Countdown to a New Year: Joy
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In this first episode of December, we’re beginning a countdown to a productive--and joyful--new year. What does joy have to do with a productive life? It's the last month of the year - which is hard to believe. I feel like the older I get the faster time passes. Of course, that’s my perception, not reality, because time doesn’t change.  I've been thinking for some time now that these last four episodes of the year will be a bit of a countdown to the new year, each episode focused on a different aspect of what I see as the mission of this podcast: to give you the tools and encouragement you need to manage four things: your time, your life, your stress, and your stuff.  Like many episodes, this one started as my own investigation into ways to address something I’ve been struggling with myself.  This week has been a tough one for me. Too much legal work to do for the time I have each day, struggling to keep up, to meet clients’ needs, and to keep my own life consistent with my priorities. Mostly a struggle to keep my mind in the right place--sometimes feeling frustrated, angry, mentally exhausted, and discouraged. Yet for the past few weeks, one word keeps coming to mind: joy. It feels far away and unattainable on weeks like this one.  I decided to dig into it because I keep thinking that cultivating joy might be a key--if not the key--to managing our stress and even our lives in an integrated way as we head into a new year. What is joy? Oprah Winfrey defines joy as “a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace -- a connection to what matters.” In her 2018 TED Talk called “Where joy hides and how to find it,” designer and author Ingrid Fetell Lee says scientists have differing definitions of it, but generally when psychologists use the term joy what they mean is “an intense momentary experience of positive emotion--one that makes us smile and laugh and feel like we want to jump up and down.” She says that feeling is one of the ways scientists measure joy. “Joy; the kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” ~ David Steindl-Rast  How is it different from happiness? According to Lee, happiness is a measure of how good we feel over time; joy is about feeling good in the moment. People seem to have contradictory ideas about the difference, but the predominant idea is that experiencing happiness depends on external factors, while joy is a purposeful choice. One writer says this:  “It’s possible to experience joy in difficult times. It’s possible to know joy or feel joy in spite of grief or uncertainty. Joy doesn’t need a smile in order to exist. Although joy does feels better with a happy smile, joy can share space with other emotions — sadness, fear, anger ... even unhappiness. Happiness can’t. Happiness isn’t present in darkness and difficulty. It can’t be present when its antithesis rules. But once discovered, joy undergirds our spirits and brings to life peace and contentment, even in the face of unhappiness.”   One dictionary-type website defines happiness as “an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure,” while it says that joy is “a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Feeling spiritually connected to a god or to pe...
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