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How to have more joy in your life

By Dr. Sharon Stills, NMD

Did you forget how to feel joyous? Has it been forever and a day since you feltlighthearted or gleeful about — anything? I get it — we’re all doing our best justto keep going every day and meet our obligations without constantly feeling stressedand overwhelmed.

How to add more joy to your life

Believe me, joy is just waiting for you to discover it every day, and I’m goingto show you how to find it, with a little help from my friend, sex-educator Barbara Carrellas.

Choosing joy

Barbara and I both agree that you can cultivate joy but we also believe that feelingjoyful is a choice. Opportunities for joy present themselves to us all the time,but it’s easy to overlook them.

How you react and respond to everyday events determines whether you will make spacefor joy in your life. If you think that “the grass is always greener on the otherside,” an honest reevaluation of your own circumstances might help you realize thatthe grass is thick and green and lush right where you’re standing.

To choose and cultivate joy, you have to really know yourself. You have to be authenticand be able to face and accept your feelings. You have to accept where and who youare. You can’t just pretend to be happy. But when you’re willing to face negativefeelings and work through them, you open the path to joy.

It’s hard to face the truth and sometimes we all struggle with it. But Barbara worksclosely with people, teaching them how to cultivatethe ecstatic experience and encouraging them to feel and express the fullrange of their emotions.

She advises you to embrace your feelings — all of them, good and bad — with totality.Sure, facing stuff is hard but both joy and ecstasy require us to let go of self-imposedlimitations that keep us from moving forward in life.

closeup of mother and daughter laughing together

First joy, then ecstasy

Barbara reminds everyone that we shouldn’t just aim for joy but instead reach forecstasy as often as possible. She used social media to ask people about any non-sexualexperiences that had made them feel intense joy or bliss. Hundreds of people responded,sharing a huge range of experiences with art, music, food, nature, political activism,childbirth, amusement parks and more.

The variety made it clear that joy is individual to each of us. Knowing yourself— maybe just remembering an earlier time when you felt joyous — is critically important.Once you know what brings you joy, it becomes a matter of immersing yourself inthose experiences.

Feeling that intense burst of joy — ecstasy — is necessary for happiness. And itcan inspire the direction you follow in life. Barbara’s lifework guiding peopletoward ecstatic experiences has proven that they give people hope and keep themgoing. Experiencing ecstasy may even alter the course of our lives.

Barbara and I both believe that we all get far more opportunities to experienceecstasy than we may be aware of. So maybe you should start looking a little moreclosely.

happy couple blowing bubbles

Build the foundation for true happiness

With my patients, family and friends, I always stress the tight link between happinessand good health. We can’t even differentiate the two because they are eternallymarried. Research reveals that people who feel happier have stronger immune systems,and better cardiovascular and respiratory health, than people who are chronicallyunhappy.

If you think you’re a “negative” person or that it’s simply not in your nature tobe happy, think about this advice from Barbara: take “personal responsibility” foryour happiness. You can’t wait for happiness to fall into your lap. Circumstancesaren’t preventing you from being happy. It’s a moment-by-moment choice and Barbaraand I want you to go for it!

Open the door to more joy

Barbara and I both encourage you to explore meditation if you are struggling to figure out what brings you true happiness.When you can turn your search over to the universe, and tune into your deepest intuition,you will be more open to the answers you receive. The meditation process is an exercisein letting go. It can help you stop overthinking and worrying.

Get started on being happier with these little tips for finding more joy:

  • Think about what you can do instead of being stuck on what you can’t.
  • Dream of the things you would like to do for yourself that would invite joy. Maybe you want to start cooking healthy and delicious meals. Or start an exercise regimen.
  • Pick one thing to focus on, and then structure a step-by-step plan to slowly integrate change into your life. As you progress, each particle of accomplishment will keep you moving forward to the next one.

Look for something during the day to smile about for a few seconds — or more ifyou can. Smiling evokes a physiological change in your body that allows you to becomereceptive to positive feelings.

And don’t limit yourself to only feeling joy about your own life. Open a space inyour heart to feel joy for others, or “mudita” in Sanskrit. To be in thisstate, you must be present for and open to the energies of others.

The ultimate mudita experience is to feel joy for the people who aggravate us themost, another worthwhile exercise in letting go.

Our joys? Simple, sublime and even silent

Barbara feels joy when she pushes herself to attend workshops or retreats that initiallyseem scary to her. Even though they make her nervous, the events she ends up choosingappeal to her on a deep, intimate level. By pushing her boundaries, she unleashesthe joy within her that’s waiting to be expressed.

Personally, I am joyous when I can have a nice soak in my hot tub. I like watchingthe weather and the skies change. But lately, I also feel joy from being silentand turning inward. Just being present is a powerfully joyful experience.

When you are truly living in the moment, without being weighed down by negativeexpectations, you carve out space for joy to appear. When you look for joy — youwill find it.

Watch more about what Barbara and I have to say about joy

Last Updated: November 9, 2022
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