When You Are Terrible at Joy


Brooke Dilling | @brookefrances

I’m terrible at joy.

By nature I’m a serious person. It takes a ridiculous amount of effort for me to cut loose. I’m not the “dance-around-the kitchen” or the “drop everything to run through the sprinkler” sort of girl. But, I used to be. I think?

And for the last couple of years its been nagging at me… Where did my joy go? And how do I find? Because I’d like to find it before my kids only remember the straight-faced, stick-up-her ass, cranky mom from their childhood.

Where does one even start looking for joy? Between the couch cushions? Stuck in the guest-room, shoved behind the dusty and long-forgotten wedding dress of a marriage gone wrong? No. And no.  

I initially started by looking where any serious, non-joyful person looks. I turned to research and books. The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama offers a wealth of information, including several obstacles to joy. Obstacles include fear, stress, grief, loneliness, and envy, among others. Huh… well, looks like I may need to do a bit of work on overcoming a few obstacles. One such obstacle remover is meditation. I have found I feel more open to joy on the days I meditate. Even five minutes of meditation can make a difference in how I approach my day.

The book highlights eight pillars of joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.  The two that immediately resonated with me were gratitude and generosity.

You’ve probably heard it before, and if you haven’t, listen up, because it works. When we spend time with gratitude--making lists of what we have to be grateful for in life--it creates more joy in our life. I can attest I’ve found more joy when I spend time focusing on the good in my life, rather than emphasizing what is lacking.

And generosity? Turns out, joy doesn’t come to us by screaming out loud “I am manifesting joy!!!” I’ve tried. It didn’t work. But joy does come when we give it away. By sharing with and giving to others, not only do we help them, we create joy in ourselves. Joy comes by giving it away, not by holding onto it for dear life.

Do I now have joy figured out? No. For me, joy is as elusive as ever. But 2018 is the year I’m promising myself I’ll get closer to living a more joyful life. Joy is a work in progress and The Book of Joy offers some daily practices that I hope will help. I’ll be spending much more time with this book. And perhaps this summer, you’ll find me splashing in rain puddles or dancing in my kitchen.