Joy Journal

Joy Journal #7: August 23, 2022

I have always wanted to hike along the Juan de Fuca trail. I was finally able to go today with two good friends of mine, Alex and Mary. It generally takes a few days to walk the whole trail, and as we only wanted to do a day-trip together, we took two cars, leaving one at each entry point: Botanical Beach and Parkinson Creek. It was a warm and overcast day, with sunlight peaking through the clouds. The path itself runs through the forest and close along the coast line, so you can enjoy the smell of the ocean, and the lush foliage of the trees as you make your way along. We were mindful of bears, as there are many living in the area, foraging for ripe blackberries and salal: a bell dangled from my backpack to signal our approach. We stopped mid-way to rest on a sloped grey rock that overlooked the ocean: sharing a picnic lunch of cheese, salmon, peaches, dark chocolate and kitchen-sink cookies. Rested and well-fed, we continued along our journey for the remainder of the afternoon. The eleven-kilometre hike took four hours to complete and we emerged feeling happy, tired and satisfied after a full day of connection and exploration. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #6: August 21, 2022

Tonight I went with my step-dad to see a live music performance in a garden paddock in Deep Cove. We sat out in the warm evening air, comfortably settled in our camping chairs in the grass, and enjoyed a performance of Leonard Cohen classics. The hummingbirds danced above our heads, diving in and around the trees, leaves gently rustled in the breeze. The salty smell of the ocean was in the air. Light softly fell around us until we were enveloped in darkness, broken only by the warm glow of a single spotlight. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #5: August 16, 2022

Today I went out with my friend Mary on a kayaking adventure along the coast. It was a pleasantly warm day with a light breeze. The ocean was calm and expansive. We paddled along the shoreline for an hour and a half, talking about our kids, and life in general. At one point, a massive sea lion emerged from the water in front of us, scaring both us and him. He quickly dove back under the water, leaving behind only a light trace of ripples on the surface. As we pulled into the beach, at the end of our trip, families gathered around barbeques and gas-light fire pits. We each plunged in the water, and then walked our boats home, dripping in the twilight. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #4: June 19, 2022

Today I watched my daughter swimming in the pool for hours. She did summersaults and flips, handstands and back walk-overs. She disappeared underneath the azure waters in a ripple of movement, and reappeared at the other end, with a slight gasp of air. I reminded myself that this is the same the child that used to require entertainment at all times, as she could not manage self-led activities. I watched her beautiful, graceful movements as she lost herself in the joy of play, and I felt so proud of the independent woman that she is growing up to be. When she was not in the pool, she read her book beside me on her sun chair, or she quietly journaled. The air was hot and dry. The cicadas sang in the olive and pine trees surrounding us. It was a truly beautiful afternoon. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #2: June 10, 2022

The weather in Provence is beautiful. Most mornings, when I step outside of my door to walk my daughter to school, I am welcomed by a clear blue sky and a warm breeze that envelops me. As the day moves into the afternoon, it can become quite hot, which is less pleasant. Living in the city, it is a wonderful to discover quiet places to cool off. Aix is a city known as the city of a thousand fountains. Although this is not quite accurate, there are many beautiful fountains to be found here. Today I sat by this contemporary one located next to the Palais de Justice. Children, dogs and pigeons waded in its cool waters. I pulled off my shoes and dipped my feet in. The sound is very relaxing and it is a great place to read a book and watch the world go by. I truly enjoyed this little slice of heaven. #JoyBlogging

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