Joy and relief are feelings we hope to get more than irritations and dissatisfaction. But why do we get more stress than relief, annoyance rather than joy? Finding joy in daily life is not a mystery except a change of our perception. Perception is the recognition and the memory of objects and events we come into contact with in our lives. But changing our perception is harder than most people think. Some people hold on tightly to their view because they perceive others as inferior or themselves as superior. Some may perceive having to eat or drink a certain product all the time is pleasurable, even if it harms their health. Although it is not easy to change our mental habits, there are 3 ways to always find joy.
What Is Joy?
Joy, according to Oxford dictionary means great happiness or pleasure. We all know ordinary happiness and pleasures. We do that by hunting for products and people that bring happiness to our senses. Senses involve our eyes, ears, tongue, touch, and nose. But what we see, hear, and touch is dependent on our minds. These senses send signals to the mind so it judges whether something is good or bad. So, the mind is very important for our experience of happiness because it is the one that decides.
For art lovers, an exhibition of their favorite artists would bring joy to their minds. For a food lover, specific cuisines will bring pleasure to their mind. But our happiness need not be so restrictive. We need not wait for things we want to happen to be happy. Now that we know the mind is the key to happiness, we also need not depend on our senses to feel good.
1. Don’t compare
If you take a look at all of your conversations, you may discover that you are most of the time, making comparisons. You could be comparing if this restaurant is better than the other restaurant. Or if a hairdresser is better than another. When a decision is made in our minds, we find it hard to accept other alternatives. For example, we return to the same restaurant and hairdresser more often than others. We also only accept certain people in our social circle.
Making comparisons can make us miserable. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been difficult to visit the public pool as and when I like. So I joined a club pool and was very happy to bring my nephew along. I jumped into the pool grateful. But my nephew was gloomy. The reason? The pool isn’t up to his standards compared to other pools where there are toys and slides for children to play with. He was happy he could sneak out of the house to play in the pool but yet was unhappy at the pool. Does this make sense?
My nephew is not behaving weirdly, rather he is only showing the reason for the constant lack of contentment in our hearts. If he had remembered his fortune at being able to sneak out for an hour to relax by the pool, than to be stuck at home submerged in schoolwork, maybe he would be happier. He was making wrong comparisons.
Discern with wisdom
Now, wisdom is really hard to define. Being wise is the ability to make sensible decisions based on experience and knowledge. To discern wisely is to be able to have good judgment of the quality of your own thoughts and those of others.
If we can discern wisely instead of making endless comparisons, we might be grateful instead of being discontented with our lives. Not comparing others’ characters does not mean we befriend everyone who could be a bad influence. Being able to discern wisely means we can judge others’ character and qualities with compassion. Instead of comparing this or that person is good or bad, we can instead help those who are willing to listen to adopt good qualities such as kindness and love instead of indifference and anger. As for those who already have good qualities we can also befriend them to incline our minds towards joy.
Being able to discern also means we are grateful for the food we are offered or we choose to eat, even if it does not meet the taste and standards of another restaurant.
2. Joy comes from accepting things as they are
Look at your life so far. You may find that most of your expectations were not met (unless you have a very contented mind). We get married and expect happy-ever-after. But how many people find that? We may have pictured our lives to turn out a certain way, but did it all turn out as we had visualized?
What you plan in a day may not even turn out the way you expected. You could be planning a lovely day for your partner and his or her level of surprise or happiness may not match your expectation. You may think doing something for your child today makes him/her happy but they end up sulking. But the truth is, everything that comes our way can be joyful, it only depends on how we perceive them.
Learn to change your mind
One of the weekend mornings I was looking forward to meditating for 3 to 4 hours. I did manage 1.5 hours but found my helper unwell. She was hired to help with looking after my father who has dementia. I stopped my meditation and went out to buy the day’s necessities. When I came home, I found my father ill as well. Turned out I went out too early and the food shop had not yet opened. So I made 2 trips to buy food. I then realized my father was having diarrhea, so he could not eat all the food I bought. I could have been upset that my plan to meditate was upended and that I spent more than I should.
But I have learned through mindfulness that happiness does not come from outer events but from what I think about them. One famous mindfulness teacher said, “Don’t blame the trigger,” and this has made a deep impression on me. It means that if I no longer have anger within me, it is not possible for anyone to trigger this state of mind. We need not keep anger, discontentment, or sadness in our minds if we keep replacing them with joy and happiness. So, instead of being upset that my plan is not going accordingly, I was grateful to be able to serve my helper and father. It made me happy.
3. Everything is already broken
The third way to always find joy is to realize that everything is already broken. A beautiful flower is already on its way to wilt. Old age and death are hidden in a young child. A sunny day does not last forever. Civilizations rise and fall. New ones do arise, but unfortunately, our minds are mostly joyful at new things. From a baby to a living flower, to a new star or a new home. We hide aged and dying people, and quickly repaint or mend a crack in our homes to cover the ugliness.
Most of our lives are spent covering up the fact of life – that death is already in everything around us, including our own bodies. No one likes to grow old and sick, because we know how society treats decay. Read the news and see how our society abhors death. Death is always perceived as unfortunate, when the fact is, we all know, no one can live forever.
Treasure what is and to let go
Knowing that everything is already broken does not mean we become indifferent. Indifference is not joy. Seeing that everything is fading teaches us to be present to whoever we are with. It allows us to appreciate the flower that has not yet decayed. But when it dies, we are not sad as well because we have given it the attention it needs.
Understanding that everything is coming apart also allows us to accept things when they are broken. From relationships to a favorite broken antique vase. We know the lively home we have now will not last forever. This helps us love everyone (including the unlovable because they are a part of our lives) and everything for that moment, with the knowledge we need to let go of every moment. There is nothing we can hold onto, not even the universe we live in because it is changing and moving towards a black hole to be devoured.
If we keep looking at the past and the future instead of the present, our minds can easily feel disturbed. The past is already over, especially for someone old. Reminiscing the past will not bring it back but may instead make the heart long for it. Decay awaits the body in the future – so it is not necessary to make fixed plans but to make space in the heart to allow changes. The present is all that we can own now to be joyful amidst all the changes.
Try these 3 ways to always find joy in your heart and let us know if it helped transform you.