In Galatians, the Apostle Paul lists joy as one of the fruits of the spirit, or one of the ways you can know the spirit of God is present. It makes sense, then, that believers would pursue joy in their own lives.
What is joy? Many people may use the word synonymously with happiness or pleasure, but others maintain that it is more than either of those feelings. In “Surprised by Joy,” C.S. Lewis describes his early experiences with the phenomenon as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” While this definition certainly implies that joy is somewhat different from other positive states of being, it does not necessarily clarify how to attain it.
Joy can be found in moments of anticipation. Some scholars believe that the event doesn’t even have to be scheduled for the near future but can still produce excitement just from picturing it. Imagine that your favorite holiday or season is approaching within the next few weeks and think about all the things that celebrating it could mean:
- Gathering with friends or family
- Observing beloved traditions
- Engaging in your favorite activities
- Taking time off work to travel
Don’t be surprised if this exercise gives you a little thrill. Even the thought of things you want to do can bring about feelings of joy.
Another type of reflection that can lead to joy is gratitude. Think about the things for which you are the most thankful. If it helps to write them down, you can keep track of them in your journal or planner. You can even practice preliminary gratitude by thanking the divine presence for helping you work toward your dreams for the future. In a few minutes a day, you can establish a thankfulness practice that may lead to moments of joy.
Memories can also trigger the euphoria of joy, and the senses often lead to fond remembrances. Smelling pipe smoke or a certain perfume may remind you of a beloved family member whose company you enjoyed when you were a child. The feel of rain on your skin or sand under your feet may take you back to your last beach getaway when you felt relaxed and at peace. Certain colors can enhance mood, and bright hues may spark a moment of delight. Belting out your favorite song at the top of your lungs as you drive down a long, winding road can give your spirit a lift. The more you pay attention to what you feel through your senses, the more likely you are to experience bursts of joy as the memories you long for resurface.
The creative process contains many opportunities for joy to erupt. When the concept for your next project occurs to you, it can be accompanied by ecstatic feelings. You may experience a burst of energy and a heightened sense of well-being as your mind races to figure out how you are going to turn your idea into reality. There may be a thrill that comes with every small improvement. Sharing your work with others may also bring them a delight that compounds your own. Whether you are writing a new song, penning a fresh poem or painting your next dynamic piece, the act of creation itself may produce more than art. It can also produce joy.
There are many ways you can experience more joy in your life. Contemplate past or future experiences during which you felt or expect to find elation. Set aside time to meditate on the good things in your present life. Make art or take on a new project that allows you to create something original to express yourself. Seek joy, and you are likely to find it.