I don’t know about you, but for me, these late winter days can seem awfully dreary. Layer on the stresses of life, and too much time inside staring at my computer, and it’s clear that this is an important time to consciously bring more lightness and spontaneity into life. In order to maintain positivity, motivation and inspiration, I’ve recently confirmed (for myself, at least), that we need to not only take breaks, but also, find time for fun, joy and pleasure. The implications of making a practice out of experiencing joy are vast, and, in case you’ve never really thought about it, here are some of the reasons why.
We often hear about the importance of taking time to de-stress, which is certainly an important thing to do. Why stop there, though, when you can go three steps further? Making time for not only relaxing, but also intentionally experiencing joy, we step past simply supporting the body and mind, and move into nourishing the heart and inspiring the soul. Feeling joy and pleasure opens us up, energetically, physically and emotionally, connecting us to the energy of our heart and allowing us to effortlessly align with the present moment and what we are here to do and be. It takes mentalism out of the equation and reminds us what it is like to just be and feel.
We humans are blessed with the ability to use our senses to experience pleasure in the body. How often do we think of our senses in this way or leverage the power they hold to bring us joy? Think of how blissful it can be to hear a beautiful song, experience the touch of a loved one, admire a soul-inspiring piece of art, or eat a sumptuous meal. Our senses are here, not just to serve us with information, but also to nourish us with joy, to bring us into presence and to give us pleasure! Our senses are wired into the brain, triggering emotional responses, memories, and signals to our nervous and hormonal systems. Sensual enjoyment and pleasure, very literally changes our nervous system tone, gives us a dose of happy hormones, and uplifts our emotions, heart and soul.
Of course, there are many other ways to experience joy other than through our senses. Maybe you’re an exercise person or a crafter. Maybe you love to cook or dance or sing or write. Whatever it is, the things that bring us a feeling of joy inevitably connect us to who we are at our core, and offer an invitation into relationship with the soul. We tend to get so attached to roles and labels, our work and our list of accomplishments. It is important to regularly challenge these classifications, expanding beyond the confines of who we think we are, and tapping into the remembrance of our full-spectrum beingness. Each of us is uniquely inspired to express and experience life through many avenues – we are the dancer, the singer, the runner, the artist, the cook; the infinite, the unity, and the one – we are the soul expressing, and joy is a for-sure signal that we are tapping into what is personally meaningful, not just as a human, but as an infinite soul.
I have also recently been reminded of the importance of play in human life, a practice that also can bring a lot of joy. Culturally this is so under-appreciated, for both children and adults, as work is generally seen as the only way to learn or achieve anything of meaning. A look at both human history and modern research tells a different story, however, confirming that we actually learn best through play. When we occupy the body, mind and heart, are excited about and engaged in what we are doing, and participating with a sense of openness and joy, it makes sense that learning would take place effortlessly, often without even any awareness, and be integrated into the body immediately and deeply. In contrast, purely mental work is like tucking something superficially into the brain, with no meaning attached. It’s no wonder this kind of knowledge can be quickly lost.
Play is also a key way we process experiences, work with difficult emotions and decompress from stress, as any parent of a young child knows. Similar to how dreams or creative projects allow us to work-through, process and express, play takes us into the realm of imagination and fantasy, allowing a spaciousness and fluidity to explore a situation, play out troubling reactions or emotions and even feel out different possible outcomes. All of this “work” may be done without conscious awareness or in seemingly illogical ways, as the mind at play is freed from the rigidity and analysis that we often apply when thinking about our problems. Play, in addition to being useful as a processing tool, is, of course, often joyful and fun! I would love to see us all learn more and grow more through joy, pleasure, play and fun rather than suffering, struggle, challenge and adversity! If we could embrace this idea, it would be an amazing paradigm shift, for us as individuals, as well as for our culture as a whole.
Though we all vary a great deal in our relationship to joy, it is clear that there are many benefits in connecting with this emotion regularly. The true pursuit and experience of joy is one that inspires and motivates us to live life more fully: it lights up our heart and reinvigorates our passion for life, it reorients us to the present and helps free us from the limitations of our stories. As we tap into this emotion and begin to use it as a tool to augment our life, we can start to truly appreciate how integral it is in bringing a sense of wholeness, happiness and peace, and understand that, far from being a hedonistic habit, the pursuit of joy is actually a very valuable, and even necessary, element of our health and well-being. Here’s to more joy!
Hi! My name is Ashley and I'm a transformational healer, writer and artist. Here you will find articles on a variety of topics related to health and healing, conscious living and self-growth. Hope you enjoy!