Joy Is Not a Luxury

Joy is a birthright

It’s funny how the guilt could creep in while I was on vacation last week – what should I be doing that I’m not? What am I missing that might be letting others down? No. Relax. Enjoy.

Emily McDowell on Instagram: @emilyonlife

Emily McDowell (Illustrator, writer, and business founder) hit home on this topic – “I’m not sure why we are here on earth but I know it’s not so we can feel guilty and make spreadsheets and reply to emails until we die.” I felt that. I felt that with the joy and purpose and meaning I seek to give and receive from my creative work. I felt that with the spark of wonder and creativity I’m bringing back with me from a week away. And I felt that with the burnout that can come with being passionately engaged in your work and the never ending emails and spreadsheets and decisions and grind that can come with the territory.

“The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Tim Kreider, ‘The Busy Trap,’ New York Times

Take away the staccato demands of a full work day and suddenly there it is. Curiosity. Creativity. Novelty. Delight. Joy. Like that first deep lungs of fresh air after a shallow breathed walk down smoggy city street, you don’t know what you’re missing until the colors of the world come back to you.

I know I’m not alone in this experience – and fMRI studies of the brain back up the fact that your brain makes connections in new ways when at rest. Perhaps this is the way to combat the feelings of neglect or guilt we can feel as responsible, engaged people taking time to rest. It is in fact more productive to ensure adequate mental downtime and experiences outside of your day to day norm. And the higher up the responsibility ladder you are the more important it is for you to live to this mantra. Not only do your decisions tend to affect others but you also have people looking to you as a role model. If you want productive, creative, independent thinkers on your staff – go take a vacation. Then encourage them to do the same.

Create permanent space in your life for time away. Make it as important to your lifestyle as a healthy diet and continual learning. Long game mentality.

Because mental rest is how we get to joy. Joy is not a luxury – it is a birthright, a beautiful gift. And it is a necessary jumping off point for every other passion project we may want to delve into. Without joy there is not creativity, curiosity, or engagement.

Flying kites in the Outer Banks, NC

It is my personal mission to create an every day ability to access those feelings and that spark. I am a better mother, employee, partner, friend, human when I am joyful. That starts with allowing myself to go deep into rest and happiness and not feeling guilty for stepping away.

About the author: Hi! My name is Jess Anderson, I am a technologist based in Louisville, Ky. I lead technology product and project management teams and am ‘mom’ to two school aged kids.

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