At the conference where I spoke yesterday, I attended a great session presented by my friend Michelle about Following Your Joy. She gave us all a worksheet and asked us to list up to 20 things that bring us joy, then focus in a couple and really think about why those activities make us happy and how often we actually do them.
The woman I sat next to wrote nothing on her paper. She doodled. She played with her phone. She wiped her eyes. And then she was brave enough to ask out loud, “What if you can’t think of anything that brings you joy?”
This woman was gorgeous. Long blond hair, adorable outfit, dripping in jewels. She’s very successful – a sought-after artist and designer. She looks “perfect” on the outside – even happy, but her inside doesn’t match the outside. I know this feeling well. I told her about the music class I’d taken with my son when he was two; sitting in a circle of parents and children, we were asked to each share something that made us happy. Each person shared something – cooking, reading, acting. But my mind went blank. When they go to us, my son said, “I like playing with trucks” and I said, “I like playing with trucks, too.”
It’s a scary, daunting feeling to not know what brings you joy. I’d been struggling – unknowingly – with postpartum depression and PTSD, so my light within was very dim. And when your light is dim, everything you once loved to do is hidden in the dark. And there’s no light to illuminate those things you haven’t even yet discovered. If you can relate and feel like your own joy needs a jumpstart, let me suggest two ways to help you find what makes you happy.
1. Notice what sparks your spirit. Set your intention to be more self-aware: catch yourself in a big belly laugh, take note when you’re feeling at peace, notice when you’re so engrossed in something that you lose track of time. Then ask yourself what you were doing, where you were and who you were with in those moments. Write them down. Notice patterns. These will be clues to the activities, places and people that bring you joy.
2. Expand your horizons. If the things that once made you happy no longer do, accept it as evidence you’re growing and evolving. That’s awesome! It also means it’s time to branch out. We tend to want to try new things with a friend rather than go it alone. It’s nice to have a companion when you’re road-testing a new path; however, it can also keep you from connecting with new people. And if your friend isn’t having fun, you’re not likely to immerse yourself in the activity because you’re too worried about her. I’ve been particularly in awe of my mom in recent months, who opted to start attending a weekly A Course in Miracles discussion group on her own and has since forged some really rich friendships with others in the group. She’s also discovered – of all things – that she loves breakdancing! She has attended classes and b-girl events on her own, joyfully getting to know women who are half her age and marveling at their ability to move and groove.
When I was in Florida recently, I came across this scribble in the sand. Someone had written I ♥ and then whatever it was they loved was either never written or had been washed away. Have you found ways to rediscover what makes you happy? Are you currently in search of it? I hope you’ll share below…and find some joy in doing so.