Joy – case in point for staying real and choosing your stand (plus a checklist)

Posted on Posted in well-being

This year I’m a student of emotions/feelings/mental states/cognitive biases and the rest of the things that us humans fail to factor into our lives because we are so helpless in controlling them. But once you decide to stop believing in fairy tales (the “rational being”), the lure of at least understanding reality is irresistible, so here I am 😊

6 primary emotions and dyad combinations
Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Given the season and all that, I thought “hmmm, what a better place to start than good ‘ol JOY”? One of the 8 basic emotions of Eckart’s initial integrated approach later developed into Plutchik’s Wheel (my current favorite working model with emotions), right?

Lots to learn – since I honestly believe I don’t get enough of it, right?

So here’s my summary of understanding about joy:

  • Some define it as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness” …then others define joy as the highest level of happiness, while others agree that joy – pleasure – happiness are three distinct things. Bottom line: we are clueless about it. So I choose to define joy as “a feeling of extreme gladness, delight or exultation of the spirit arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction” to put my cognitive mind at ease…
  • Everyone agrees some sort of definition of this thing called joy/happiness are recognizable in our faces & bodies across all cultures (hence, the “primary” / “fundamental” attributions)
  • There are two distinct ways of looking at joy
    • “passive” joy, which involves tranquility and a feeling of contentment with things as they are
    • “active” joy involves a desire to share one’s feelings with others and is associated with more engagement of the environment

And here’s where my intellectual pursuit of Joy ends, as from the cognitive perspective, I’m settled into defining it as “the emotional dimension of the good life, a life that is both going well and is being lived well” (Buddha)…so where does this lead me?

Well, I did say more’s better…so how do we get more? Here’s my 9-items ultimate checklist 😊

  • Believe joy is possible for me. So basic, I know. But having coached quite a few people, I know for a fact that until you air out your beliefs about your reality and validate they are supportive of it, you simply have no chance. So just ask yourself the question and move on if you’re positive…or just stop wasting your time work your way to straightening your head up!
  • No comparison with others. Comparison is one of the complex cognitive factors that can propel us towards anger, frustration and envy (ok, we can get lucky and get moved towards empathy, compassion and gratitude but who’s willing to take the chance?).
  • Acknowledge gratitude. Remember the “count your blessings” advise? Well, if you can’t help not comparing yourself to others (yet), at least do get into the gratitude mode for the goodies in your life, whatever they are…if you’ve tried it out you surely remember that warm wave of joy when you do it (after all memory – reality – imagination work the same way!)
  • Mindful awareness = basically stay tuned to reality and reality will provide…something. Admittedly, it works better if we just give up control, but I must confess it’s rewarding for me to stay tuned & use the attention remote control to switch to nice things…falling leaves, sun rays, smiles – selective attention is my current milestone
  • Talk to yourself properly. Be nice! You know the ratio of negative to positive talk that leaves you in a breakeven point (not on the bright side!) is 9:1. So here’s how it looks:

“So stupid of me”


“I’m such an idiot!”


“Maybe I’m enjoying this too much…”


“That makes me so angry”


“Life’s hard, right?”


“Those bastards are so infuriating!”


“I hate myself for…”


“I always do that stupid thing!”


“I’m really computer-retarded”


“This is so much fun!”


Apparently we’re wired to work hard if we want to enjoy life, and the sooner we understand this, the more of life we get to enjoy 😊

  • Allow for more creativity & self-expression. Seriously, dance / draw / get into photography or cooking or creative writing… whatever makes the inner you get out there – and focus on enjoying the process!
  • Spend time in the natural world. If you’re a hiking or ski fan, you already know that’ll do the trick. But even if, like a friend of mine, you believe that once you’ve seen a tree, you’ve seen them all, please admit the effect they have on you!
  • Share more. Because it’ll make you feel good and because our beloved mirror neurons do this wonderful trick of “emotion contagion” – when you bring joy to someone’s life, it’ll rub on to you too!

disclaimer: this post was not meant to bring you joy…in fact it was meant to bring a pinch of sadness maybe? stay tuned to find out why that’s really, really good for you!