Firstly, why should we put a boundary around joy and kind of ring fence it? We might have heard the expression ‘unbridled joy’ so why put a bridle on it? It’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It sort of goes against the whole vibe of joy as being some boundless free horizon, like feeling I’m trying to trap a fairy, a free spirited dancing squib firework or a wild horse? When we could really do with it, it’s nowhere to be seen and when we have it it’s fleeting.
Perhaps joy is slightly smaller. Perhaps joy is gentler. Perhaps joy doesn’t want to go hard or go home, but just simply needs a little bit of tending and nurture. Micro joy.
By tending to moments of micro joy we can experience a kind of sensory flow. It makes me feel like I don’t have to wait for some really big statement of macro joy to be enough, like the best orgasm in the whole world , more like I can enjoy the hand holding and the shy smile.
So I can have a sprinkling here and there. The access point always seems to be mindfulness doesn’t it? Coming into the present and then for me there is a sensory quality, there’s a quality of connection to other, to myself and to something greater. And that can be something smaller.
It’s the breeze on my skin , the crisp morning air - the sharp intake of breath as I swim for the first time each year in the English Channel. It’s the endless blue skies of summer.
Joy is pretty humble and down to earth too. It’s the eruption of laughter when one of my kids says something funny, the dog greeting me in the morning, it’s becoming aware of the things in my life that are there. Like moments of waking up to our own lives.
The thing about boundaries is they are about saying no. And joy is about saying yes. Boundaries make us think of restrictions but actually they are about freedom. Every time you say no to something you say yes to something else. So by saying No to the washing up for half an hour, I can sit in the garden and listen the birds. And up comes joy.
By closing the laptop I may say yes to a warm bath. So really this is about being intentional and skilful about how we choose to focus and how then we turn toward he experience and as I have said before ‘rinse that mother.’ Actually, that doesn’t sound joyful. But you know, be ‘in’ it.
When we stop, feel our feet on the ground, sense our breath and look with curiosity around us, we spark up the Ventral Vagal portion of our autonomic nervous system. This means we feel engaged and happier, so it’s not a zoned-out, rest and digest state but a connected, enlivened and sensory space. This is the place, through that nervous system lens, where joy lives. And the more we practice this day to day, the more our capacity for joy builds.
When we stop drinking we are bombarded with messages that we will never connect or have fun again . In essence we are told we will never experience real joy again. The truth couldn’t be further from this. To have joy and to connect we need to be present. This means having our Medial Prefrontal Cortex online, our Ventral Vagal system engaged and basically our wits about us. So don’t believe the horse shit- Joy is our birthright and in our humanity.
How are you going to find a sprinkling of joy in your day, beautiful?
How to cultivate joy
• Be curious
• Find out what you like by how it feels.
• Update the script - just because you liked something five years ago doesn’t mean you like it now.
• Slow down
• Put everything you do on your planner then take a third off.
• Look around.
• Identify joy glimmers in your environment - like a favourite chair with a soft blanket , then stack up the senses and add something in… go sit in it , feel it and listen to a favourite bit of music.
• Keep a Joy list - this might feel different and lighter to a gratitude practice.
• Spread it around.