“Joy is in the simple things”; a well-known mantra reminding us of the wholesome notion that ultimate happiness is most easily achieved through basic means. Notwithstanding the fact that we’re all interpreting this concept through our own personal paradigm, it’s universally accepted that ‘simple things’ translate as experiences rather than possessions. In the words of one of my favourite poems by the same name “Like being at ease with what you do and who you are; needing what you already have; accepting, desiring what you have been given; feeling the gratitude of someone who is loved.” Simple things; feelings of self-worth and requited love from others. But I accept, simple and easy are not always the same!
In coaching when a client feels anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, I often bring it back to basics and ask them the simple question “What sparks your joy?” By considering this undemanding request most people are able to move effortlessly to begin to uncover the roots of what drives them, connect with their inner child and discover what they need to do more of in order to lead a happier life.
There is truth in this ideal. Various studies point to evidence that experiences give us more joy than material ‘stuff’ whose permanence leads to familiarity and often disappointment. Whereas real life experiences only truly live on in our memory, giving us no time to grow accustomed to them. Experiences are also less susceptible to social comparison than material things (an unfortunate truth about being human but something which we know makes us unhappy)! Indeed, ‘doing’ rather than ‘getting’ can enhance social connections which promotes sharing and heightens excitement levels.
When it comes to what we have rather than what we do, Marie Kondo applies this same strategy to her work decluttering people’s houses. Her ‘KonMari’ requires individuals to place items (like books or clothes) on the floor and then touch them one by one. If an item doesn’t “spark joy” for them when it’s touched, the person should thank it for being a part of their life and then remove it from their home. This instils a deep appreciation for objects whether no longer wanted and needed or still valued and bringing joy to their owner.
How can we apply this to our everyday lives in our communities? On the face of it, it seems such a simple task; shedding possessions and making room instead for a more fulfilled life of engaging in activities and adventures! We may always crave bigger and better homes, cars, devices but we can at least try to consciously invest in experiences which we know make us happier in the bigger tapestry of our lives. We can share those experiences with others to enhance the experience and help it to live on beyond our own memory of it. And finally we can visualise (as a way of reliving), savour and express gratitude for what we have experienced, all tiptop ways to discover that joy really is in the simple things!