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Having a Joy Mindset

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Following from my discovery of how mindsets shift states, breaks unconscious beliefs and turns my passiveness into a proactive pursuit of growth, I dived deeper into what I consider as foundational pillars of emotional wellbeing - joy, peace, love and hope.

I begin with Joy. Specifically on the mindset of being joyful, finding joy during hardship and joy through the virtue of purposefulness.

In change my mindset, change my life, I learned to get curious about reframing perspectives, tearing down the beliefs (bullshit rules aka brules) that shaped my set of beliefs, and to gaze into the situation with a fresh pair of eyes. One that chooses a desirable outcome and is most beneficial to me.

I worked on my understanding of stress and anxiety and sought wisdom in understanding that stress. Turns out that my stress was a signal I cared much about something, and I should prioritize. It also told me as my mind begins to dwell and ruminate that my body and brain is gearing me up to superhuman processing speed, in order to solve the problem. Stress became an ally, a tool, a superhuman power, and I transform into an all action superhero.

Still, my ideal day hopefully would not be that stressful. I would prefer shifting my state to peak performance, energy and inspiration. Here's where I begin building the foundation work to operate from a joy mentality, a belief system which promotes joy in my life, helps me to connect my daily actions to a deeper meaning, and to relish and savor the satisfaction of living out a fulfilled day.

What it means to be joyful

Joy is defined as happiness meets pleasure. However this definition does not adequately capture the intrinsic nature of joy and the decision to seek out joy. Happiness is a gift, an external event which brings out a temporary reaction. Joy is more complex.

"They are (1) growing in authenticity and living more into one’s strengths, (2) growing in depth of relationships and contributing to others, and (3) living more aligned with one’s ethical and spiritual ideals." - Dr Pamela King, What is Joy.

Joy is also being purposeful. Being connected and finding meaning to the moment in good times and bad. This is perhaps why joy can exist in suffering.

3 mindsets about joy

  1. Joy is my choice. I choose to invite joy in my life by being connected, aligned and purposeful in my actions. The difference between happiness versus joy is the fleeting nature of happiness and its dependency on an occurrence. Joy is choosing to see beyond the happy event and linking that with a deeper sense of meaning or purpose. This choice to shift perspective starts by conscious decision making until we form a habit of seeing things from this default perspective. Having this mindset is critical as it is empowering the individual to see beyond the immediate situation, and to be a co-actor in life rather than being led by the ebb and flow of life.

  2. Why me? Joy coexists with suffering and hardship. “meaning-making attempts following highly stressful events are a near-universal experience” (Crystal Park, 2010) Asking "Why Me?" during such situations is the opportunity to process traumatic events and to uncover wisdom. Similarly, by accepting the suffering has occurred and being able to feel connected (to support networks) or to realize meaning and purpose through the process of overcoming pain brings joy.

  3. Joy is an expression of who I am, when fully aligned. This is by far the most important mindset for me. Being uniquely me requires me to feel safe being vulnerable. I notice that I am most joyful at home with my son, because at his age, I am his role model and who I am holds sway. I feel totally accepted by him and even if I lose myself, become overwhelmed with emotions such as anger or stress, he tries to make sense of my situation and tries to adapt in his attempt to gain my recognition and love. Likewise, I try to provide the same safe and secure world for him to explore, to learn and to develop as a human being. This is fertile ground for joy. Using this confidence I have in my bonding with my son, I try to extend the same congruent self to my wife, when we are together as a family. Then I grew extensions using my child's interactions with my relatives and peers, to be more consistently me. Over time, I realized that I am more comfortable to be me, especially when I feel safe and secure. In these moments, I am joyous.

How do I entrench these mindsets and have that integrated into my life? I design my life to embrace and invite joy, to affirm myself.

  1. Choose joy daily! Mental reminder to self, is to choose to be joyful at every opportunity. My habit hack is to create a head space at home to remind me to choose joy today. This happens at my balcony. I start the day to the sound of birds chirping and I love a brief moment looking out to as far as I can see, to gaze at the clouds. This momentary awareness that I am one individual, connected to a bigger world (the birds, the clouds, my distant neighbors) and it anchors me in the wonder of the morning. This is when I feel ready to make a commitment, to commit this morning to seek joy.

  2. Stacking up joy and purpose. I stack up my joyful moments when I journal about things I am grateful for. In addition, I try to link up a sense of meaning or life purpose with moments of blessing, success, connection and love. Through layering things I am grateful for, I compound my happiness and I feel deeply enriched, satisfied and joyful when I can link such activities to a deeper meaning to my existence, or a fulfilment of my purpose. Here's an example. I do not derive much joy being with my son (childminding on weekends has its demands) unless I am able to consciously connect the reason for spending time with him, to a purpose that I fulfill. He is a lovable and jovial child and I do smile, laugh and have fun playing with him. Yet this superficial level of bliss makes me feel empty, unaccomplished. It is as though all I did that day was to be a caregiver. The feeling is radically transformed when I can stack up meaning and purpose such as to support my wife's weekend work and help her fulfill her life purpose. It is also more satisfying knowing that each fruitful day I spend with my son in his formative years (he is 3 years old), I am building a foundation for him to be a fine adult in years to come. The more reasons I can find that gives me a sense of purpose and meaning to the task, the more joyful I am.

  3. Mirror time! Every time I am alone in front of a mirror is mirror work time! The mirror me invites me to take stock, staring at myself, I give myself a high 5! Cheer myself up by just being there for me with a high 5, or a high 5 with passion and excitement to congratulate me for a satisfying day. I am surprised just recalling how I have grown used to looking myself in the mirror, to affirm me, to encourage me to persevere when it mattered. To remind me to breathe. To remind me that this is just another day, I have seen worse days, and here I am, healthy and able to count my blessings. Mirror work is vital in entrenching joy in my life and reminding myself to breathe, pause and choose life.

Joy is happiness and pleasure when I can connect the happiness and pleasure to purpose and meaning. How we embrace joy in our lives and make it a habit is a personal decision and it is not easy to form the habit of joy and to change your mindsets to a set of joy-nurturing beliefs.

A place to start is through the momentary awareness that joy exists in our lives. I find that contemplating a joyful life, receiving bliss and appreciating it as a divine grace from God is enough to transform the transient happiness to something that sticks, a joy that lasts.

This Feeling Human has a playlist of contemplations about joy, to help kickstart your journey inward, to stack up joys and reframe an empowering belief about the joy of being you.

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