Cultivating Contentment: The Spiritual Discipline of Evoking JoyJun 30, 2020 06:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Our four-legged friends—from pampered pooch to stray cat—have the inborn ability to seize the moment. No matter what chaotic circumstances may swirl around them, they have a knee-jerk response to spring into playful action or curl up in a patch of inviting sunlight.
As humans, we tend to postpone the smallest of joys and avoid emotional self-care, opting for that extra glass of wine or spending more than usual to feel better for a brief period of time. Tending to our own happiness begins by seeing joy not as a mood dependent upon circumstances, but as a spiritual discipline like any other. Emotional well-being is a garden we must weed and water daily, and in turn, our physical health can’t help but be well-nourished by the harvest. Studies through the years have shown that certain sites and organs in the body, including the thymus, immune cells and bone marrow, have receptors for neurotransmitters like serotonin, which could explain why cultivating contentment might boost our natural defenses.
Seasoned yogis and meditators often speak of an inner wellspring of joy that can be accessed through a committed practice. Perhaps joy is less of a mood and more of a frequency that is accessible to all of us when we’re willing to align with its bandwidth. Making it a habit to step outside for 10 minutes to witness a sunset or greet the twilight while dinner cooks can be a beautiful way to advance felicity.
Taking five-minute joy breaks during the workday to listen to a favorite piece of music with earbuds, read a few pages of an inspiring book or notice the clouds is another easy way to tend to happiness. Filling a “joy jar” with lovely memories written on scraps of colorful paper can prompt a spontaneous smile any time of day. Taking a half-hour drive on a pretty back road instead of scrolling through social media can reset depleted emotional reserves.
Today, we can shift our thinking and see contentment as a precious, deserving loved one that needs nourishment like any other. Feeding joy in our lives can pave the daily humdrum road with jewels. In the end, perhaps fostering inner happiness by example is the greatest legacy we can leave behind.
Marlaina Donato is the author of Spiritual Famine in the Age of Plenty: Baby Steps to Bliss.