The fact that the first virtue mentioned in the the tale of the two wolves is joy does not escape me. As far as I’m concerned, joy — having it and spreading it — is one of the true meanings of life.
Joy is defined in the dictionary as an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good. It speaks to living, as I like to say, the depth and breadth of your life instead of just the length of it.
If you are not especially familiar with Buddhism, you are probably at least familiar with the concept that life is suffering. However, click here to learn what they have to say about finding joy among all the pain life can inflict (hint: you have to open up fully to your experience, not close down). Charlotte Davis Kasl, who wrote Finding Joy, notes that “joy comes from spontaneity and going where the spirit leads us.”
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but actively pursuing joy is important. Joy is “the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow,” according to Helen Keller. There is evidence that the path to joy can help relieve depression (which I have been known to suffer from), so maybe it’s pretty clear why I think it’s important. The thing is, it’s not just me.
Soulful Living has an excellent series on finding joy, each article about how to bring happiness into your life. And if you are truly intent on harnessing all the joy life has to offer, you can find more helpful tips here — because “when you’re happy, you feel better, look better, and live longer.” They make it sounds like joy really is serious business, and they’re not making it up! Studies show that simple activities really do increase joy, and joy increases your life span. Progressive muscle relaxation increased feelings of joy and relaxation in a study of 42 students published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology last year. Children who exercised aerobically for 15 minutes felt significantly more joyful afterward than those who watched a 15-minute video, according to a study published in Perception of Motor Skills last year. Recent evidence also suggests that grown-ups find joy in brief bouts of aerobic exercise. And last year, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed a correlation between longevity and positive feelings in the diaries of a group of nuns. Those who lived the longest expressed the most joy about life.
Among my favorite tips on the list: get outside, pat a pet, know you’re loved, revel in simplicity, sleep in (quite possibly the ultimate pleasure in life), take a detour, croon in your car, and get active instead of watching TV. Which ones are your favorites?
Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by.