3 simple ways to become a joy catcher
I love the term 'joy catcher' as for me it represents making a conscious effort to go out and look for more joy.
As humans, our brains have a built-in negative bias that causes us to focus on bad things, which can have a powerful effect on our experiences, behaviours, decisions and relationships.
What this means is that we are more likely to pick up on and obsess over the negative stuff rather than the positive. Someone might give us a glowing review but if they even hint at an area for development, this often becomes our main focus.
Or maybe you have an argument with your partner and then find yourself focusing on all the things that drive you crazy about them (and not in a good way!). We amplify the bad and overlook the good.
This negative bias is a result of evolution. Back in the day when we lived in tribes and hunted for food, we needed to pay attention to the bad, dangerous and negative threats because it was literally a matter of life and death.
The pandemic has activated our survival instinct and many of us have been living in a state of high alert for a really long time, which has a big effect on how we think, feel and respond.
When we become hyper-vigilant and dwell on our negative thoughts and what-ifs, it can begin to take its toll on our emotional, mental and physical health. This is where joy catching comes in...
When we let fear be our master, we cannot be happy and free as a butterfly. But when we choose to trust the journey and embrace love and joy, we are free to fly.
- Annicken R. Day
Where your attention goes, energy flows. So in this article, I'm going to share with you some simple ways to begin to move your focus from the negative to the positive by becoming more intentional about catching more joy...
1. Remove distractions
Have you seen the film Last Christmas? For those who haven't seen it here's a quick synopsis:
"Nothing seems to go right for young Kate, a frustrated Londoner who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop. But things soon take a turn for the better when she meets Tom -- a handsome charmer who seems too good to be true. Tom takes Kate on a tour of the city and implores her to “Look up” as a way of getting away from distractions and really being present in life."
In our modern world it's so easy to be in multiple places at once - sitting with your family watching a film whilst chatting to friends on your phone, in meetings replying to emails or prepping for the next meeting that you're dashing to as soon as this one finishes. Flicking through social media or watching the news whilst you're eating your lunch etc.
Often whilst our body may be in one place, our head is somewhere else, which means we miss important moments, make mistakes and wonder why we feel so frazzled at the end of the day.
However, contrary to popular belief, we get to control where our attention goes.
Start to play with 'looking up' more. Put your phone away or leave it in another room. Turn off, mute notifications and delete apps if you can. Shut down your emails to allow you to focus on what you are doing.
We don't have to be constantly 'on' and responsive to all the pings and beeps that vie for our attention.
Let's stop prioritising distractions over what's really important to us. Let's allow ourselves to really be in the moment. To truly connect with people and places, to slow down, get curious, ask questions and notice the small moments, because those little things really do make all the difference.
2. Reconnect with childhood joy
Think back to when you were a kid - what did you enjoy doing? I was quite a shy child and enjoyed art and drawing, having my Dad read me a story, listening to music, playing board games with my Grandma, being around animals, hanging out with family, one on one time with my best friend or in a small group of people I knew well, and playing outside in nature.
These things still bring me pleasure as an adult, although how I experience them has changed a little (I tend to opt for walks in nature now over building fortresses out of hay bales in the fields!).
I've recently bought myself a painting by numbers kit to get back into art and I really enjoy interior design, baking and decorating cakes.
I have a massive book addiction, although I tend to read personal development books more than fiction these days, something I may try and readdress the balance with this year.
I always wanted a dog when I was a child and I was never allowed one, instead, we went through various goldfish, budgies, hamsters and eventually I persuaded my parents to allow me to have a cat. Since I've had my own house I've had two dogs and they have both brought me so much joy.
I still love music and dancing and I get to combine that with hanging out with friends by attending salsa classes and social events. This is something I've really missed over the past two years as it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Take some time to think about how you could bring some of your childhood pleasures into your adult life and give yourself permission to play.
3. Prioritise joy
Deciding what to do takes time and energy so let's help ourselves to catch more joy by making a list of things that bring us joy. Get out your pen and paper and start listing all the things that make you smile. Add to this list places you'd like to visit, new things you'd like to try and any hopes and dreams you have.
Don't overthink it, there is no right or wrong.
Now pick one thing from this list, get out your diary and schedule some time in. Yes, it's that simple. You make time. You take control of your schedule and you block out time for joy in the same way you'd block out time for a work meeting or a doctor's appointment.
You don't have to block out massive chunks of time. You can start small and give yourself five minutes if that is what feels achievable. The important thing is that you start intentionally catching some joy so you don't get weighed down by all the obligations, expectations and what-ifs.
Now I know this might be triggering for those of you that are feeling frazzled and like you don't have enough time. And this is your gentle reminder that if you don't start making time for the things that fill your cup, it will run dry and you'll end up with nothing left to give. You're not here just to be of service - you deserve joy just as much as everyone else!
Stephen Covey (1996) tells a story about the real things that we should devote our time to:
One day a time management expert was speaking to a group of business students. He pulled out a large wide-mouthed jar and set it on the table. He then produced some big rocks and carefully placed them into the jar. When no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone said, “Yes.”
Next, he pulled out a bucket of gravel and poured it into the jar, shaking it so it worked its way into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered!
He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand and subsequently a jug of water, pouring them into the jar until it was full to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One student said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that's not the point.”
“The truth this illustration teaches us is that if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all..."
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