How to Cultivate Joy + Why it Matters

Abundance. Fullness. Life.

These are all ways of being that, to me, stem from joy. How do you put a finger on joy though? How do you know what it is? I think too often joy gets lumped in with happiness and for me, the two are not synonymous. Joy feels more grounded, more steadfast, while happiness is situational and fleeting. Maybe you're like, okay Kelley, isn't that just a bit of semantics? I actually think this is an incredibly important distinction to make.

Joy comes from rejoicing. Rejoicing and feeling the subsequent joy is a choice. It's a mindset shift. It's the ability, even in circumstances that feel overwhelming, to eventually look up and rejoice. Feel joy for what you have or had. Feel joy for what you're left with. Feel joy in the small things when the big ones seem like they've been taken away. Rejoicing is a practice, and it's rooted in something so much deeper than fleeting happiness or positive circumstances. Joy is rooted in hope. In the belief that beauty still exists, even in immense darkness. Leonard Cohen gets it when he sings, "There is a crack, crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

See joy doesn't happen in the absence of hardship, it persists in spite of it. Joy doesn't promise happiness, and that isn't the point anyway. Rejoicing and feeling joy is the practice of believing that life is worth living and it has meaning whether you are experiencing the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. 

But how is it cultivated?

How do we become resilient through joy? I'm certainly no expert, but I am curious. It seems to me rejoicing is multifaceted and it can done in many ways. But, I believe one of the ways we rejoice is by being thankful.

1. Gratitude
Gratitude is a hard-won practice. It takes time (especially in hardship) to cultivate an eye that can find things to be thankful for. It often starts small - an "I wuv you much Mama," a roof over my head, food in the refrigerator, or perhaps just that my body can move. I'm thankful for this breath, I'm thankful for the sun, I'm thankful for this moment with my daughter or my husband or myself. Gratitude is the practice of seeing the minute details of life and rejoicing over them. And what follows? Joy.

2. Creation
Creating creates joy. Period. The act of creation is always rooted in hope, in the idea that what you are making means something. That it deserves a voice in the world. As a maker and creator, I am continually choosing to rejoice - in my message, in my colors, in my design, and if nothing else, in my practice because it is beautiful and brings forth life. If you're a maker/creator/artist (however you'd like to refer to yourself) then you know. There is an abundance of joy when we're doing what we love, even in the frustrations. It's almost as if we were made, like truly created, to do it. What a wonderful thought.

3. Experiencing Art
When we're not doing the creating there is joy in the experience of art. When we collect art, holding it in our hand or viewing it on our walls, it stirs something in us. It connects us to one another, in an appreciation for the magic of the human spirit, and it connects us to ourselves. I believe I embed joy in my art as a byproduct of how I feel when I'm making it. But when you collect that piece of art it now becomes something to you - an encouragement, a well of hope, a safe space to clear your mind, or simply a happy thought. Participating in art by surrounding yourself with it IS choosing joy. In a dark moment art can lift spirits. In a chaotic mind art can center and relax. In a moment of doubt or self-questioning art can embolden and encourage.

So why does this matter?

Art matters and joy matters. The landscape of our souls matter. You finding the courage to rejoice matters! There's enough in this world that tries to reinforce the lie that what we are, who we are, isn't enough. Find gratitude, participate in art, and practice rejoicing to combat that toxic idea.

Your joy matters in this world. It is the light that the crack lets in.


colorful geometric skateboard wall art with title - how to cultivate joy through art

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