My Joy Journal

I previously posted about my social media project, #JoyBlogging, in which I visually capture little moments throughout the day that give me joy. For the last few years, I have also been privately keeping a joy journal that captures more in depth personal experiences, big and small, that are particularly special to me.

I find it really useful to have a record to look back upon, and it is amazing how many of these experiences I would forget about, if I did not write them down. Every entry reflects a tiny, lovely moment, and collectively, these memories form a powerful tool; it fills me with happiness every time that I read through them.

The positive impact of this practice is backed by neuroscience. As Dr. Rick Hanson shares in his book Buddha Brain, “What flows through your attention sculpts your brain. Therefore, controlling your attention may be the single most effective way to shape your brain, and thus your mind. You can train and strengthen attention like any other mental ability; mindfulness is well controlled attention.”

There are things that we can actively do to internalize the positive and counter negativity bias:

  1. Turn positive facts into positive experiences. Bring mindful awareness to them.
  2. Savour the experience. The longer something is held in awareness, and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons fire and wire, and the stronger the trace memory.
  3. Pause and imagine the experience entering deeply into your body and mind.

Dr. Hanson contends that every time that you can shift positive feelings and views into painful, limiting states of mind, it builds a little bit of neural structure. If you call up positive emotions and perspectives, while implicit or explicit memories are active, these wholesome influences will slowly be woven into the fabric of those memories.

In the spirit of actively savouring life, I am going to start sharing some of my joy journal entries with you, with the hope that it will inspire you to start your own practice. Here is my first one:

Joy Journal #1: May 9, 2022

My dear friend Elise arrived in to Aix yesterday. We met almost twenty-eight years ago when we attended art school in Lacoste together. Provence will always be an important part of our friendship, as this is where we met, and we both maintain a special connection with the region. Elise is a painter and I am a writer. Part of our commitment on this visit is to spend time each day being creative and making work.

Today, we wandered in the old part of the city, where we came upon a little café in Place Richleme, and found a table in the shade. It sounds funny but I had never thought to go to a café to work; and I have been staying in the apartment most of the day to write. It turns out the French have a lovely café culture. You can order a coffee, and stay put for several hours, watching people, enjoying the sun on your face, and working. We had a really nice waiter who brought us each a “décaf allongé” with a little almond cookie on the side. We worked quietly, across from one another, for some time. It was a really lovely experience. It is definitely going to become a part of my daily practice from now on. #JoyBlogging

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