Intentional Joy (EP 94: The Vegan Life Coach Podcast)

Following a talk about Ella’s recent experience (intense!) surviving an ice bath, Stephanie dives into a spectacular training on cultivating intentional joy…


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In a recent article, Reese Witherspoon posted some daily life improvements that she’s incorporating this year, including 1) Start the day with a big glass of water; 2)  Get 10 minutes of outdoor light; 3) Read for 60 min without destruction; 4) In bed by 10 getting 8 hours of sleep at night.
Ina Garten responded saying, “That sounds great but I’m probably not doing any of these things, LOL. My formula is easier to follow. 1) Drink more large Cosmos; 2) Stay up late watching addictive streaming series; 3) Stay in bed in the morning playing Soduko; 4) Spend more time with the people I love.  I do what I can in a pandemic.”
Of course, both lists are great.  But I think they come with two very different purposes.  The first from a place of self-improvement.  And the second from a place of genuinely sneaking in intentional bits of joy.
I think a lot of time we tend to look at ways to make our days happier by simply inverting what makes us unhappy.  We spend time trying to minimize the impact of unhappiness.  Essentially, we ask ourselves how can I prevent myself from becoming unhappy?  That seems a little shortsighted when you consider how that type of negativity impacts us daily.  Yes, we can build resilience and coping mechanisms to deal with that impact, but that’s not quite the same as being intentional about cultivating moments of joy, is it?
Joy is an experience of intensely positive feeling, usually characterized by a mixture of excitement and connection. (Dr. Nick Wgnall, a clinical psychologist who has a great podcast called Minds and Mics.)
Let’s pull this apart a bit.  Using this definition, Joy is an acute, relatively short-lived experience.  We experience moments of joy. Secondly, joy is intensely positive. It is above our baseline…above our normal state of happiness or daily living. It is experienced as a burst of intense positivity.
Looking further, joy is usually characterized by a mixture of excitement and connection.  Excitement can be experienced as passion, curiosity, stimulation, awe; while connection could be friendship or love between people or a sense of belonging with the world, nature, the universe, or even simply yourself.
So, by using this definition, we can provide ourselves a framework for intentionally building moments of joy into our daily life.  I would love to be able to give you a step-by-step strategy for this, but the truth is, being intentional about creating joy will require you to do a lot of introspection.  Joy is such a personal experience.  So, instead, let me provide you with a framework so that you can begin to point yourself in a direction to cultivate these moments for yourself.
Ask yourself some questions and take some notes on your answers:
What are my most authentic preferences in life? What do I really want?
This is an important question because so often what we decide we want is actually influenced by what others around us want or what we think we should want.  Do you enjoy playing softball or is that something your parents thought was a good activity and you’ve continued it into adulthood?  Do you like to hike or is it something that your spouse loves?  Not to say you can’t choose activities for other reasons, but we are talking about cultivating joyful moments for you so they must be authentically what you want and value.  If you find that you are often doing things that don’t come from a place of authenticity, maybe it’s time to shake things up!
Second Question:  What circumstances will allow me to experience my authentic preferences?
Oftentimes, the potential for joy in our most authentic preferences is dependent on the right circumstances.  Therefore, we must set ourselves up for these circumstances.  Be thoughtful about the people, situations, and environments in our lives and how they impact us when cultivating moments of joy.  If you enjoy that first cup of coffee alone in a still house, don’t wake up last minute and settle for convenience store coffee on your morning commute.  If you love to play Pickleball, don’t play with people who are hyper-competitive and will not allow you to simply enjoy the game.  Choose your circumstances along with your preferences for those moments of joy!
Finally:  What changes can I make in my life so that I spend more time in conducive circumstances enjoying my authentic preferences?
This might be the most challenging…bringing it all together.  But, here’s the real hope here!  Don’t get trapped into all or nothing thinking.  Inviting more joy into your life does not mean you need to turn your current life upside down. Find where you can make small changes to invite these moments in.
For example, say that your passion is playing jazz piano; however, you haven’t made time for that in many years.  The impact of the joyful moments that playing jazz piano will not diminish just because you cannot devote your entire life to playing.  Instead, finding ways to enjoy playing jazz piano in increments will increase your joyful experience by adding those moments to your life. Maybe that means spending 30 minutes at the piano every evening after dinner rather than watching tv.  Maybe that includes signing up for a jazz workshop on the weekend rather than taking the family camping trip you only kind of enjoy.
So, while I don’t have an entire strategy for you, I do have this urging.  After asking yourself these questions, try something.  Sneak that snuggle in with your sweet pup.  Blow off your latest book you “should” read for an indulgent novel.  Forget the yard work and go have brunch with your bestie every Sunday morning.  Build these rituals of joy into the framework of your life and see the impact they have on the quality of your living.


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A passionate vegan for the last 28 years, Ella Magers, MSW is a leading voice for revolutionary transformation in the fitness industry. Ella connects people with the information, tools, support, and guidance they need to develop holistically healthy habits, claim mental and emotional well-being, and live more fulfilling and fiercely compassionate lives. Ella is a professional speaker, published author, and coach. She is the spirited host of the inspiring Rise & Thrive Podcast and the Vegan Life Coach Podcast, founder of Sexy Fit Vegan®, and creator of the 22Reboot total transformation system. As a plant-based athlete and former bodybuilding champion, Ella was recognized as one of the world's top personal trainers by and Shape Magazine. Having healed from her own struggles with disordered eating, Ella Magers shows people that there are alternatives to crash diets and excessive workout regimens, and how to align their lifestyle with true health by using compassion as their compass. Ella is on the founding board of Hogs & Kisses Farm Sanctuary, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the mission of creating the best possible life for farm animals while inspiring compassion for all living beings.

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