Why Joy Should Be Your Biggest Priority
If I was to ask you to reel off a list of your priorities right now, whereabouts on the list would your own joy feature?
I’m guessing that it’s probably not right at the top. I’m guessing that it probably sits somewhere between the middle and the bottom of the list, behind your job and family and your home and your social commitments. I’m guessing that truly prioritising your own joy is something that happens infrequently - perhaps two or three times a year, when it’s your birthday or you’re on holiday.
I’d make those guesses because for a long time, that’s exactly how I treated my own joy - like it was a nice to have, like it was something I’d get to when I’d ticked everything else off my list. In fact, at times, I didn’t just leave my joy sitting at the bottom of my to do list, I actively did everything in my power to avoid it.
And that’s because we’ve been conditioned as a society to resist joy. We’ve been taught that joy is hard won, that we have to hustle and sacrifice and work harder than anybody else in order to qualify for it. We’ve been taught that desiring joy is frivolous and selfish, that there are more important things to worry about than being happy.
I believed those stories for so many years. I believed that putting my own joy at the bottom of my priority list made me a better person in some way - that it made me more selfless, more resilient, more hard working than my peers. And so I avoided joy at every turn, always throwing myself into another project or deadline instead of soaking up the moment.
It took a big old life curveball to make me question my way of thinking. When circumstances force you to realise just how precious our time here on earth is, suddenly joy starts snaking up the priority list. Suddenly you realise just how important it is to squeeze as much joy out of every single day as you physically can.
Nowadays, I can say without doubt that living a joyful life is my number 1 priority. And I wholeheartedly believe that it should be yours too. Here’s why…
Joy is good for your health
There has been a lot of research done over the past few years about the positive impacts of living a joyful life, and one of the most consistent findings is that joy is really bloody good for both our mental and physical health.
Studies show that joyful people have less chance of having a heart attack, maintain a healthier blood pressure, and tend to have lower cholesterol levels. There’s research to prove that joy boosts our immune systems, fights stress and pain, and improves our chance of living a longer life. Prioritising joy could actually add years to your life - that’s pretty cool, right?!
Joyful people have better relationships
Another important finding is that people who prioritise joy tend to have healthier and more meaningful relationships. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that joyful people are proven to be more empathetic and less aggressive.
So, prioritising your joy isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your partner and your kids and your friends and your colleagues. Quite simply, anybody who has a relationship with you will benefit from your increased levels of empathy and support.
Happiness leads to success
For a long time, it was assumed that success led to happiness. However, recent studies have found that happiness actually precedes success, meaning that people who are committed to living a joyful live are more likely to be successful in the traditional sense.
It’s thought that one reason for this is that positive feelings actually make the brain work better. When we think positively our brain releases the chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which significantly improve our mental focus, motivation, memory and problem solving skills. So, if you want to go far in your chosen career, improving the amount of joy you have in your life is a pretty solid investment.
The world needs more joy
One reason for not prioritising joy I hear time and time again is that there are more important things to be worrying about. And I get it, these are some very tricky times we’re living through right now - you only have to turn on the news to see that.
But I would counter that that’s exactly why we should be prioritising joy in our own lives. Because practicing joy isn’t selfish - quite the opposite. It makes us kinder, more empathetic, healthier and less stressed. Joy makes us more compassionate and less aggressive, and if you ask me, that’s exactly what the world needs right now.
You only get one shot
Finally, we get one short and precious life here on planet earth. These minutes, hours, days that we’re living right now? We’re not getting them back. We won’t get to relive them at some far off point in the future when we’ve achieved everything on our to do list. We only get one shot - and so shouldn’t we be trying to squeeze as much happiness out of every single day? Shouldn’t we be prioritising joy above everything else? I think so.
If you’d love to learn how to start prioritising joy in your own life, Joy School, might be just what you need. It’s a 6 week interactive class designed to help you reconnect with your inner joy and find more of it every single day. You can find out more and enrol here.