Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of being interviewed on a new podcast (more on this coming up) and one of the questions, and my answer, keeps coming back to me. I was asked in effect about how I manage to be such a joyful person, to which I replied: “Part of it is probably in my DNA, but mostly it is my choice. I choose to seek and find joy in all situations and limit my time around negative people.” I will be first to admit that this is not always easy to practice, and I don’t always get it right on the first try. But I’ve discovered that living a more joyful life can be learned by following a few simple steps.
Step 1: To live a more joyful life, cultivate your curiosity. Let’s unpack that a bit. First, the part that comes most naturally to me is my curiosity, which then leads to a desire for connection. Joy flourishes in connection & vanishes without it.
I genuinely like people, and I’m interested in their story- so that curiosity is my natural “in” to the possibility of connecting with them in a more joyful and meaningful way. It’s part of why I love traveling so much and learning about different people and cultures. Conversely, when you are not curious or interested in learning anything about another person, you immediately block off the opportunity for any connection to take place. If you want to start living a more joyful life, cultivate your curiosity.
Step 2: Pre-pave with good intentions. Honestly? I want everyone I meet to like me, and though that doesn’t always happen, I still act “as if” and in high hope. Truth be told, I have been known to get super nervous before being introduced to anyone new, so I do a ton of prep and positive self-talk to address my anxiety. You might know I wrote a book of affirmations for this that has helped me tremendously!
When we first meet someone, we look for any small clue that they are going to be receptive to joy. If it is culturally appropriate: Are they smiling? Do they make eye contact? What is their tone when they greet me? We are scanning all of this information in nanoseconds and processing through the lens of our own experiences.
In the split seconds prior to any interaction, I’m actively sending out my own positive signals (warm thoughts, peaceful vibes, friendliness, openness) and am hopeful that the person I am about to talk to is willing to let their guard down just enough to meet me at some level. I do this with pretty much everyone now, wherever I go. It’s like I have a bright neon sign over my head that reads, “Joyful Friendly Human” and it’s actually a great visualization tool that you can use. If you want to live a more joyful life, pre-pave your interactions with good intentions.
Step 3: Limit your time around negativity. When I answered the question of how I maintain my joy, I said that I limit my time around negative people. What I probably should have said is that I limit my time around negativity. There is an overlap, but still a distinction.
Every single person we meet has their own story, and we are not privy to the details. We don’t know where they are in their story, what incredibly hard thing they may be dealing with in that moment, or how much physical and emotional pain they are living through. It’s important not to judge a “negative person” harshly, but to simply send them our love and positive energy. That’s it.
This is where limiting your time around negativity becomes most important. When you find yourself starting to lose your joy because you keep getting sucked into other people’s negativity and drama, you can choose to disconnect from it. Give yourself a timeout, step away from the keyboard, switch the tv channel, and take a break to clear out any funky junk. Do whatever you need to reset your own joy meter. Some of my hands-on tools for resetting include yoga (even just a quick stretch or my favorite asanas for 5-15 minutes) taking a walk, or “grounding” in nature by being barefoot in the grass or on the sand. Magical!
You can still send your positive energy, your love, your joy, from a distance when it feels like your own emotional or physical health is at stake, whether it involves a family member, friendship, colleague, business relationship or some random jackhole popping off in your social media feed. When and if they are ready to receive it is not up to you. You can’t do their work for them. If you want to live a more joyful life, limit your time around negativity.