Today I’m thinking about joy. Not just getting by or feeling OK. Not even just contentment or wellbeing. Joy. The thoughts and feelings we have at those moments when life is excellent, when everything is fine and exactly as we would wish it to be.
Without the idea of joy, or a direction of travel towards positive emotions, we are operating with one hand tied behind our backs when we try to encourage patients to make better decisions, solve their problems and rearrange their social behaviours.
Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist based in North Carolina, explains how we can use joy and other positive emotions to broaden and build our well-being and personal resilience. Joy sparks the urge to play. Interest sparks the urge to explore. Contentment sparks the urge to savour and integrate. And love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. Broadening our minds in these ways, through play, exploring, savouring or integrating, promotes discovery of new and creative actions, ideas and social networks. These in turn build up our personal resources and provide lasting reserves which we can draw on if life gets difficult again.
We don’t just have to wait for joy to come along and surprise us. We can go looking for it.
Music is one big route into joy. For me Beethoven does joy in music better than anyone else I know. One of the very best moments of my life was being in a choir singing the Ode to Joy in his Choral Symphony. Here is a link to another version (technically much better than ours!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-WF0PVi2FA
Have a look at http://lvbandmore.blogspot.com/2010/08/810-beethovens-heiliger-dankgesang-from.html. You need to scroll down to find the music itself. This link also gives a delightful talk about illness and creativity.
Or if it’s bringing out the joy to be found in ordinary everyday living, for me there’s nothing to beat Van Morrison’s Coney Island . Here’s a link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=min5Wrw1eV4. Van M is famously grumpy, but sometimes, just sometimes, he gets it absolutely right.
What about you? What brings you joy? Does it catch you by surprise, or can you go and find it? How do you celebrate it?