“If you did nothing but pursue the truth about yourself for the rest of your life, you would never run out of fresh discoveries.” Martha Beck, The Joy Diet
We’re surrounded by messages about joy over the holidays. Either the mandate to be joyful. Or worse, to buy it. This season can feel emotionally confusing. All the scheduling bingo and forced fun can be overwhelming. But once you pause to celebrate and reconnect with the people you love, like a restful vacation, it can replenish you.
Your specific happiness formula, is unique. But how often do you think about or make time for what restores you? Right. Probably not very often. In the book, The Joy Diet, 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life Martha Beck prescribes habits, that when practiced faithfully, lead to a more joyful life. In the book, she outlines 10 daily steps with a series of personal stories and insights from her work as a life coach. The recommendations are distilled into 10 progressive daily practices. Which is really the ‘diet’ part of the Joy Diet.
Here are a few key takeaways from the book:
Take Time to Do Nothing
She starts by encouraging us to unwind our hyper productive programming. And to spend 15 minutes a day doing nothing. Not meditating, preparing, or waiting to do something else. But just doing nothing. She acknowledges how difficult it is in our culture. And that many of us won’t find ‘doing nothing’ relaxing at first.
Because we’re conditioned to race through our days. As if, we can reach some magic finish line, where the laundry, dishes and emails are finally done. She also recommends other techniques to find inner stillness, like meditation. But she begins with doing nothing!
How often do you play? Or laugh? Our kids laugh all of the time. And I hadn’t thought much about my own laughter until reading the book. She prescribes laughing at least 30 times a day! Which may seem like an unreasonable amount.
But she shares great evidence about why it works. And laughter’s positive impact on the soul, spirit and mood. So, whether you agree it should be 30 times or just more often. Intend to bring more laughter into your life.
Tell Yourself the Truth
Okay, this may be the hardest item on her list. It’s easy to get caught up in what we should do. What we’re expected to do, what we’ve been told to do or what we’ve promised others that we’d do. And in all of that expectation and doing, something breaks. We begin to forget what we really feel. And want from our time.
Post-kids we expect to make sacrifices. Our daily routines are usually less about finding gratification-in-the-moment. And more about playing life’s long game. Emerging, as the parent of healthy, happy adults, in a couple of decades. It’s a joyful-yet-exhausting journey. But what if, in all that service to our families, we lose candid self-reflection? Or the authentic connection to who we are and how our needs continue to change?
Pay Attention to Your Desires
Martha is also a Mother. And shares in the book great stories about her kids and how her life and marriage fell apart, after she decided to tell the truth for an entire year. By doing so, she severed ties to her community, in ways she didn’t expect. But ultimately, it freed her to live in harmony with her real desires.
Oh, and she has a whole series of stories about desire! It’s not illicit. It’s about tapping into the power of wanting. And using your feelings as a roadmap to discover the projects, interests or career moves that will light you up. It doesn’t have to be either or. What if you can have both? She makes a beautiful case for moving your life in the direction that you really want now. Instead of waiting.
And Reexamine Your Career
There’s a concept called the ‘shadow career’ explained in another excellent book, Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. The premise is that some of us take on a safe or socially acceptable version of the real career we want to have. Like someone who wants to paint murals might become a graphic designer. Or someone who wants to write, becomes a marketer or lawyer. Both are careers that involve a lot of writing but they are ‘shadows’ of the real or ‘desired’ career.
Martha takes a similar approach. She details a series of ‘a ha moments’ from her own career reset. Then, she shares exercises, designed to spark creative thinking. And to help us reflect on whether we’re fulfilled in our current line of work.
The other daily practices she recommends, balance taking space for self-reflection with intentional action. And treating yourself to joyful thoughts, experiences, and sensations. She has a series of helpful prompts, questions to ask yourself, in meditation or while journaling. The exercises are straight forward. And help to push you along a path of guided self-discovery. Her tone, even when raising serious topics, is funny, compassionate, and practical.
It’s a time of intense busyness. Which makes it imperative that we apply the same fidelity caring for ourselves that we use for our families.
Take the space to learn about yourself. It’s an investment that positively spills into every corner of your life. And the holiday season is an amazing time to consider new habits. You can test drive small tweaks, before deciding on lifestyle changes.
So, go on. Don’t just provide the joy to others. Grab some for yourself this holiday season.
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About Martha Beck
Tags: learning, Manage Stress For Moms, Moms Self care, stress management, work life integration for Moms