Feeling joyful can be challenging. We rush through our days, often overwhelmed with everything we must do. Hardships can happen like accidents, illnesses, losses, or financial struggles. How can we possibly feel joyful? Outside stressors are not the only stealers of our joy. Unknowingly we block joy through certain behaviors and feelings, including perfectionism, comparing ourselves to others, hopelessness, ungratefulness, negative self-talk, and lack of purpose. But if we can change our habits, we can live more joyfully, reaping the benefits. Research shows joy helps lower stress, relieves depression, and promotes heart health and longevity.
Ultimately, life is less rich when the exhilarating, euphoric, and sometimes tearful feelings of joy elude us. Here are some ways that can affect our ability to feel more joyful:
We squash joy each time we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect or to do something perfectly. Striving for flawlessness can make us obsess over things that are not important. But breaking this habit of wanting everything to be its best is tricky. Settling for anything less than the best is a good thing, right? Yes and no. When perfectionism feeds procrastination, it delays our precious goals. The journey towards and reaching meaningful goals brings us joy. The key to combating perfectionism is asking ourselves whether any redo or additional review will actually make a difference.
2. Comparing Ourselves to Others
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Theodore Roosevelt. If we compare our education, material belongings, or looks to someone else’s, we feel less than others, which makes us unhappy. But it’s not just that. We’re also not present to our own positive qualities, talents, skills, and what we’ve accomplished. We may not have a big house like our cousin, but we have the gift of running a business well. There is joy in celebrating who we are. So, when we envy others, focusing on all we have to offer and our successes can spark joy.
When we feel hopeless in tough times, we may not feel joy is possible. But intentionally choosing to hope may be just what’s needed to let the crack of joy’s light in. We hope our son does better in school with a tutor. We hope our illness improves with the new medicine. We hope to find a job we like more. Hopefulness puts us in control of how we’ll handle what comes next and possibly make things better. Though it can be challenging to maintain hope during times of despair and sadness, hope can help us see things differently. With a more hopeful perspective, hardship and joy have a chance to coexist.
Thinking about what we lack or what’s not good in life prevents us from feeling more joyful. We become blind to the abundance and beauty that surrounds us. But feeling grateful puts us in the moment, like when we are soaking in a sunrise, enjoying a delicious meal, and happily playing with our dog. We are not thinking about our worries and fears. We only feel good. If we are unaware of our blessings, then joy is lost. Practicing gratitude opens our hearts to let joy in and thrive.
5. Negative Self-Talk
Our thoughts have a negative bias, so naturally, they can steal our joy. If we are consumed with, “I can’t do this,” “I’m not good enough,” or I’ve never done this before,” how can joy arise? We’ve already stopped ourselves from an experience that might trigger blissful feelings. One way to turn around harmful, repetitive thoughts is through positive affirmations, which affirm the best in ourselves. With repetition, these phrases have the power to dismantle our negative thoughts, reprogram our minds and help us manifest joy.
6. Lack of Purpose
Without a meaningful aim or direction in life, we may drift along, allowing circumstances to guide our lives. On the other hand, a strong sense of purpose creates space for joy. When we live purposefully, we tend to align our lives with our values, what matters most, and what makes us truly happy. Consequently, confidence and pride ensue, which are feelings associated with joy. Think about a purpose that can help you bring more joy and meaning to your life.
The way to a more joyful life is by recognizing how we prevent joy from happening. Once we understand the behaviors and feelings—perfectionism, comparing ourselves to others, hopelessness, ungratefulness, negative self-talk, and lack of purpose—that can repress our joy, we can work to change them. As we do, we sow the seeds of joy, allowing one of life’s greatest virtues to blossom.