As we enter the holiday season, let’s consider the reality of and requirements for lasting joy. Many people have high expectations for the holiday season, but these are often disappointed. However, it is entirely possible for most of us to live in joy most of the time.

People often expect that when a particular event or situation occurs or a milestone is reached, then they will be happy. Advertisers continually tell us that buying their product will bring us joy. This, of course, is nonsense – any joy produced by acquiring anything will be short-lived. We may find somewhat longer-lasting joy in some events and in giving to and helping others, but in reality, this too will be transitory. Joy is not situation-dependent – it is the result of decisions that we constantly make. Lasting happiness results from the mostly internal actions we take and the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. Lasting joy requires effort, but the payoff for the effort is huge and worthwhile.

So what does it take to actually live in joy? This is both simpler and more possible than it likely sounds. Joy is the natural state of being for nearly everyone before our personalities become besieged by constant self-criticism, self-doubt and anxiety, before our bodies become burdened by unresolved tensions, and before we forget how to live in the present moment. Babies and young children are largely joyous most of the time, not only because they are innocent, but because they have not learned to continually berate themselves, their bodies are free of excess tension, and they do live in the now. We can cultivate these characteristics in adulthood to our great benefit.

Training ourselves to abandon the constant internal dialogue of criticism, self-justification, and worry allows our internal lives to become peaceful and calm. Stopping this internal haranguing increases motivation, willingness to push ourselves, and aspirations, freeing us to excel. When we stop undermining ourselves we become more capable of accomplishing great things and of high-level performance. By quieting the negative dialogue, we experience a better quality of life, save time that would be wasted in recrimination and self-doubt and the paralysis that results, and make better decisions. Some steps that help stop internal negative chatter:

The body plays a major role in living in joy and happiness. Stress and unresolved or unpleasant situations cause physical tensions that easily become embedded in the body. Although conscious awareness of this tension fades quickly, leaving it in the body causes constant lack of ease and subliminal pain. The longer tension and lack of release accumulate, the greater the impact on the body and the bigger impediment to joy this tension becomes. The more that you reduce excess physical tension, the greater your capacity to experience joy will be. Some ways to release embedded physical tension include:

Living in and being aware of the NOW is a major component of joy. Living in either the past or the future is a recipe for pain and missed opportunities. Indeed, the more intensely we are aware of any present moment, the greater will be our capacity for and experience of joy.

So as you go through this holiday season, remember to take care of yourself so that you will both experience and be able to spread joy. You can also become far more productive and organized by becoming happier.

As always, I am happy to answer questions or write newsletters on topics suggested by readers. Reader questions often inspire newsletter topics, so please, ask any organizing, time management, or hoarding questions that you wish. You are welcome to share this newsletter with others, and they can request their own subscription.


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