3 Techniques to Cultivate Joy

3 Practical Techniques to Cultivate Joy

I was recently asked in an interview about my company Drunk Yoga® about how I define “joy.” 

True to form, I rambled, and my answer read something like this: 

‘Joy is something I think about a lot. Where it comes from, how to cultivate it, how to sustain it, how to be patient with sadness as an opportunity to learn more about the essence of joy when it does grace us with its presence...To me joy is just that: grace. It's something that is ever-present--"Godlike," almost. It's always available for us not to discover, per se, but rather to acknowledge. Cultivating joy requires creating techniques that build containers in our lives and in our bodies and minds, and stories to allow it to “Be.” Joy is a state of being in which lives purpose and truth--not "truth" of the mind, but truth in the universal--of what is eternal and never-changing. A conversation with the one is observing, the one who is doing all "the doing"--the storytelling piece of you that says, "This is joy that I am feeling.”’

Naturally, this got me thinking about practical ways we can cultivate joy in our daily lives--in ways that are attainable, not just...you know...conceptual and rambly to the point of self-indulgence. (...Who? Me? *Looks around awkwardly as if I’m not the only one rambling about joy here.*)

Here’s 3 techniques to inspire joy every day: 

1 ) Eat healthy foods.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Um, duh. Obviously we should eat healthy foods. And you WOULD say that, working for PRIMARY. But what if french fries make me happy, hmm?” Listen, let’s think about the difference between “pleasure” and “joy.” French fries give us pleasure, but feeling an overall sense of wellbeing from ritualistic mindful food choices allows us to house perspectives that bring us joy on the reg. You know when you drink too many spiked seltzers at a summer pool party (we all know it’s a thing), wake up hungover, binge on salty snacks, and think, “OMG I feel terrible. I’m never drinking again.” ...Not so joyful. Conversely, when you drink plenty of water, consume more veggies than carbs, knock out a week’s worth of paperwork in a day, and you think, “I. Am. Un. Stoppable.” Pretty joyful, right? In fact, “researchers find that ensuring [the brain] receives the proper nutrients is a way to prevent and treat depression,” according to a recent Forbes article. Eating healthy food equals happiness, my friends. In the words of Nike’s marketing team: Just do it.

2) Make Plans with Friends

Loneliness is an epidemic, according to Neil Howe. Over 22% of millennials in the U.S. feel lonely all or most of the time. (Raise your hand if you agree!) Living in New York City, I think, it can be particularly hard to connect with others, as we live in a culture of “business first, self-care second, relationships third...maybe fourth.” But our relationships enrich our lives, and friends and loved ones give us a sense of purpose. To get through a potentially gruelling work-week with slightly more ease, try making plans with your friends or partners in advance. *Gasp* Yes! In advance! Don’t wait until the last minute when they’re bound to say, “Ahhh sorry, I’m busy!” leading to the inevitable downward spiral of negative self-talk. (Y’all know what I mean. “Ugh, see? I have no friends and I’m probably going to be single forever.”) So, do it now! Text someone who you haven’t seen in ages whose presence feeds your soul, and ask them when they’re free to catch up in the next couple of weeks. Plan a fun activity...an outdoor movie, or roller-skating. When you have something to look forward to, you’ll feel more joyful daily. 

3) Take Someone You Admire Out for Coffee

Sounds really weird, but it’s only a little bit weird. This is something I’ve started doing recently whenever I find myself in the deep dark pit of social media comparison, scrolling through my peers’ feeds, writing stories in my mind about why they’re doing great things with their lives, and I’m somehow falling behind (in the race of life that literally nobody is keeping tabs on.) As soon as I feel a ping of jealousy, I remind myself why this feeling of envy is displaced, and then I do this weird thing: I message them and ask if I can buy them coffee. My message usually reads something like, “Hi! I know it’s been years since we’ve spoken. It looks like you’re doing some really interesting things, and I find your work so inspiring! Would you be interested in letting me buy you coffee next week so we can catch up? I love surrounding myself with strong, like-minded entrepreneurs, and I’d love to see how we can support each other in our work!” If they don’t live in NYC, I ask to schedule a Facetime call. 9 out of 10 times the response looks something like this, “Oh my gosh! I’m so flattered. Thank you so much! I admire your work, too! I would love to get coffee with you! When are you free?” And boom. New friend. New connection. New support buddy. You’ve got nothing to lose, my friends, and everything to gain. 

Okay, so one more time for the people in the back: happiness is better when it’s shared. We’re all looking for joy, and if you take the first step in creating space to catch the grace that’s always raining down over you, and make effort to share it with others, your joy will multiply.

*Eli Walker is the founder/CEO of Drunk Yoga® and Divine Your Story™, challenging social norms to teach the art of joy through self-empowerment and communal yoga experiences.