Bringing Joy Back Into Your Life
It’s time to bring joy back into our lives. We’ve all been through a lot in the last year and a half. But as the Buddha taught, we have the ability to move away from suffering and toward happiness.
Best of all, we don’t need to look outside of ourselves. We can find joy from within and from our own actions and thoughts! Here are four ways to do just that.
Choose To Live Lightly
What if you consciously chose to give people the benefit of the doubt? And what if you did this for your own happiness, not because of them?
It’s easy to create stories in our minds about the motivation behind someone else’s actions, especially when they are hurtful or negative. But you can shift your way of thinking. In Buddhism, there is a concept called “emptiness,” which refers to the true nature of things and events. So, what if we interpreted others’ actions as “empty,” with no hidden meanings?
Here’s an example. I recently saw that I was no longer connected with a friend on Facebook. My mind spun in circles wondering why he had “unfriended” me. Had I said or done something wrong? I finally sent him a note and asked. He responded immediately that he had no idea what had happened and sent me an invitation back. It was “empty,” a complete misunderstanding, and as I write this, we are amid a wonderful chat and catch-up.
Slow Down And Be Present
There are other ways to live more joyously, too. When possible, try slowing the pace of your day. You can literally try to walk more slowly! This gives us the feeling of having more control over our time and our day — and in the end our life.
If you’re about to cross the street and only have a few seconds before the light turns, wait until you can leisurely stroll across. If you’re in line for something, choose to let someone go in front of you if it looks like they are in a hurry. Smile at a stranger when you pass them on the street. Choose not to walk with a cell phone in your hand — instead, look up and enjoy your environment, the sights and sounds and even the smells around you. Training yourself to be present in your physical environment, and to live in the reality of your life rather than in the swirl of thoughts in your mind, is a beautiful way to savor each day and bring yourself to a naturally happier and more peaceful place.
The great Vietnamese monk Ticht Nacht Hahn teaches that Buddhism is about moving away from what is unwholesome and toward what is wholesome. Part of this is the “sangha,” or group of people you surround yourself with. Investing more time and energy into the people who make you feel better, and who bring positivity into your life, and less into those who make you feel badly, is a wonderful way to move toward joy.
We can also think mindfully about our habits. I lead a Meditation Teacher Training program and always encourage students to do this. Are there things you do that make your life more difficult or negative? If so, can you change these habits, even slightly, or reduce your time with them? Activities and habits that are more rewarding will help you feel happier in the short and long term!
Distance Yourself From Your Thoughts
Say it with me: I am not my thoughts. Sometimes, our thoughts can be like an old film someone keeps starting over from the beginning. We can stop that loop by directing our attention to something, anything else! Another tactic is to silently repeat to yourself, “cancel, cancel,” a technique I learned through an online meditation course called Finders Course. It really does work and feels fun and playful too!