It is ridiculous how time seems to speed up when you aren’t looking. One day it’s January and then all of sudden, you look up and it’s December. Since I make every effort to value time, I can’t stand it when that happens. It makes me feel like we spend way too much time just standing around with our mouths open, catching flies, instead of taking full advantage of our limited resource, time. It makes me think about how much time we waste being unhappy, and it is so NOT okay with me that we just willy-nilly squander this nonrenewable resource with such an unproductive state.
Once I realized how easily we waste time, and how much of it we spend miserable, it occurred to me that what we are missing is joy. As a group, autistics have learned not to prioritize our personal joy, and that stinks. We are constantly being told that what gives us joy is ‘weird’, ‘bad’, and even ‘wrong’. I am here to tell you that not only is that A GIANT LIE. It’s also way past time for us to reclaim our right to joy.
Like all human beings, it is essential to our wellness that we experience our version of joy. Maybe that comes from mastering a new language or creating a brilliant bit of code. Perhaps it’s the result of freely stimming to your favorite song or hyper-focusing on a new special interest. Regardless of how ‘odd’ the source, you deserve to experience joy in its purest form as much as the next human. Moreover, your mind and body NEED joy to function at their best. That’s right, YOU NEED JOY.
Now that you understand the importance of joy, it’s time to start adding more of it to your life. Here are four great ways to create more joy:
- Challenge Yourself: Nothing creates joy like a good success. Set yourself up for that joyful feeling of accomplishment by taking on a new project, skill, or hobby. It helps if it’s something you have wanted to do a for long time but keep finding excuses not to. Those are some joyful wins. When we challenge ourselves and succeed, we find joy.
- Actively Seek Inspiration: Looking for joy but it just isn’t happening? No worries. It’s just time to seek some inspiration for that joy. Seek out activities that are known to elicit joy, like going out into nature or dancing. Pursue that which stretches your perception and challenges your perspective. When we are most inspired, we find joy.
- Play More: It’s time to go in search of your inner child. Remember eight year old you? The one who loved jumping in puddles in a thunderstorm and getting dirty in the garden? No? Okay, that was me, but you have your own version of eight year old you and that kid knew how to play. Time to dig out those old special interests, let go, and play. When we play freely, we find joy.
- Nurture Yourself: When you take the time to focus on our own needs, joy comes more easily. Set up time to get away from the ‘noise of life’ and do something just for you. Whether it’s a walk in the woods, or a long nap, do it! This is the stuff that recharges us and leaves us open to experience happiness. When we make it our job to take of ourselves, we find joy.
As you begin to create joy, remember that the goal isn’t to push the sadness away, but rather to create more joy, and let it in. Afterall, joy cannot exist without sadness. In fact, you must experience the depth of sadness in order to feel the lightness of joy. The trick to increasing joy is to use all of your energy to create it, instead of focusing on the impossible task of eliminating sadness. Think of the goal as creating enough joy to balance out life’s inherent sadness. If more sadness arrives, simply create the joy you need to counter-balance it.
When we seek balance, we find joy. When we sustain balance, we find happiness.