Science has identified the few experiences that are critical for happiness.
But most people don’t know them, so fail to maximize their joy.
My blog describes the happiness essentials and how you can get them via a fulfilling daily practice: Joyshift.
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Track your emotional hi/lo for 30 days

By Ravit Aldar

Hello, my name is Ravit and I am a Joyshift practitioner. In my occasional guest posts, I will describe my experience with Joyshift so that you hear a practitioner's perspective.

Through Joyshift I’ve discovered that to push my emotional life to its highest level requires that I become really  aware of my feelings. The more emotional consciousness I have, the more likely I get more joy from life.

I spent a good part of my life largely out of touch with my feelings.  Yes, I was aware of the powerful love I felt for my family. And I could not ignore the anger outbursts that would frequently overwhelm me.

Emotions in the background
But most of the time my emotional life was very much in the background of my consciousness.

I probably absorbed that attitude from the culture around me. Society does not seem to value feelings very much.

It prizes money, achievement, and sexiness much more than emotional intelligence. My parents and schools failed to give me much of an emotional vocabulary.

So I grew up mostly unaware of the emotions within me; I now realize that that deprived me of much of the color of life.

But things changed when in my forties I decided to sell my successful business and move my family halfway around the world to a new life in Vancouver, Canada.

With plenty of time on my hands, I began a more inward-focused journey. I took yoga classes and as I breathed, stood on my head and meditated, I became much more aware of my body and mind.  In time I became a yoga teacher.

A friend introduced me to John and I read his book Joyshift: the journey to primal happiness.

I was intrigued. John recommends a very simple technique to start the Joyshift program: to monitor your daily emotional highs and lows for a month. Its an exercise in emotional awareness.

So I tried it.

Tracking my emotional ups and downs
Every night I wrote down  the events of the day that had given me the most happiness and those that deflated me. It was an enlightening exercise on several levels.

First,  the practice got me more interested in my emotional state as I went through my day. Instead of mostly ignoring the ebb and flow of my feelings, they became more foreground in my consciousness. For example, if I was getting angry about something, I’d notice my temper rising and that awareness helped me avoid a tantrum.

Second, over several weeks I discovered that the same type of experiences would lift me and other types deflate me. For example, the days in which I moved a great deal -- when  I jogged, or took a long walk, or swam in the pool, I felt better. I’d always known that physical fitness required that I get off my ass and move, but now I realized that my physical activity also boosted by emotional wellbeing. Conversely, in the days that I lazed about at home, my spirits would sag. I’d never made the connection between emotions and movement before.

The joy of movement
At first I thought that the movement/happiness connection was peculiar to me. I assumed that everyone has their own way to  feel good. Maybe being a couch potato would make some people really happy.

But then I learned from John’s book that physical movement is universally satisfying.

A great deal of scientific research shows that people feel better when they move lots. Why?

Because movement is a primal happiness nutrient. It was essential to the survival of nomads so they evolved to enjoy it. And I got their genes (along with everyone else alive.)

My 30 day hi/low exercise allowed me to subjectively identify this happiness nutrient.  Even had I known nothing about the primal happiness principle, I learned that movement is a key to my own emotional wellbeing. My exercise actually identified several other happiness essentials too.

So I encourage you to give the exercise a try. It will give you fresh insight into your emotional nature.

Do this tonight
Here is what I suggest you do. Tonight just before you shut off the light to sleep, write down the date and then under it the one or two events from the day that made you feel the best, and the events which deflated you. Just a sentence or two or even point form will do. Record it any way you want, on paper, on your digital device or even on your pillow!

Do the same tomorrow night and the next and don’t stop till you have 30 days of records.   

Then, after a few weeks comes the most fun part.  You review your notes and start seeing the trends.  You probably will be surprised to find that many of the things you do in your free time don’t actually produce much joy.  And yet other experiences consistently make your heart soar.

If you compared notes with other people, you would see the same events on their lists too. You are likely to find that what makes you and everyone else feel best are earthy, easy, and free experiences such as watching a sunset, walking in a forest, or feeling close to someone special. These are none other than the primal nutrients of happiness. Joyshift will help you bring more of these into your life.

This exercise is valuable because it helps you identify what makes you happy, and that knowledge turns out to be a key ingredient in growing happier. Research indicates that the happiest people tend to know exactly what experiences deliver high levels of joy.

Write down the patterns you see and file that list where you can find it again. In a later post I’ll ask you to get out that list.