Joyful living is not an accident. It is the outcome of a mindful practice. But does joyful living indicate a life of meditation and mindfulness? Dr. Shauna Shapiro, professor, author, and renowned expert defines Mindfulness as:
“The awareness that arises out of intentionally paying attention in an open, kind, and discerning way.” (Shapiro and Carlson, 2006). She also reminds us that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with meditation practice. We practice so we can remember to be this way, moment by moment. So, how does this translate to joyful living? The following steps are a good start:
1. Accept painful emotions
Give yourself the permission to be human – Prof. Tal Ben-Shahar – author, lecturer, and serial entrepreneur
The paradox of joyful living begins with the acceptance of pain and ‘negative’ emotions. Did you receive a difficult phone call? Did you recently text someone about a business partnership not working out? Or did you have to notify your team member of a layoff? Have you experienced bereavement recently? Whatever may be the cause of the painful emotion, take a moment to consider options below:
- Stay with it.
- Label the emotion and bring it to the surface.
- Give yourself permission to experience the full gamut of emotion(s).
- Stop fighting what you’re naturally feeling and simply embrace ‘what is’.
2. Grieve your loss(es)
Death, divorce, and debt are not the only kinds of primary losses. Loss of security, a job, companionship, identity, support systems, dreams, and expectations etc. are all losses and very real. Sometimes, the pressure to ‘move on’ is so much that there is no time, space, or permission to grieve. But grief has no time frame. And in some cases, it may never go away completely.
Having said that, choosing not to grieve is no different from continuously allowing emotional cholesterol to build up in our bodies. Eventually, too much would accumulate and leave our bodies susceptible to injury from unhealed losses as mentioned in this old (but relevant) article.
For example, one of the hardest assignments I have ever done is to grieve the losses in my life. I was invited to look at it, in the face. Not shove it under the carpet. Not pretend like it never happened. But to boldly confront and allow the sadness to cleanse my being. It has remained a life lesson that I continue to practice today.
3. Build many, joyful worlds
One of the ways I continue to create joyful living is by building many, little worlds. This may seem like escapism but in reality, it has protected and healed me when life became unbearable. It has also allowed me to discover things about myself that I may never have known.
What I do for a living:
I’m a leadership coach and I study the intersection of leadership and mindfulness in coaching. I blog in service of these three disciplines. I serve, teach, and enable the success of leaders and their teams, worldwide.
What I (mostly) do when I’m not working:
- Photography – iPhone and my Nikon d7000 (You can see some of them on Instagram)
- Music – singing, composing (both music and lyrics), listening to all genres, and volunteering as a mentor to visually impaired students (Here’s a sampling from SoundCloud)
- Swimming and/or walking
- Learning about social media platforms and apps
- Travel (whenever I can)
How does this practice help? Whenever life becomes difficult, I have many, other places to go to! These are my sweet spots on good days and cloudy days.
4. Re-define the meaning of Mastery
Does this make me a dabbling duck? Here’s my point of view on that: I don’t pursue these interests to prove anything. It isn’t an effort to please other people. The purpose of this engagement, in the truest sense, is to develop mastery and expand consciousness.
In the context of coaching, here’s what I learned about ‘Mastery’ from Master Certified Coach and award-winning author, Dr. Marcia Reynolds:
Mastery is the deepening of presence and not the increased improvement of skill.
Can this presence hold relevance to our daily lives, our work, and the passions we pursue? My experience tells me that it does. The purpose of my engagement with these activities isn’t necessarily to improve my skills (while that may still be the outcome). My purpose is to deepen my presence and engagement in each of them so I may discover myself.
5. Express gratitude
No matter how difficult life gets, I always find things to be grateful for. I believe that this is at the very heart of joyful living. Even amidst carnage, are there things that you are thankful for? What blessings, big and small, do you count everyday? What role has adversity played in shaping your character?
Using a gratitude journal is a great, first step in this direction. One of the newer apps I began to use is Chipper created by Jeff Becker. This digital, happiness journal invites you to journal one thing you’re grateful for, every single day. I’m still a big fan of the pen and notebook but apps like these are fabulous alternatives. Can you imagine the potential of tracking your ‘happiness diary’ over time? At the end of 52 weeks and 365 days, you would have created a thoughtful, systematic diary of blessings. What a great way to create awareness and joyful living!
So, what exciting practices have worked for you in sustaining joyful living? Share your story!
Anitha Aswath is a Senior Leadership Coach, Team Consultant, and Global Facilitator. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is trained by The Marcus Buckingham Company in StandOut and Strengths Coaching for Business Leaders. She is currently pursuing Brain-Based Coaching Certification from the NeuroLeadership Institute. An avid photographer, blogger, aviation enthusiast, Anitha is also a student of Indian Classical Music of the Hindustani style.
In an illustrious career spanning 20 years, she has served organizations like General Electric, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Target, and Cisco in regional and global capacities. As a Leadership Coach, she works with clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of leaders and their teams.
THIS IS A PERSONAL BLOG AND VIEWS DON’T REPRESENT ORGANIZATION STRATEGIES OR OPINIONS.