I have suffered a lot with issues surrounding depression and anxiety. I have regularly caused myself (and, I’m sure, those around me) much distress and upset as a result of various bouts of paranoia, agoraphobia, feelings of obligation, fomo (fear of missing out – note, agoraphobia with fomo is a *great* combo), being overly concerned with what other people think……the list goes on, and none of it (obviously) made me happy. Granted, for a long time I don’t think I even knew what would make me happy, but these things certainly weren’t it.
I’ve tried lots of ways to try and ‘make myself better’ – various medications and therapies, which have had varying effects on my mood, brain chemistry and way of thinking. I am, largely, doing much better with being positive these days than at almost any point in my past, and am learning to retain good things and let the bad stuff go – I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.
Recently I came across the phrase “Does it bring you joy?” and am trying to use it as a bit of a personal philosophy or guiding principle for managing my moods and my behaviour in the hope of getting a more consistent positive outcome.
If you are doing something, anything, or even not doing something, stop and ask yourself “Does it bring me joy?”.
In a very simplistic interpretation – if it isn’t brining you joy, then don’t do it. That’s not exactly a new idea, however it clearly can’t be applied to all situations, there are things we have to do in life that don’t bring us joy and we can’t just avoid them because they don’t in themselves make us happy. So we need to learn to make the best of everything, even the things we don’t want to do – I think in most cases you can find a positive reason to those things that feel more like obligations than choices.
It is for this reason that I see the question in three parts; the process, the outcome and the alternative. Take any situation and now ask yourself – Does the process bring me joy? Does the outcome? Does the alternative(s)? Then weigh up your answers.
(A less fun way of thinking about this is – “Is What I’m Doing Positively Constructive?” – but that’s just not as catchy)
For example – Eating a cake.
The Process of eating a cake does bring me joy, I love cake and could eat nothing but cake. I have a sweet tooth and a huge tendency to comfort eat, so the process of eating the cake releases lots of happy hormones and good feelings.
The Consequence of eating cake, for me and my decidedly average metabolism at least, is getting fat, and that definitely doesn’t bring me joy and I want to avoid this joy-sapping experience.
The Alternative(s) to eating cake could be eating a smaller piece of cake/eating cake less frequently – still getting the joy of the cake but not suffering the lack of joy of gaining weight – or finding an alternative snack that I still enjoy and still brings some joy but without the joyless weight gain again.
Example 2 – Paying a Bill
The Process of paying a bill itself isn’t particularly joyful or joyless, but the outcome of having less money is a bit of a joy killer
The Consequence of paying a bill though is that I get to benefit from whatever it is I’m paying for, say it’s electricity – I get light and TV and internet and all sorts of other things that do bring me joy.
The Alternative(s) to paying the bill is not paying the bill, and that means losing all my joy-bringing facilities, so there’s a definitely loss of joy there.
Example 3 – Being annoyed with someone else
The Process of being annoyed with someone, say another driver or a colleague who did something you disagree with, is highly unlikely to bring you joy and is most likely going to make you feel stressed and irritable with either no effect on the person you’re annoyed with or just making them annoyed as well.
The Consequence of your annoyance is most likely to be that you feel stressed and unhappy, or you both feel stressed and unhappy – no one involved is going to feel joyful.
The Alternative is either addressing the cause of the annoyance and resolving it, leaving you feeling better or just letting the annoyance go and getting on with finding something that does bring you joy.
As an extension of this, you can also consider how your actions/inactions influence the joy of others – if we can each try to act in ways that not only bring us joy but support the joy of others then everyone should have an easier time of things. Generally I feel that there is too much negativity in the world and not enough mutual support – people are too quick to knock each other down and criticise, and I don’t believe anyone derives any real joy from that.
I find the process of breaking down a problem/issue/situation like this holds similarities to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which I have had a lot of experience of, to greater or lesser effect over the years. Largely CBT is concerned with managing anxieties/negative thoughts and feelings by looking for the root cause of a belief or problem and the considering the likelihood of the outcome you fear and then the likelihood of various less fear inducing alternatives, with a view to quelling the knee-jerk anxious reaction or dissipate strongly held negative beliefs.
I know much less about Mindfulness, but what little I do know suggests that this approach also has elements of Mindfulness to it – taking the time to properly think about what you are doing and why, with the aim of increasing the positive personal benefit you gain from it.
Ultimately, I strongly believe that we should all (especially me) try harder to find more happiness in life and to create joy for ourselves whenever possible – even though there are some things that we have to do rather than want to do.
Thanks for stopping by,