Cultivation Joy part 3: Family Principles

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”– Mark Twain

For this week’s post, I could have taken part 2 and amplified it to include others in your life. Yet, that would seem too easy. We will walk through some basic principles that are the foundation for joy to manifest in a family setting for today’s post. 

Belonging & Community: Families that thrive in joy have a deep relationship with themselves and their community. Regardless of personality type or demographics (religion, nationality, age, or gender), a person’s greatest need (yearning) is to be seen, heard, validated, and understood. Joy appears in the places where a person can be their authentic self and share their uniqueness with others (see post: The Balance: Authenticity & Belonging). The beautiful thing about environments that support authenticity is they allow the individuals to grow at their own pace and in their own way. Safe environments are fertile soil where joy can take root.

Nature: Spend time as a family outside in nature. Make it an automatic for your children (and you) to spend time outside each day (regardless of weather). Nature can alleviate all anxiety and depression. It increases resilience, self-image, and the ability to engage socially. The long story short on nature is that it heals the brain. As we spend time in nature, we are stimulated by all of our senses. This is because nature is not a controlled environment. Sights, sounds, and obstacles happen all on their own, and we have to navigate them. Nature prompts us to forget about the self (think of all the times you got completely lost in something and forgot self and time…..this only happens through joy. It never happens when the brain is fixated on the self with anxiety). 

Next time in nature, watch your children…I bet you they are playing fully at the moment and not consumed with thoughts of self. And as such, they most likely are exhibiting spontaneous acts of joy.

Sense of Higher Power: Higher power can mean different things to different people. You may have your own definition (God, religion, spiritual sense, or philosophical constructs), but we will define it at a high level for our purposes here. Higher power is that life is greater than the individual. No matter how much we learn or discover, we will never have all the answers on why we are here and what this life is all about. Overall, there is something greater at play than what our minds can comprehend. Allow time to contemplate the mystery of it all and how we each fit beautifully into life’s continual play. Having an understanding of a higher power or higher-order prompts us to keep things in perspective. Maintaining an element of mystery in our lives allows life to shine its novelty and can even pull us out of our darkest moments. Having a sense of high power allows us to savor the time we embrace those around us.

Risk: Risk is important because it pushes the soul. I don’t mean risking of life but trying things even when the outcome is unknown. When we push forward and don’t know how it will end, we are experiencing life fully. We live on the edge and feel truly alive. Think of some of the greatest moments of your life. I bet most of what you can think of contains an element of risk and the unknown. Big and small victories in our life contain the element of risk.

Risk is crucial for children’s development (see post: 5 “Dangerous” Things Your Kids Should Do and Outdoors and Unsupervised…Let ’em Play). Life is full of risks and challenges, and children need opportunities to develop skills in managing risk and making informed judgments about risk. Risk in play helps children to develop important life skills that pay-off later in life. Risk management is an essential building block that all children should practice. 

Humor and Play: I love to be a goofy dad whenever I can. Making my kids laugh is one of the greatest treasures of fatherhood. We also play a lot of games…even chores we turn into a fun activity. Creating environments where humor and play are the norms allows joy to manifest and become habitual. For more information on creating more laughter, check out the post:  5 Ways to Increase Laughter in Your Home.

“Laughter is the GPS of the spirit. It is the sun that drives winter from the human face. It grounds us in a place of hope and is a source of creativity.” -Jeanine Fitzgerald. 

There is nothing better than creating joyous experiences for you and your family. As you go through your day, reflect on those things that bring you joy or that you get completely lost in. It is those things that will provide you guidance on building environments where joy is the norm.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Karina Thomson via Unsplash

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