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Cultivating Joy


Joy comes in the forms of the still moments between things.

Oftentimes I am asked about how someone can achieve joy or happiness in their lives and my answer is usually that it exists all around us. Joy is cultivated, nurtured and a practice of intention. Happiness, the emotion often attached to joy, is temporary, but joy is a state of living. 

Rather than making joy seem like a destination, think of it like a garden. You can grow the most beautiful garden in the world, but if you don’t look after the soil and the weeds, if you don’t water it and nurture the land, then you won’t get anything out of it. Sometimes, finding and cultivating joy works the same way… you have to put in the effort for it to be there. 

Joy is easily found in the big moments of life – during lavish events and grand vacations, but it’s more importantly, found in the cracks and crevices of daily life. 

The moment when the sun shines through your front window and hits your face during winter. 

The moments when you can smell fresh air and hear laughter. 

The moments when you do get to harvest the fruits of your labor in the garden for fresh, nutritious foods.

Woman in teal dress sits on counter in kitchen with a coffee mug in one hand and a phone in the other, looking at the phone

How often do you look in the mirror and say “I’m fine, really” … you’re an adult, doing adult things and going through the motions of life, but sometimes you’re not really living it. You’re living on autopilot and feeling like a shadow of who you once were. 

I would like to invite you to reflect…When was the last time you said “yes” to something that wasn’t for anything other than you simply just enjoy doing it? 

When building joy into your life and finding it in the small moments, remember to focus on the things you can control and work on bringing your attention there. 

One exercise that you can try for focusing your thoughts and what you can control is to think of your thoughts as clouds in the sky. You can’t control which clouds are there or when they come, but you can control which ones you give your time to. When you find that you have unhelpful thoughts or thoughts that don’t cultivate joy, you can start to say “Hmm… interesting, but I’m not focusing on that right now,” and watch those thoughts float on by. 

We put so much emphasis on the how. How do we become happy? How do we find joy? And I don’t think we have to change much, if anything. We simply have to pay attention to the in-between moments. 

Woman in brown overalls leans against the counter in a kitchen with a basket of tulips in her hands.

You can do this by: 

  • Intentionally planning pleasurable activities for yourself. The more activities that you do that you find enjoyable, the more resistance you have when you have to do something that’s not so fun. 
  • Set realistic expectations for things. I’ve most definitely been the person who’s had expectations about something and the only reason that the event was a let down was because of the idea in my head that it would be something it’s not. Try to go into things with an open mind! 
  • Practice presence. Put your phone down and pay attention to your five senses. What are they telling you? What do you hear? What do you smell? What can you see? What do you taste? What are you touching? 
  • Don’t dismiss your discomfort and unpleasant feelings. Acknowledging the full spectrum of feelings is crucial for the human experience. Why? Well… how will you know if something is joyful, colorful, and amazing, and feel it to the fullest extent if you don’t recognize when you are feeling sad or overwhelmed, too? Aiming to feel the full range of emotions allows us to feel the happiest ones too – plus it boosts resilience!
  • Embrace self-compassion. By practicing grace, understanding and patience towards yourself, and approaching yourself with a gentle curiosity rather than judgement, you create room for a neural pathway that allows for a more joyous state of mind. In moments when you’re finding yourself being a bit judgy of yourself I invite you to ask, “What would I say to my best friend right now?” because you are your best friend! 
  • Cleanse. I know this isn’t the easiest thing to do and it’s not always feasible, but I cleanse people that make me uncomfortable, doubt myself, or bring up some kind of reaction from a younger version of me. Simply put, I don’t spend time with people who make me feel like a worse version of myself or whom I can feel my energy shifting around. What I do though, is focus on spending time with those who make me belly laugh a little bit longer and those who make me feel like sunshine. You don’t have to cut people off, because we can’t always do that, but we can set boundaries as a form of self-respect. 
Woman in white tshirt and blue denim shorts sits on the counter in a kitchen with a coffee mug and a big smile

The best part about looking out the window and putting your face in the warm sun or playing with your animals outside and feeling joyous is that it has a domino effect. Through shared purpose and continuously finding those small moments in your days, you can cultivate a lifestyle of joy and gratitude. I want you to feel empowered to find the joy that works for you. Your joy might come in baking bread or creating your beautiful art pieces. Your best friends or partners’ joy may come from spending time with horses and going for walks. Your joy is yours to cultivate and yours to experience. You can share it and help others replenish theirs once you have cultivated enough… just like you can share your garden once you have it growing. 

Even in the small moments and small days, life can throw challenges at us, and I’d like to remind you of something…

You have survived 100% of your hardest days, you can survive today too. 

Photography by: Caitlyn O’Brien

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