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

Part 8 of 9

The 3 Parts of a Joy Habit

A joy habit is the small action you take to sit with difficult things and generate positivity. It’s how we create joy on demand.

It follows this flow:

  1. CUE: When you experience a trigger…
  2. RESPONSE: Commit to a two-minute action…
  3. REWARD: Then celebrate what you did right.

Lets break down the three parts.

1. CUE: When you experience a trigger…

If you look back at the Unhappiness Cycle, there are three triggers you could experience.

  1. A negative thought.
  2. A negative emotion.
  3. A desire for a false pleasure.

The negative thought is a trigger to experience the negative emotion. The negative emotion is a trigger to crave a false pleasure. And the desire for the false pleasure is actually the trigger to indulge in the pleasure (This is built from James Clear’s model of habits: Cue, Craving, Response, Reward).

Because you have three different triggers, you’ll have three different joy habits.

  1. A joy habit when you’re triggered by a negative thought.
  2. A joy habit when you’re triggered by a negative emotion.
  3. A joy habit when you’re triggered to want a false pleasure.

When you’re in middle of the Unhappiness Cycle, you unconsciously move from one thing to the next. You move from the thought to the emotion and from the emotion to the pleasure. Sometimes, you don’t notice the thought that’s causing the emotion. And sometimes, you don’t notice what emotion you’re trying to escape.

This is why it’s important to have three joy habits.

  • You need to know what to do when you notice the negative thought.
  • You need to know what to do when all you notice is the negative emotion.
  • And you need to know what to do when all you notice is the desire to indulge in a false pleasure.

You’ll see how this fits with the other parts soon.

2. RESPONSE: Commit to a two-minute action…

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear states that new habits should take less than two minutes to do. He calls this the Two-Minute Rule.

This makes sense. When you start to make a change, it’s easy to start too big, too fast. But going big with change is actually very difficult. And as the difficulty increases, we become less likely to repeat that habits.

The reason we indulge in a pleasure is because it’s simple. We understand what we need to do to produce a desired result (see Robert Sapolsky’s study on monkeys and dopamine to see how this works).

By performing only a two-minute action, we increase our chances of showing up with the habit.

Here’s how this works with the triggers.

  • Negative thought trigger: When I think (negative thought), I will practice a new thought for two minutes.
  • Negative emotion trigger: When I feel (negative emotion), I will allow the emotion for two minutes.
  • False pleasure trigger: When I want (false pleasure), I will pause for two minutes.

These small two minutes actions are the key to showing up in difficult times.

When you have a negative thought, it’s important to repeat the new thought you want to believe. After all, beliefs are just repeated thoughts.

When you have a negative emotion, it’s important to allow the emotion to pass through. Escaping or resisting it will just make the problem worse.

And when you crave a false pleasure that hurts you more than it helps you, it’s important to pause. Instead of blindly reacting to your emotion, just stop yourself for two minutes before indulging in the pleasure.

These might sound like hard things to do. But guess what? You only have to do it for two minutes.

As you increase your ability to show up for the hard actions, you can do these activities longer than two minutes. But in the beginning, only aim for two minutes.

The third step is where we bring the habit all together.

3. REWARD: Then celebrate what you did right.

As you sit with the difficult emotion, practice the new thought, or stop yourself from indulging in a false pleasure, it’s critical to reward yourself for doing that. Celebrate what you did right.

You might’ve heard that practicing gratitude is the key to happiness. But the problem with gratitude is that while it can make you happy, it doesn’t build your confidence.

Gratitude can be being thankful for what you’ve received. But celebrating what you did right is being thankful for what you did. This increases your self-confidence, which encourages you to repeat the difficult action again.

Not only does it give you the confidence to repeat the habit, but it also reduces your stress, improves your health, and rewards you with positive emotion (as proven in this study).

Celebrating what we did right gives us the positive emotion that we were craving a false pleasure would give us. Except this time, we produced it ourselves. It’s the feeling of pride, satisfaction, confidence, and success that we did something hard and didn’t crumble.

Now, here’s the cool part…

If you celebrate what you did right with someone you trust, and they respond enthusiastically, it’s one of the best things you could do for your joy (as proven in this study).

Sharing good news with people who respond enthusiastically floods you with positive emotions. It’s like having your very own Facebook like button.

You don’t need a false pleasure to feel positive emotions. You can feel positive emotions if you do hard things and celebrate what you did right.

How to Build Your Joy Habits

I created a joy habit for every thing that disrupts my joy in life. Below, you can see a page in my notebook where I built joy habits to handle the stress of my debt.

To build a joy habit, it’s a simple three step process.

  1. Complete your Unhappiness Cycle.
  2. List out what you want to feel and think on your Joy Cycle.
  3. Build your joy habits around the three triggers in your Unhappiness Cycle.

Here’s how it looks in my notebook.

This is straight from my notebook. Obviously the hardest part about this is drawing the infinity symbol.

On the B line above the cycles, I put the success identity I want (I want to provide in abundance for my family).

On the A line, I put my current reality.

Then in my Unhappiness Cycle, I listed out a stressor that supports my current reality (ex: an unexpected expense reminds me I have a ton of debt).

This makes me think I can never make progress on my debt (the thought), which makes me feel shame, anger, and sadness (the emotion). The pleasure I usually go to is overworking, blaming, or ironically, spending more money just to feel better.

In the Joy Cycle, I started out by crossing out the false pleasure. Why? Because I don’t want to do that anymore. Then I listed out the emotions I want to feel about my debt (confidence and success). Finally, I listed out the thought I want to practice. This thought is actually the truth my brain doesn’t want to see (it’s just a temporary blip).

Notice that I did nothing with the stressor. You can’t stop circumstances from happening, but you can change how you think about them. So I left the stressor the same.

Below this, I listed out the joy habits. With my joy habits, the thought, emotion, and pleasure from my Unhappiness Cycle become my triggers. Then I list out the three habits.

  1. When I want to overwork, blame, or spend, I will pause for two minutes, then celebrate what I did right.
  2. When I feel shame, anger, or sadness, I will allow the emotion for two minutes, then celebrate what I did right.
  3. When I can think I can never make progress on my debt, I will practice my new thought (that it’s just a temporary blip) for two minutes, then celebrate what I did right.

These habits become my internal tools to sit with difficult situations and grow through them. They are the scripts I must follow to create joy on demand and avoid the urge to escape my pain and make situations worse. And following these habits give me everything I need to create lasting success for myself.

This is the reason I have joy in my life. And with joy habits, you too can create your own joy and secure your happiness and success.
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