Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I recently set out on a project of my own.
Only it doesn’t feel like a project.
It feels like love. And life. And delight.
A week ago, I began “joy activities.” These are five minute tasks I give myself for the sole purpose of experiencing joy. The week before, I wrote about having a “smash-my-head-into-the-keyboard” kind of week. I had a stressful day, but what got me through it was the fact that I started the day by spending a few minutes in nature. I intentionally stopped what I was doing to initiate the experience of peace and joy. I realized that unless we intentionally plant joy into our lives each day, happiness and joy may not come. We can’t sit back and hope someone says something funny to make us laugh. We can’t sit back and hope something good will come our way. We can’t breathe easy when schedules are jam-packed with meetings and activities. Or when our work is overflowing.
Perhaps if we don’t have joy in our lives, it’s simply because we are not creating it.
So five minutes. It’s not too much time to detract from the things I really need to do each day. But it is enough to set a tone of positivity and gratitude for the rest of my day. It’s enabled me to experience beautiful memories that I now treasure like a worn photo album from yesteryear.
Through my “joy activities,” I’ve experienced the joy of watching backyard chickens cock their head to the side, inquisitively, and lean their head back, then forward to smash their beak into the corn cob I’m holding in my hand. They’re hilarious, with just the right precision to pick one kernel off the cob at a time. After all, food is meant to be enjoyed, one little smackerel at a time, the chickens remind me.
Because of “scheduling joy”, I’ve hopped off my bike, parked it against a railing on the side of the road, and walked down to river’s edge to gaze at weirs, cascades of cold, flowing rivulets greeting the surprisingly emerald green waters below them. I am fortune enough to pass by such beauty on my morning commute each day, but rarely have I stopped to take it in, to immerse my being with the halcyon sound of bird chatter and waterfall, before biking downtown, where the ambiance of cars and sirens await me.
But even my five minute joy activity turns sirens into symphonies, yes. Today’s joy task was to sing on my bike. Being that I work at a hospital, it’s not uncommon for me to have to pull over for sirens zooming eastward to the ER. But since I was singing, I took a moment to sing “every siren in a symphony.” Suddenly, it made the noise and chaos not just bearable, but beautiful.
I’m reading books that I’ve been trying to get through for months by candlelight- my favorite lavender Yankee candles, lighting all three of them, not just one, aromas tickling my chemoreceptors with pure delight. I flip my fingers through manila pages, not once feeling guilty for pleasure reading instead of getting through my assigned readings for class. And not feeling even a twinge of guilt is a victory for this recovering people-pleaser perfectionist.
Yes. Tomorrow, I’ll experience five joy-filled minutes of yoga.
And the next day, broomball.
And the day after that, a five minute soak in the whirlpool at the gym.
Come springtime, I will lay down in the backyard grass (that’s probably too long from not mowing) and do nothing but survey the contours of clouds in the sky for five minutes.
Because this life is exquisite.
There are chocolates in thin, crinkly foil wrappers waiting to be opened and savored in your mouth for minutes on end.
There are bubbles waiting to be blown into the air, sun meeting frothy blobs, transcending shades of purple and pink off bubble’s edge.
And yes, there’s even a few pairs of fancy underwear I haven’t worn in months waiting for me to stop thinking I need a reason to wear them.
La vie est belle.
Copright MO 2014
For inspiration on joy activities you can create in your life, check out: http://zenhabits.net/75-simple-pleasures-to-brighten-your-day/