Early last year, I was having a particularly hard time dealing with the stress and demands of my entrepreneurial life and, let’s face it, adult life. I meditate and practice yoga daily so I did have those acts of self-care to get me through but it wasn’t enough. It was winter and I was feeling very overwhelmed by everything: I felt stressed, tired, emotional, and helpless. I was getting ready to head to Cuba to lead a week-long yoga retreat and I desperately wanted to be in better place mentally and physically so I could hold space for my wonderful participants.
Within 24hrs of arriving in Cuba, I experienced such joy, energy, positivity that I felt like I was vibrating, like I was lit up. I walked around a lot of the time with my hand on chest, as though I was trying to contain the swelling of my heart. I puffed on a cigar, swam in the ocean at night, danced up a storm, smiled ‘til my face hurt, laughed ‘til my belly hurt, and felt joy that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
And it got me thinking about my joy quota.
I had seen a stand-up comedy special by Pete Holmes, and in a ‘life lesson moment’ he tells the audience to fill, what he calls, your joy quota:
“That’s why you’re here, to cash happy cheques, to live your life”.
It wasn’t until I experienced such joy in Cuba that I realized that this kind of fun had been absent from my life as of late. It had been an endless cycle of wake, work, eat, sleep. Repeat. I absolutely love my work, but I was punching 12-14 hour days and hadn’t been making any time for play, for fun, for living.
When was the last time I went to lunch with a friend? Enjoyed a leisurely walk? Went to the movies? Or had a dance party in my kitchen?
I couldn’t remember.
It was also a beautiful reminder that this kind of excitement is still possible; as we get older we can harden and become jaded, perhaps the laughter doesn’t flow like it used to. But that magical week in Cuba was a reminder that at 36 years of age I could still find little-kid-on-Christmas-morning level excitement while bobbing in the ocean waves or dancing to Latin American pop music in a parking lot.
Before I left to return home I made a vow to cash more happy cheques and to bring more joy into my life. And, a year later, I’m trying to keep that intention at the top of my list in the midst of routine and real life. But it’s challenging, for sure, not to just get swept up in the daily grind.
We can’t always run off to a sunny, exotic country the next time the going gets tough, so what can we do to boost our moods and bring a smile to our faces? Everyone is different, of course, and it’s important to find what lights you up.
Need some inspiration? Here are my top 5 ways to spark joy:
- Get moving: I practice yoga every day and it makes me feel amazing, but for a real serotonin kick I dance, cranking up the music, and getting out on the floor (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen – there are no limits!) If that’s not your jam maybe just getting out for a walk will do the trick. Moving does a body (and mind and heart) GOOD.
- Socialize: I’m an introvert so my default is to stay in and stay quiet. But I have such a good time once I’m out in the world! I love the buzz of heading to a lively spot with pals for a fun night out.
- Treat yourself: the heart wants what the heart wants. And, for me, that might be a piece of chocolate cake, a new book, or yes, a trip. These things may seem indulgent but what is life without a little sparkle and a few treats? So go see that hockey game, buy that concert ticket, and ENJOY.
- Laugh: I became a fan of stand up comedy a few years ago and I love watching it in person and on TV. There is something so therapeutic about a good, hearty, belly-hurting laugh-fest. And medical research agrees: it’s actually good for our health! Find a comedy series or movie that tickles your fancy (and your funny bone) and get silly.
- Eat good food: I hate to cook but I love to eat. And I love sharing an incredible meal and fun foods with other people: food that makes your eyes roll up into your head, food that makes you put down your fork and throw your hands up in the air in pure ecstasy. So try giving your belly and taste buds some love.
Now I’m curious – what’s on your list?? Yours, in all things joyful,