In our culture, we receive many messages to pursue joy and happiness.
Many of these messages encourage us to seek joy outside ourselves – by acquiring more, having more and doing more.
The happiness we feel from having and doing is often fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying. And then we wind up craving more, acquiring more, doing more – trying to scratch an itch that never seems to stop.
But pure joy is accessible regardless of our outer circumstances, regardless of how much stuff we have or how much activity we cram into our lives.
Many of us would like to feel this pleasurable emotion more of the time. Why is it so elusive?
Joy is an emotion. And, as with all emotions, it does not last. Emotions are designed to flow through us.
Joy isn’t like a light switch that we can turn on and off at will. And we can’t hold onto joy. The key is to welcome and enjoy the joy when it arrives, and let it go gracefully when it departs, welcoming something else in. And, this is easier said than done.
The Joy Quotient (JQ)
“The standard of success in life isn't the things. It isn't the money or the stuff.
It is absolutely the amount of joy that you feel.” - Abraham via Esther Hicks
When I first read these words several years ago, I was wise enough to know that making joy my new goal was not the answer. Striving for joy would bring tension and frustration, making joy even more elusive, and I would likely judge myself harshly for not achieving my new goal well enough. I’d been there, done that, with so many things. I knew that making joy a goal was a trap.
But this did get me thinking about my Joy Quotient – my JQ.
I define the Joy Quotient(JQ) as the amount of time spent feeling happy, joyful, or passionate relative to the amount of time spent in negative emotional states like frustration, impatience, boredom, disappointment, worry, and so on. I realized that my JQ wasn’t all that high.
So I started exploring this. What was stopping me from feeling joyful more of the time? I discovered that my joy was buried under layers of muck, such as:
· Worrying about the next thing that I needed to make happen (or not happen)
· Disappointed that things weren’t turning out as I had hoped
· Upset over the latest conflict in my life
After I started releasing these things on a regular basis, I found that I could my access my joy more easily.
Releasing negative emotions raises your Joy Quotient.
In order to feel joy more fully and more often, it’s first necessary to release the stuff that’s blocking the joy from surfacing. The stuff that blocks joy is wide-ranging. Here are a few examples:
- Dissatisfaction in relationships
- Overwhelmed with the “to do” list
- Money worries
- Focusing on a loss (of a person, of a relationship, of a dream)
- Writer’s block (or other blocks in creative energy)
- Overeating, emotional eating
What these things have in common is that they all involve negative emotional states. When someone is in a feeling a negative emotion (such as disappointment, guilt, anger, grief, fear, hurt), it’s not possible to access a positive emotion at the same time.
Many people try to think their way out of having their feelings, or use positive self-talk. While this approach can work, it’s hard work. Often it works to a degree, and then the negative emotion starts creeping back.
An easier way is to address the emotion directly. When a negative emotion is acknowledged and accepted, it paves the way for total release. When it’s released, thoughts automatically change to positive ones – without any effort to make them change.
How do you do this? By being willing to feel each negative emotion fully, as it arises. Stay present with it, fully acknowledge and accept it. Then simply let it go.
While this sounds simple, it’s not easy. The next time you’re feeling worried or frustrated or anxious, try just sitting with it. This means not doing anything else. No electronic screens, no talking, no other distractions. Just sit with your feelings. If you hang in with this long enough, the feeling will shift and change. And, it might take a while.
This is not a popular way of dealing with emotions. It takes discipline and time. Some types of meditation make a practice of doing this, and this requires dedication and daily attention to develop a practice.
An easier way to acknowledge, accept and release emotions is through Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) – also called tapping – because it’s simple, elegant, and fun. And, it works quickly. The more you use EFT to clear negative emotions, the more you’ll open your inner pathway to joy.
If you’re already using EFT, I encourage you to use it at least once daily for about 10 minutes to “clear the emotional debris” of daily life. If you’re not familiar with EFT and are curious about how EFT can help you, click here for information. I use EFT extensively in my work with busy professional women; click here to find out more.
As you continue to acknowledge, accept and release negative emotions by tapping, you’re paving the way to greater joy in living. Gradually, you’ll feel happier and more joyful more of the time. Your JQ will go up!
Joy can be cultivated.
In addition to releasing negative emotions to raise your JQ, joy can be cultivated in other ways.
One of my favorites is spending time in nature. When I’m outside among the trees, grass, flowers, snow, rain, animals.... without words, without thinking, without analysis of what I’m seeing – simply being fully present with everything around me, I’m filled with incredible joy.
My very favorite “pure joy time” comes whenever I watch the neighborhood squirrels cavorting in my yard.
By cultivating joy through clearing negative emotions and creating opportunities for joy to arise naturally, you can raise your Joy Quotient.
©Monica Milas, January 2013, December 2014