Joy! Joy! Authentic joy . . . down in my heart! But there is a caveat. I never ask my grandchildren or anyone else, for that matter, to smile or feel joy on demand. Even more, I avoid the term positive emotions as it is poor mental health to do so. An article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017 is in alignment with my position:
“. . . suppressing uncomfortable feelings can contribute to more distress? Those who accept all of their emotions without judgment tend to be less focused on negativity and feel less upset about feeling upset.”
Yes! We are best to be aware of, and accept, our spectrum of emotions from feeling blue to bliss, sad to satisfied, and scared to safe.
However, I am a fan of Tom Rath’s and Jon Clifton’s work through The Gallop Poll. Rath is the author of the book, How Full Is Your Bucket? which encourages us to encourage one another, especially those in leadership roles. In May 21, 2014 The Gallop Poll released a report called People Worldwide Are Reporting a Lot of Positive Emotions.
They point out that, in their research, regardless of the wars and unrest in the world, seven in 10 people in 138 countries reported in their Positive Experiences Index significant amounts of:
2. laughing or smiling
3. feeling well-rested
4. being treated with respect
You might imagine Americans and Canadians, with all of our stuff and two car garages, would be at the top of the list. But Latin Americans are at the top with the citizens of Paraguay at the very top. Syrians were at the bottom.
So what is this about you and me? Rather than a positive emotional focus, let us focus on creating an enlivened life filled with the experiences described above.
How to Put on Your Authentic Smile
1. Find Enjoyment
The lesson adults can learn here is that the world is filled with things for our enjoyment. Allen Klein, author of The Healing Power of Humor
• Discover what you enjoy. Do it more.
• If need be, find another passion. Our niece, Kaitlin, lived to snowboard; so much that she would move to New Zealand and then Japan to follow the snow year round. Then she incurred injuries that incapacitated her participation in her beloved sport. The solution was to find other ways to find joy and happiness. Go deeper. Many who have car accidents, strokes or loss of loved ones or a career discover their well-being is restored once they find another passion, dream or enjoyment.
• Another strategy is to develop a gratitude practice so that you enjoy the details of your life from morning coffee to your heavenly bedroom pillow.
2. Laugh and Smile
Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself. Khill Gibran, Lebanese artist, poet, and writer
• Find your funny bone, whether it is laughing at yourself, a favourite TV show such as The Big Bang Theory or hanging out with children.
• Smile, whenever doing so is aligned with how you are feel. Smiles have been known to save others’ lives. Having a practice of gratitude can help increase your smile frequency.
3. Stay Rested
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know? Ernest Hemingway, American author and journalist
• Honour your inherent sleep habits—morning lark or night owl. The Latin Americans tend to stay up late, have siestas, and not ask, “Did you sleep in?” Like them, I tend to be a night owl.
• Practise good sleep hygiene habits. Do as many as you can. Have no caffeine after 2 pm; do calm activities before going to bed; sleep in a quiet, dark room; use a quality mattress and pillow.
• Add napping. Join your favourite cat.
4. Treat Yourself and Others with Respect
Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners. Laurence Sterne, English novelist
• Start with self-respect. Use your values to guide your decisions so that you stay in integrity. Acknowledge your abilities, strengths, characteristics, and contributions.
• Treat others as they would like to be treated. Ask them what is important to them and about their preferences. Usually people feel respected when we acknowledge their abilities, strengths, characteristics and contributions.
• Provide guidance to others so that you feel respected by them. Respect to one person can mean disrespect to another. Do you want more time alone or more time connecting? Do you want others to jump into the conversation or do you prefer they stay silent until you finish speaking? Do you want others to leave their shoes on or take them off at the front door?
• Mutual respect means a give and take of the above points.
5. Create Joy with an In-Joy List
Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it. Chuck Palahniuk
Joy can come in accidental moments or from planned action. When we define what excites us, gives our life meaning, value and satisfaction, we can plan ahead. What activities and things please your sense of vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste? What is physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, socially, and spiritually energizing for you?
Exercise: Take a lined piece of paper and write A/O, S/P, $ an d √ across the top right of the page. Make a table similar to the one below. In the bigger left hand column write, as fast as you can, descriptors of what you would like to be, do or have. The list might look like this
- feel peaceful
- have a cup of tea while reading my emails
- watch my favorite TV show
- own an amazing laptop
- eat a bowl of fresh strawberries
Note: The symbols in the four right hand columns are explained below. Please do not peek until you complete your list of 10 or more items; the more, the better!
Finally, across from each item, place a check mark under each of the appropriate symbols to indicate:
- A or O if you prefer the experience Alone or with Others
- S or P if you prefer the experience Spontaneously or Planned
- $ if it costs $5 or more each time
- √ if you have had the experience in the last year
What did you learn? How will you increase your joy tomorrow and into your future?