The Ultimate 8,000-Word Guide to Creating Joy on Demand

Part 5 of 9

5 Ways Joy Helps You Reach Your Highest Potential

There’s a large myth that exists with joy. It’s the idea that being “happy” or “satisfied” doesn’t encourage you to change and reach your goals. I’ve worked with several people who believed they couldn’t allow happiness in their lives because they didn’t reach their goals.

This is because there’s a myth that happiness follows success. If we want to be successful, we must deny ourselves happiness.

This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. In fact, science proves the opposite is true. As positive emotions flood our brains, they release serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that make us more creative, resilient, thoughtful, decisive, and innovative. Success follows happiness.

What does this mean? It means that the 10 percent of people who are Joyful actually have the tools to reach their highest potential and find success. People in the Cynical and Disappointed category have a harder time reaching their goals because they’re denying themselves happiness.

Here are 5 specific ways joy helps you reach your highest potential:

1. Joy makes you resilient.

One of the most surprising finds of my study on joy was that joy and resiliency are two sides of the same coin. The most joyful people are resilient and the most resilient people are joyful.

The basis of this discovery stems from a study done by Barbara Fredrickson at the University of Michigan. She discovered that positive emotions broaden our mindset which then build our skills. This is labeled as the “Broaden-and-Build” Theory.

This theory has since been expanded to lead to new discoveries. More present research has revealed that positive emotions (such as joy) also help us bounce back from negative experiences. When positive emotions broaden our mindset, they lead individuals to pursue more effective coping mechanisms for negative experiences.

In short, joy helps us bounce back.

When Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, lost her husband unexpectedly, she didn’t expect joy to be the pursuit she leaned into. Yet, in her book, Option B, she described joy as a discipline. In her time of greatest despair, she realized joy was not just happy emotions. Joy gave her the strength to keep showing up, even when times were hard. Joy helped her bounce back.

We are guaranteed setbacks. But joy is the discipline that helps us come back stronger than ever. And in times when setbacks appear to be more frequent (especially if you’re reaching for bigger goals), this is exactly what we need.

2. Joy increases your stress tolerance.

“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” -Helen Keller

I’ve said this before, but today’s society is primed to make you feel less joy. Take the news cycle for example. We are daily fed negative news. And it’s not the news reporters’ fault. Our brains give a higher importance to negative news. This means, to attract our attention, the news cycle has to give us negative news.

But here’s the problem: this constant stream of negative news can lead to major stress in our lives.

NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found this to be true when they conducted a recent survey of 2,500 Americans. The survey suggests that 1 in 4 of these Americans reported feeling “a great deal of stress” after watching the news.
The news cycle was just one example. There’s much more than the news cycle that contributes to our lack of joy.

As a result, almost 1 in 5 adults struggles with anxiety today. Our society is not conditioned to deliver us joy.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t find it.

Joy increases our tolerance level for stress, which is important in today’s negative society. With joy, we can resist the natural inclination to turn negative, and instead control what causes a disturbance within us.

3. Joy makes you healthy.

In 2018, the life expectancy of America dropped for the second year in a row. In a surprising statement from Dr. Steven Woolf, a co-author of this report, there were two causes of this drop: the opioid crisis and despair.

That’s right. Despair in the United States was large enough to drop the life expectancy of the entire nation. Despair, in Dr. Steven Wool’s mind, were deaths caused by drugs, alcohol, suicides, etc. The unhappiness of today’s society is literally killing us.

On the other side of despair, there’s joy. Joy makes us healthy both emotionally and physically.

Take laughter for example. A recent study on laughter revealed that when we laugh with others, we release endorphins in our brain via opioid receptors. What’s astonishing is that these are the same receptors that opioid drugs attach to to provide a euphoric feeling. This suggests we can enter into a state of euphoria similar to an opioid drug (without the negative setbacks) by simply laughing.

Laughter can also increases the quality of our relationships, which keeps us both emotionally and physically healthier by just being around people.

Without joy, we fall susceptible to all sorts of health concerns such as loneliness, numbing, and anxiety. This goes to show, if you want to live a holistic healthy lifestyle, you don’t just need to go to the gym. You need joy.

4. Joy helps you feel your feelings.

I used to believe that the key to success was to ignore your emotions and push through. Science proves this to not be true.

Studies show that people who suppress their emotions are less able to repair their negative mood. They experience fewer positive emotions and more negative emotions. Plus, they have less life satisfaction and less self-esteem.

Suppressing our emotions and feelings is the worst thing we could do for our success, health, and happiness. While the self-help industry might fool you to only pay attention to positive emotions, it’s actually learning to embrace all of your emotions that’ll lead to greater happiness in life.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brene Brown says it perfectly: “When we numb the dark, we numb the light.”

Joy doesn’t just help us feel happy. It helps us feel negative emotions as well. And when we learn to face all of our emotions, we no longer fear them.

Much of the reason we convince ourselves from doing things outside our comfort zone is because we fear feeling a feeling. If you wanted to ask for a pay raise, but are scared to do it, think about this… in most cases, all you have to fear is feeling the feeling of fear. That’s it! Feeling fear and anxiety is the worse thing that can happen.

For many people, this is enough to not do something.

But imagine if you were not afraid of feeling negative emotions. Imagine all you could do.

When we make joy a priority, we learn to face all of our emotions and no longer fear feeling them. This allows us to do so much more as we reach for our highest potential.

5. Joy helps you understand your negative cognitions.

Have you ever wondered why you believe in the worst about yourself?

Negative thoughts are like weeds in your garden. Unless you dig up the roots, they’ll keep sprouting up. You need to develop an awareness of your negative cognitions if you want to stop them.

When you practice joy, you learn to stay present with your emotions. And as you stay present with your emotions, you can then find the source of your emotions, which are your thoughts. With an awareness of your thoughts, you can begin to challenge them and change them to create positive emotions for you. All of this is the work of joy.

I could continue on with many more ways joy helps us become more successful and healthy. But I think I’ve proven the point.

Joy helps us reach our highest potential. This is why I believe learning to prioritize joy is the greatest mindset training we could ever put ourselves through. With joy, we learn to show up for 100 percent of life, which is necessary for reaching our potential.

The problem is, we’ve made a habit of not showing up for life. We have a habit of unhappiness.

This is why we need to make joy a habit.

So how do we make joy a habit? Lets first dive into how habits work. This will help us understand the habit of unhappiness we all have.
(Click below to continue to Part 6)

Continue to Part 6