We do not always take it seriously, but joy is the emotion that most compels us to be in the present, to value what we have and let ourselves go. We tell you how to discover it even in the small and feed it on a day-to-day basis.
In 2003, actor Jan Hammenecker got into a Brussels subway car with all his serious, taciturn and half-asleep passengers. Jan started laughing to himself. At first nobody paid much attention to him, probably thinking that he was crazy. But before his persistence, little by little, without being able to avoid it, people joined him until the whole car finished with a clean laugh.
Joy is contagious. And luckily, you don’t need a strong reason to show up. With this simple gesture, it is certain that all the passengers arrived at their jobs in a different way. If you put “Bodhisattva in the subway” on the internet, you will find the video and you can catch it. In addition, I propose 8 steps to train and cultivate your joy.
1. TAKE LAUGHTER SERIOUSLY
We don’t take joy seriously enough. In general, it is associated with naivety, simplicity of character and childishness. It also seems that we need to justify why we are happy. One study shows how we tend to underestimate the joy that everyday events bring about – something we have learned well over the last year.
Students were asked to create a time capsule and put things from their day to day in it, such as a recent conversation, a social event they had been to, their three favorite songs. They had to imagine what feelings they would awaken when opening the capsule three months later. Most said they would be neither surprised nor curious. However, the opposite happened: when the moment came, everyone was more anxious and happier than they had anticipated.
2. ENJOY THE SMALL
Do you also underestimate the everyday things that give you joy? Do you always need a reason to smile? What could make you smile right now about what you have around you? We tend to be so busy, so focused on obligations and ourselves that we disconnect from the joie de vivre.
We take it for granted that we need more to be happy. And we practice the cult of effort to achieve it and progress. We need so much control and anticipation that we forget to give space to this emotion that roots us with life. Pursuing an ideal of happiness, we do not enjoy the small and, in the end, more nutritious: breathing, hugging, watching our child grow, enjoying a ray of sunshine.
3. DROP THE REASON
From the first world we tend to be surprised or to despise the joy that accompanies in many moments people from poor countries and the South, who can dance in the rain as a way to feel happy. “How do they get it?” We ask ourselves. The Buddhist tradition gives us clues on how to give joy the importance it deserves. It teaches us that joy and happiness come from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things that you have been hanging on that are not really useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go,” Thich Nhat Hanh advised us.
In fact, in countries like India, when people are invited to breathe, the first thing they do is exhale. Here we do the opposite: we take a breath. We believe that happiness consists in accumulating and having. But joy rather prefers lightness. To cultivate it, you have to learn more to value what is here and now and what you already are.
4. CONNECT WITH YOUR INSTINCTS
The rationalism that prevails in our day to day, and that is the basis of our culture, has led us to deny the natural and instinctive, the body and the pleasant sensations that it gives us daily. To find a representation of joy you have to go back to Greek mythology: the goddess Aphrodite exemplified love and passion. Then it was considered that that animal part that is in every human being was also perfect.
Aphrodite appeared accompanied by the three graces: Euphrosine, Talia and Áglae. They were the incarnation of the spell, the joy and the beauty, all aspects linked to the fertility of nature. They presided over banquets, dance performances, and any joyous event. And it is that joy requires parking the reason so that the pleasant sensations occupy the seat of honor. It implies being impacted by the senses before the beauty of a body, a landscape or the taste of a food. It involves admiring and enjoying the miracle of life without question or judgment.
5. GO FROM INSPIRATION TO MADNESS
Plato said that joy was like the enthusiasm that the poet experiences when he feels inspired or the lover in love. But from the Renaissance on, this emotion began to devalue and to be associated with madness, to be considered negative for promoting lack of control.
Later, Descartes alerted us to its dangers. It was not until much later that Nietzsche claimed the power of joy to unite us with life. Contemporary French philosophers also point out their ability to get us out of the tragedy that can accompany existence.
6. SEEK BODILY PLEASURE
How can we now regain this link with joy? The body is our vehicle to reach it. The philosopher Salvador Pániker used to say that “happiness is above all a bodily state.” Who has not ever felt joy simply for the fact of having enjoyed a good meal or moving to the sound of good music? In fact, the word joy derives from the Latin word alicer or alecris, which means “alive and lively.” It is enough to move the hips to begin to lower the volume of our thoughts and awaken the joy.
7. RECONNECT WITH THE BREATH
According to the psychologist Susana Bloch, we can also breathe in a certain way to connect with this emotion, one of the four basic emotions that we have. Bloch determined what type of breathing was associated with each emotion. This way you can connect with the joy right now: inhale briefly and sharply through your nose and exhale in quick jerks with your mouth open while stretching your lips horizontally, bringing the edges up (as if you are smiling) and showing your teeth. Keep your eyes semi-closed without looking at a fixed point, your body very relaxed and your head hanging slightly back. Have you tried it?
8. RECOVER PLEASANT MEMORIES
Another way to regain joy is by searching for memories that you felt good about. What have been the best moments of your life? They will probably be those in which you did something that you liked, such as: being in nature, admiring a work of art, feeling love, listening to music. Remember those moments in which you have felt greater fulfillment or have felt a lot of enjoyment. Bring them to mind and recreate them as if they are happening now. Let your body feel the pleasure, strength or relaxation of that moment.
Allow him to move as he needs to better recreate the pleasant sensations you have when you feel good. Change your breath, widen it, if necessary, let your body expand. Anchor in your mind and in your sensations how you are when you are well and overflow with fullness. Observe how joy is present in these moments and what is its quality.
9. ACCEPT FEAR AND PAIN
Being cheerful means above all giving yourself permission to play, explore and discover. Curiosity is another form of joy. And to promote it, it is important to leave behind the fear that contracts us and prevents us from moving and entering the unknown. The only way to overcome fear is to sit him down next to us and tell him: “Here with your arm I will keep moving, I will keep playing.”
It is when we accept the most negative parts of life and their pain that we can live with more intensity the moments when we are well. Celebrating and thanking them is what leads us to joy. We are more aware that each moment is unique and unrepeatable and we can appreciate it.