Increasing Joy: A Resolution

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Gathered around Table 9 while on break at the steakhouse, the question was posed yesterday:

“Alright guys, so what are your new year’s resolutions?”

As conversation made its way around the table, I saved mine for last while expeditiously searching for what it might be. I don’t have a long list of habits to break. And the goals I do have for the year ahead feel more like a plan for the future and less like a list of lifestyle modifications.

But then after a quick burst of mental flurry, I found one.

I simply said that my only resolution for the new year was to learn to enjoy life a little more. If this year is even a little more enjoyable than last year, it will have been a successful one.

After all, of all that competes for our attention and focus in this world of ours, is it not enjoyment that really makes it all worth living? The finding and sharing, the giving and receiving of joy?

So there you have it:

My new year’s resolution is to enjoy life more.

Now, I could simply leave it at that. Beautifully vague. Just enjoy life and try not to outline it with a long list of definitions and bullet points. I like leaving it at that. I find joy in leaving “to enjoy life more” undefined.

It makes me smile.

I think this is because joy is elastic, almost boundless, in how it interplays with its antecedents. What makes you happy may be very vastly different than what makes me happy. And for whatever the reason, don’t we all just want to be happy?

Yet, alas, I gave in to the temptation to engage the simple exercise we like to call Googling-for-Answers-to-Ungooglable-Questions.

And I googled “how to enjoy life.” It was silly and fun and I couldn’t wait for a long list of horrible answers.

And sure enough, I found at the very tip-top an article entitled, “How to Enjoy Life.” It featured 15 steps to securing happiness.

But I was surprised to discover that its list of action items were actually pretty good. Or at least worth considering. Not that they would auto-mechanically produce an intense aura of bliss and sunshine.  But the list might provide the ingredients nonetheless.

And the list goes like this:

Component One: Emotional Well-Being

  1. Get a pet. (I admit I wasn’t impressed with the first step.)
  2. Get into music. (I have to admit I almost shut it off at this point.)
  3. Start the day with a smile. (And at this point I felt embarrassed to find myself still reading.)
  4. Take a break. (And this is where it started getting better…)
  5. Spend time with interesting people. (Yes, I like interesting people…)

Component Two: Mental Well-Being

  1. Reduce stress. (Hold on, I’m just gonna take a nice long rest on this one…)
  2. Learn new things. (Okay! Slowing down… Investing in relationships… Taking time to relax the mind and process life… Yes, we’ve hit a nice stride of practical strong points.)
  3. Find a hobby. (Do not read: Mandatory stamp-collecting. Read: Little things that make you happy.)
  4. Read a good book. (One that captures your attention and makes you smile.)
  5. Practice meditation. (I think this means slowing down enough to get your thoughts in order, so you stop freaking out about every little goddamn thing.)

Component Three: Physical Well-Being

  1. Bolster your immune system. (I confess I only scanned the article’s headings and didn’t read any of their paragraph descriptions. But I think this is talking about my daily dose of oil of oregano.)
  2. Exercise. (Not so good at this, but I try.)
  3. Sleep well. (As much as I love sleep, I think my exercise routine is more regulated.)
  4. Play in the dirt. (Ummm… Does thinking dirty thoughts count? This is talking about sex, right?)
  5. Eat healthy. (All good here, as long as this isn’t defined as eating only healthy.)

 

It started off kinda poor, but I do like this list. I like that it carries a fun vibe and is well-rounded. I like that it gives me smaller goals to work towards, all in service of the one that really matters: Living a life of joy. It gives me permission to fill in the blanks as I see fit, to apply them to my own context. To interpret “good book” as one that feeds my creative interests without forcing me to read a novel, since I really don’t care at all for fiction. It allows me to remember that the most “interesting people” in my life are my children and to keep them at the forefront in my pursuit of joy. And it doesn’t tell me that my exercise routine has to include an actual gym or real-life running ;)

The only problem is that my simply “enjoy life more” resolution has now become a 15-point list. Just another list of cliched new year’s resolutions. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.

But then it hits me. Maybe that typical January list is cliched for a reason. Maybe at the core, all new year resolutions are really just looking for a little more calm, clarity, and cohesion. Maybe we’re all really just looking for a little more of what really matters. More inner peace and more peaceful relationships. More joy to both give and receive.

With this new year just around the corner, may we all find a little more of whatever it is we’re looking for. And may we extend to others some of the enjoyment those things give us once we do.

Cheers! And Happy New Year!

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