigger!
Integrate the three Ms: Meditation, Movement, and Mindfulness. Over-stimulation is an unavoidable side effect of the pandemic. The combination of working from home, helping kids adjust to virtual learning, spending most of our time indoors, and being forced to connect through different types of screens can be taxing. We must take the time to slow down, focus on breathing, and give our minds and bodies permission to rest. Studies have shown remarkable evidence that “quieter” brains are associated with longevity. This is because meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and enhances self-awareness. Mindfulness can be practiced. This simple change in perspective allows you to appreciate the colors in fall leaves, the smell of cookies baking, the sound of the rain, or a beautiful piece of music. These moments are available to us all the time; we just need to be mindful enough to notice them.
Looking for the bright spots. For many this year has been overwhelming and exhausting, to say the least. I find it helpful to remind myself that we are all in this together. The truth is, no matter what kind of life you have, no matter what your circumstances, there will be tough times. However, there will also be days when you feel so happy to be alive that you’ll be joyous and inspired. Pandemic or not, we are still going to feel the complexity of life. Instead of looking at everything that has gone wrong, let’s look for those bright spots from the opportunities we have been given and make something beautiful from them.
Keep a gratitude list. A gratitude list is a great way to help you focus on the blessings and big bright spots in your life. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude experienced more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and have stronger immune systems. Over time, gratitude begins to open a new world to you because you start to manifest good things in your life. Celebrating all of the beautiful things in your life increases your self-esteem. It makes you feel like you are deserving of everything in this world because it is impossible to have a negative attitude with a spirit of gratitude. I challenge you to join me in a 30 days of joy challenge, and let’s break the internet with joy!
30 Days of Joy Movement
It’s important to take care of yourself, so you can live a happier and healthier life. Grab a copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More, and get on the right track to a long, healthy, and fulfilling life!
I challenge all of us to put more joy out into the world by starting a 30 Days, 30 Moments of Joy challenge on social media. This runs from November 25th to December 25th, 2020. For 30 consecutive days, post a photo on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter of a person, place or thing that has brought you joy. Use #MomentsofJoy to tag your post and write a few words describing the moment to others. Join me in spending the last month of the year putting a smile on someone else’s face.
Remember, happiness is an emotion caused by dopamine firing in the brain. It is a beautiful feeling when it happens, but we can’t chase happiness. We have to pursue joy—a joy that gives us deep satisfaction and pride—and there’s a difference.
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!