Sure, you have everything already. A decent job, some good friends, maybe a spouse or other family you love; you have mastered your basic needs. But, you have this underlying feeling that something is missing, something is a bit empty: true joy eludes you. You go through life with a mild questioning, where is this all leading? You feel a sense of uneasiness or desperation, like you are supposed to be doing something important, but you can’t figure out what that is. Joy comes, and goes, but you can’t feel joy as a steady presence for you in your life. You don’t feel fully alive at all times.
Enter all the self-help books and blogs. Still, though the advice all makes sense, you are not able to grasp it as an emotion. You may even feel resentful when you hear about other people’s joy. Are they just faking it? Are they really THAT excited or peaceful all the time?
Most of the time, it’s not some external circumstance that is blocking your sense of happiness. You have infinite capacity for being joyful, and that can be generated from within you. So, if you can’t feel joy regularly, there are a number of things that may be getting in the way:
- You’ve mixed up joy and pleasure: Pleasure is a feeling that makes you feel high and alive for a fleeting time, and is generally created by an external condition. Perhaps you need to be on a beach, or have a drink in your hand to feel pleasure. Or perhaps it’s someone who you rely on to make you smile. When the external condition is gone, you don’t feel good anymore. Joy, however, differs from pleasure, and it can arrive after a struggle. Joy is a feeling of being fully alive in your life, even through the difficult bits. Like how you may feel when you run a marathon, or complete a particularly hard work assignment. Even the memory of joyful times makes you feel joy; but pleasure requires you to re-create the circumstance in order to re-create the feeling. If you’ve been chasing pleasure (and nothing wrong with it, this has a proper place, and is a stepping stone to deeper joy) you may have mistaken it for joy, and not be seeing lasting effects from your efforts.
- You have a judgement about what makes you happy: You may have realized what makes you happy, but you won’t pursue it because you think it makes you “bad”. Perhaps you feel guilty about pursuing your happiness, or you’ve been taught that your own needs should always come second lest you be called selfish. But, in truth, you make your greatest contribution to others when you are happy, as you give the whole world permission to pursue their happiness too.
- You have an emotional wound: If the thought of your most joyful life feels far away, and you even feel angry about it when you think about it, you may be suffering from an emotional wound. Childhood hurts can stay with us for a long time. You may be re-creating the ill effects of the past emotional injury, and projecting it into your future, robbing yourself of joy. Shake loose of the perspectives that are tainting how you see life, so you can reconnect to joy.
- You are not being honest with yourself: Are you in denial about how things are in your life? Are you someone who keeps glossing over the bad bits? Are you pretending your facebook life is the real one, or do you realize it’s just the good bits you post about? True joy comes from finding peace and equilibrium with both the tough times and the easy times. To really enjoy the spectrum of life, you have to acknowledge the parts that aren’t working, instead of avoiding them.
- You think it’s out of your control: Are you blaming others for your unhappiness? We all have a side of us that believes that we would be happy if only everyone would do exactly as we tell them to, and be exactly as we wished, ALL the time. But of course, this is totally unrealistic. If you are waiting for others to change, you may be waiting a while. The only one who you can change is yourself, whether it is to change your perspective, or change your situation. It may be time to take action if this is your blocker.
- You don’t realize you are ungrateful: Are you constantly seeking more, and not acknowledging what you have? If you are reading this post on an electronic device, you are already among the wealthiest people in the world. Try to remember this when your waiter doesn’t give you the perfect cafe latte. Is it really worth losing your cool, and destroying another person’s day? Keeping your gratitude front and center will allow you to keep a perspective on your problems.
- You haven’t found a meaningful way to contribute: If it’s none of the previous, you may be lacking a sense of purpose. If you are not able to throw yourself into a meaningful existence, whether your purpose is to take care of yourself and family, or to change the world, you might find yourself unable to really feel ongoing joy. Struggling towards something worthwhile is the source of joy for many, and requires you to identify and pursue your passions.
- You haven’t suffered enough to want change: Perhaps it seems like too much work. Or things are not bad enough for you to actively seek out your joy, and a meaningful existence. Unfortunately, life has a way of throwing some eye opening situations at you when you are in this place. These situations force you to look closer into your heart. Job losses, death, divorce, and other major life changes open us up by rattling our predictable existence. Then, we can look closer at what we truly need.
We all innately seek out our own joy. When we block that emotion, there is something that is in the way. Remove your obstacles, and get back on to your own path towards the best version of your life. You are worth it.