Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

September 22, 2010 · by Brooke · Joy Is All Around You, What is Joy?

Photo by h_ssan, courtesy of flickr


From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?”  This is the final post in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy. 

Part 4: Joy Lives in the Heart, Not the Mind  

“Joy is the feeling of grinning on the inside.” – Dr. Melba Colgrove 

Joy is a spark that begins, completely unconsciously, when your heart (not your mind) is open to it.  One of my recent Joys was also an example of this when a friend invited me to the Whitney Museum to see the Charles Burchfield exhibit, an artist whose work I was not familiar with.  The paintings are truly something to behold.  However, it is Burchfield’s journal quotes that really struck me, as they capture his ability to find Joy in the everyday world surrounding him:  

 “Listen long to the singing of the telephone poles.  It sounds more weird and beautiful by moonlight…Each pole has a distinct tone.  A steady throbbing sound – the poles, once trees, still are full of life, which is expressed in this pulsating sound.  Seems a voice from the center of the earth.” 

— Charles Burchfield’s journals, Salem, OH.  August 4, 1914
Whitney Museum plaque: Song of the Telegraph, 1917-52


What an exclamation of Joy!  And he beautifully demonstrates that Joy is not something that initiates in your mind; it begins somewhere in your heart.  It is hard to imagine Burchfield consciously thinking that the hum of the telegraph wires would give him Joy.  Rather, his heart was open to finding Joy in the small things that made up his daily life — Suddenly he was struck by the aliveness of the sound.  Many other sensations such as Happiness or Gratitude, while often felt in the heart as well, can begin with the mind.  But Joy is usually not a conscious decision.  Often, part of the delight of Joy is that it is unexpected.  Joy is a spark that may or may not be easily explained, but begins when you are open to experiencing it. 

Burchfield also found Joy during a time he was suffering from a prolonged and severe illness, thereby reiterating a point made in What is Joy: Part 3 — you can experience moments of Joy, even when significant life events mean that you are not experiencing Happiness: 

“I must tell you about ‘my’ oak leaf – in my neighbor’s yard.  The yard had been raked clean of leaves, but later on, somehow this oak leaf got attached to something in the grass, so that it stands upright, and repeated gales and snow storms have failed to dislodge it.  It bends over with the wind and when it is calm again, there it is, standing up so pert and imp-like…” 

“…For me it has become a sort of symbol or example – as it clings on so stubbornly, so must I ‘hang on’ through this illness which has lasted so long.  I have moments of utter despair, and then I look out and see this little oak-leaf, my little friend.  Each morning I look for it and it is always there.” 

 — Letter from Charles to John I. H. Baur, January 7, 1957
Whitney Museum plaque: The Constant Leaf (The Steadfast Leaf), 1960


In the first paragraph, Burchfield expresses his sense of Joy – a pure and simple delight in the unexpected discovery of a lone leaf.  This sensation of Joy is not conscious and comes from his heart, not his mind.  In the second paragraph, Burchfield’s Joy spreads to a sensation in his heart and his mind — one of Gratitude or Happiness for each new day that he saw the leaf because it represented another day he had survived his illness.  

Frequently Joy leads to Gratitude or Happiness.  As one woman who kept a Joy Journal remarked, “Observing your Joy can create a general sense of Gratitude.“  By being present and experiencing to a greater degree the Joy that generally surrounds one, many Joy Journalers feel more thankful about the good things in their lives.   

Joyfully yours,


 Images from the show are on view at the Whitney Museum website and also via a slide show from The New Yorker.  

And my Gratitude to the curator who pored over Burchfield’s 10,000 journal pages to share with us these quotes.  Reading them gave my heart great Joy.

What Is Joy? Part 1: Joy is a Choice

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Photo by Katia Grimmer-Laversanne courtesy of stck.xchng


From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?”  This Blog post is the first in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy.

Part 1: Joy is a Choice

Joy begins with a choice.  Joy surrounds us.  We must choose to let Joy in.  Too often, we all (myself included) are tempted to blow right past Joy as we lead our busy lives.  And then we miss the moments of Joy!  I might fail to notice, for example, how the morning sun has created a perfect sunbeam.  Moreover, that my cat hasn’t missed it and is currently stretched out on the floor purring and soaking in the sun.  In fact, my cat is offering me her belly for a rub.  But I am late for a meeting, so I don’t stop to feel the sunbeam’s warmth, or pet my cat, or hear her purr…

Instead, I can choose Joy – choose to let it in.  The act of noticing the sunbeam, or the time it takes to bend down to rub the cat’s belly – in fact, these things take only seconds.  But their impact can linger.  They create a little boost in my spirit that can last through the morning.  It might even make that meeting I was racing to a bit more pleasant.  And by then, there is another Joy to let in.  Perhaps an eager hug from a child, or a courteous driver waving me on, a tree in full bloom, a special treat at lunch, or an email that makes me smile.

Joy is a state of mind, or mindfulness.  Above all – it is an openness: to life’s wonderful moments and its treasures, no matter how small or fleeting they may be.  Keeping a Joy Journal is an act of choosing Joy.  It is a conscious choice to be present and open to the Joy.  By stopping to notice the Joy around me and acknowledging it through the act of recording, I find myself more Joyful.

Joyfully yours,

3 Minutes a Day to Feeling More Joy

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September 10, 2010 · by Brooke · How To Start Your Joy Journal, Joy Is All Around You

Several years ago, I began keeping a “Joy Journal.”  For such a small thing, it has had a pretty big impact on me.  First, it made me more aware of all the Joy already in my life.  It’s hard to miss the big monumental Joys, but what about all the small daily Joys – taking the back roads, getting a bear hug from a child, singing along to your favorite song on the radio, experiencing a good belly laugh… These Joys were experienced and quickly forgotten, or worse – I passed them by at 100 miles an hour and failed to let the Joy in.  After starting my Joy journal, I am more open to experiencing small Joys, and they stay with me longer.  So by recording my Joy, I have in fact become more Joyful! 

You can start your own Joy Journal.  It’s very simple.  All you need is 3 minutes a day.  Grab a notebook, your iPhone/Blackberry, a word or email doc, even a scrap of paper, and write down any little thing that gives you Joy or makes you smile in the day.  It can be tiny, fleeting and/or silly.  Or earth shattering.  But most will be small moments; a brief spark. 

You can do it as things strike you, or you can reflect on the day overall.  But it is important to try to write something for every day. You can write a single word.  You can sketch a doodle.  You can even be grateful your no-good-very-bad-day is finally over.  Just take around 3 minutes each day – less time than the typical TV commercial break.  Try it for just 3 weeks.  It’s a gift for yourself, or for those you love.  If you stick with it, you will experience a difference.  You will feel more Joyful.  And you may even find you spread a little Joy.

Joyfully Yours,
June 8, 2010 · by Brooke · How To Start Your Joy Journal

Today marks the beginning of my blog, 3 Minutes to Joy.  There is something magical about the start of something that you have dreamed about for some time.  There is the openness, hope and promise of where the journey may take you.  And there is also the feeling of accomplishment.  In that moment – the beginning – you commit.  You start.  You turn intentions and dreams into actions.  It doesn’t matter how big or small that first step, now you are doing, experiencing, trying…and living! 

“The distance is nothing; it’s only the first step that is difficult.”
– Madame Marie Anne du Deffand


When I began keeping my Joy Journal in 2006, I had no idea the path upon which I was embarking.  It was an experiment.  An idea I had after a very challenging year.  It was almost New Year’s and I was loath to write resolutions that I knew would be very difficult to live up to, I then would be hard on myself.  Instead, I resolved to focus on a single aspect of my life that would have a wider impact: I would try to live Joyfully.  That would be my gift to myself and also to those I love that had supported me through the challenges I had faced.  I grabbed an old notebook and wrote on the front, “JOY!”  The notebook was actually from a Nextel promotion, and said on the front: “Do you do?”  Now it was complete: “Do you do? JOY!” And in the lower corner, “Nextel. Done.”  Yes, I had done it – I had begun on a path to finding greater Joy.  And in the nearly four years since, I have found that the small Joys have a greater impact on me because I am more aware of them and give them greater focus.  Now the smile they give me endures longer.  And then there are always the few but the glorious sources of big and major Joy, which have been given greater importance by the act of recording them.  All of these Joys fill me with a sense of gratitude, wonder and greater belief in the promise of the next day to come.

This beginning, of, is particularly important to me.  I am looking forward to sharing with you the stories of how a simple act of taking 3 minutes or less each day to record the Joy the day held can really make a difference.  Stories from my own experience, but also experiences from dozens of other people who have kept their own Joy Journals for a period of three weeks or more.  I hope you find these stories, tips and ideas interesting, helpful, or maybe even inspiring.  And should they cause you to initiate your own beginning – that of your own Joy Journal, I sincerely hope you will share your story as well.

Joyfully yours,