A Return to Authentic Joy

Over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing heavily on the roles Hope and Fear play in our lives on a daily basis. In light of world events, it seemed to be a topic I needed to address. It’s not enough, however, to talk about Hope. Though it’s important, it’s equally as important to discuss Joy. And frankly, we all could use a bit more joy these days, don’t you think? But how do we find our joy? What does that even look like?

One of the primary issues my clients come to me with is a feeling that they’ve lost their way. They wake up one morning, usually later in life, and say, “How did I get here?” or “What’s this all for?”

It’s a bit like an existential crisis – though over the years I’ve narrowed it down to more of a lack of authentic joy. As a result, one of the early questions I ask clients who are expressing this need is:

“When you were five years old, what brought you joy? What made you belly laugh?”

This question not only serves to create a language and discussion around joy, but it reminds them that they know what joy feels like, and that they once experienced it effortlessly.

In a recent example, I had a client whose answer was simply: “My dog,” which, in a panic, she immediately followed with: “But I don’t want to have a dog right now!”

I reassured her, “Don’t worry – you won’t have to go get a dog to rekindle your authentic joy.”

After talking through her experience of having a dog at 5 years of age, and why it was the first thing she thought of when asked about joy, we uncovered what the dog represented for her, which turned out to be:

  • play
  • unconditional love
  • companionship

This client was single, had great friendships and relationships with others, but felt she was missing the elements that she thought would allow her to play, feel free to be herself, and share that joy with someone else.

Once we identified this as the path back to adding more joy into her life, we could then work out how, when, and why these things were important – as well as how she could incorporate these various aspects in her life.

As children, we laugh freely, love openly, and live joyously. Our lives are mostly well-cared for by someone else, which allows us to be ourselves more completely. As adults, the reverse is true. Not only do we feel that we often need to “be” something other than what we are, we also spend a lot of time managing things for others. As a result, we can feel disconnected from ourselves, and from authentic joy.

In my experience, the path back to authentic joy involves these steps:

  1. Remembering what brings us true unabated joy,
  2. Understanding what it represents,
  3. Seeking it in a new way, and
  4. Adding it back into our lives.

This is the recipe I have developed for returning to a more joyful state of being. For me personally, it looks like having music playing throughout my day (I like to sing), making time to reconnect with friends near and far, and prioritizing time in nature. What does it look like for you? :)

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