We’ve talked before about how happiness is a direction not a destination in life. It’s a feeling and purpose one carries with the self through the assortment of daily activities, whether that’s picking up the kids from school, shopping for groceries, or while sitting in traffic. In many ways, it’s an emotional buffer that protects one from the let downs and confusions of life. But what is the practice of being joyful, really?

Understanding Joy

To be joyful is to see the positive in things and to maintain a sense of sunny cheerfulness. You know it when you see a joyous person, with their wide smile and glowing energy. It’s an aura one carries about them, being as external as it is internal at times.

To achieve this, one must recognize the strategies that work and the strategies that do not work. For one, many people associate having materialistic things and wealth is the key to happiness, whereas reality shows that wealth provides only temporary joy. It can even be a source of resentment and emotional challenge with friends and family. Similarly, some believe that seeking a single thing – perhaps it’s an incredible talent, the feat of traveling the world over, or becoming a world leader – is the key to joy. Here too, though, it’s often the case that the end isn’t always what was anticipated when carrying on with the means, and the person can feel empty.

In earnest, the one strategy to live joyously is to live with intent and aim to be joyous. It is the people who consistently reflect and aim toward joy that are naturally more inclined to feel joyous. It is here that we find that the practice of being joyous with others, with nature, and with ourself, is the true way to experience and find happiness.

Practice Joy with Others

At times, it can seem like those around us are more barriers than people, preventing us from succeeding or stymying our progress. Ultimately, the truly joyous person recognizes that the capacity to succeed and make progress is within the self, and even if others are legitimately working against you, they still deserve the honor and respect you yourself seek. To be joyous with others is to readily accept you they are, even if you choose a path different from theirs.

To us, one key way of keeping this in mind is by acknowledging this simple truth: enlightenment may be one place, but each and every one of us starts on a different part of the road to find it. Nurture and help others on their way as you would liked to be helped yourself.

Practice Joy with Nature

The natural world is full of wonder and awe, and all too often the unhappy fail to appreciate it. On the other hand, it’s the mark of a joyous person who makes time for nature and who sees value in it. Nature is both a simple and complex form, with boundless beauty and inspiration. Take time to indulge in nature, listening to its sounds and voices, and witnessing both its light and darkness. It is in nature from which we came, and from nature we can derive truly humbling lessons that help up practice joyfulness in sincerity.

Practice Joy with the Self

If you’ve read through this and thought that it is either too hard for you or too out of reach, you haven’t practiced joyfulness with yourself.

In order to be happy with others and the world around you,  you must first be happy with your own being. That doesn’t mean you avoid growth and self reflection, nor does it mean one should be conceded and arrogantly self righteous. Instead, it means you’re as accepting and honest with yourself as you are with others: when you make a mistake, you don’t beat yourself up over it, but rather you take it as a learning experience. You understand that you are a person, and as all people, are imperfect. Knowing this and accepting it will help you feel joyful and ultimately enable you to truly practice joy with others.

Being a Joyful Person

As you reflect on your practices, remember that at the heart of being joyful is the sincere desire to feel positive. It isn’t some place you suddenly arrive at years down the line. It’s not some feeling that becomes permanent with the acquisition of some material object. Rather, it’s a mentality – a constant self reminder – to choose a happy, purposeful life driven by the pursuit of cheerfulness. Practice joyful intent with each action, with each thought, and with each word. Then, you will truly experience the sense of happiness you ultimately seek.