In 2021, we’re focusing on joy. After the year we’ve had, cultivating and celebrating small moments of happiness as they come has never felt more cathartic, life-affirming, and essential to lasting well-being. In the coming weeks, we’re going to laugh, experience new things, and revamp stale aspects of daily life. Come back each day for a new “Resolution Joy” installment, where you’ll find inspiration and expert-backed advice, free classes, and dare-we-say fun activities.
Since we’re talking about finding more enjoyment in the new year, we’d be remiss not to talk to one of our go-to sources whose literal job is to help people find more joy. Erica Lasan, joy strategist and founder of JOYrney To Purpose, helps people identify what sort of things fulfill them—and then create strategies so they can do more of it.
We tapped her for a few of her favorite and most-effective lessons—because guess what? Joy isn’t always something that comes serendipitously, sometimes you have to create it through things big and small.
“Joy doesn’t come naturally a lot of times. You have to cultivate the time and space for joy. It’s important to have an outline, vision, and game plan for how you can bring more joy into your life” she says. “Because when life is coming hard, you need to have a road map you can refer back to. Think of this as your North Star of what joy means to you.”
1. Go on a joy quest.
A joy quest is, essentially, a self assessment in purpose and priorities. “Joy is tied to purpose,” says Lasan. “People miss this. They think joy is a ‘nice idea’ or some state of bliss that they can never really achieve, but it’s what happens when you are committing to things that are in-line with your purpose and what naturally inspires you.” And of course, she notes, not every little thing that sparks happiness will be directly related to purpose and goals, but on some level joyful moments can be connected to your larger dreams.
It makes sense, and really follows all the same lessons we know from other areas of well-being: You can’t get healthier without understanding where you are at this moment and where you want to be. You can’t improve mental health without understanding what centers and calms you. And, you cannot manifest a joyful life without understanding, first, what brings you joy to begin with.
If you don’t know how to start this joy quest, Lasan recommends carving out some time so you can journal all about what makes you happy: “Be selfish about this! Be selfish about your joy. Don’t think about what others might want from you, or what has been projected on you,” she says, noting to get into specifics and details where you can. “You want to be as clear on your lane of joy as you can be.” Of course, there are professional resources and classes to help you navigate this, if you’re struggling to get started.
2. Create a vision board
Once you’ve crafted a good idea of what your joy and purpose are, the next step is to create a physical and visual manifestation of this: Time to create a vision board. Vision boards are beloved in the well-being space as they offer a daily reminder of your larger goals, and provide a moment of pause when you feel you are overwhelmed or even off track.
However, they are not always used effectively. “People think of them not in an intentional way, but more as just pretty pictures. But that’s a vision that’s fed to you—and not your specific purpose or joy,” says Lasan.
But to create a vision board that serves a purpose: “It has to be a strategy, because without it you may get lost in how big your vision is or how it all relates to each other,” she says. “By strategy, I mean the images have to be directly connected to your purpose, and work up to your larger plan. Each element has to be one that is enlightened with who you are and the essence of your being.”
3. Find yourself an accountability crew
The final actionable step is accountability—essentially, how do you hold on to this vision of joy you’ve created for yourself? How can you check in with where you are at on your journey? How do you make sure you’re revisiting your roadmap regularly?
Well, you reach out to others: “You need people to hold you accountable to the joy and purpose you’ve set out for yourself,” says Lasan. “It’s so easy to get thrown back into the mess of the world, so it’s important to have people who are checking in on your joy.”
There are several ways to do this: An easy option is to join digital groups that are inline with your goals—like writer’s groups, artists’ collectives, spiritual advisors, or fitness accounts on social media.
But you also need to get those you are close with on board. “Get people that you love involved, like your parents, friends, partners, children,” she says. “You’re not going on this journey alone. You want people to be aware of your priorities and needs, so they can help you stay in line—and, also, not pull you off course.”
This, Lasan notes, has benefits that just might overflow into the relationships themselves: “You’re on a journey of getting to know yourself, so this invites others to get to know you better too. The people in your life may have an idea of what they think you are, but we’re all always evolving and changing. Let people get to know who you are now and who you want to be.”
Well, we can’t say it better than Lasan herself: “Most importantly: Learn to relax and enjoy the process. Take your journey one good feeling at a time. Life is constantly changing, and what you put out is what you receive.”