Excitement is defined as "something that arouses enthusiasm and eagerness." Excitement is short-term and fleeting. It comes and goes. We live in a world structured to reward our brains with excitement. Phone applications like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and video games provide instant access to excitable moments. These applications capitalize on the insatiable desire for excitement. Excitement engages the reward structures of our brain. This is why people will look down at their phones and not even know why. It is a learned response looking for entertainment. At a tap of your fingers, you can access your friends, go shopping, look at the latest news, and obtain an endless amount of information. Phones are not the issue. Unfortunately, many people would love to blame technology for being the issue. The real issue is our need for excitement. Phones, social media, and games are simply the most easily accessible point for excitement today.
Excitement alleviates boredom, loneliness, anxiety, or whatever emotional state is present at that moment. It is quicker and easier to deal with issues by utilizing distraction than dealing with the problem. The sad reality is that in the pursuit of alleviating discomfort, our brains need more and more to maintain the same results. We need more likes on our social media platforms, we need more progress in a game, or we need to order that new thing to feel satisfied. Fortunately, there is an antidote for excitement, in my opinion, that is learning to be joyful. In this post, I want to discuss the transition from seeking excitement to seeking joy.
I have to openly admit I fall victim to the constant pursuit of excitable moments to buying things, playing games, to looking for the next adventure in life. This topic is all too familiar for me. Excitement is deceptive because, on its own, it is not bad. But excitement can rob you of joy in a moment. Often, looking for excitement does not quite stack up to the idea created in our mind. We wait in anticipation for the relief, for the thrill that excitement has to offer. But when it does not measure up, we are left wanting. Excitement often is mistaken for happiness. Just like a great meal, you get excited about the wonderfully smelling food, but after the meal is over, the satisfaction is over. You may be able to recall the meal afterward and the satisfaction it brought, but most often, you are left wanting more. I would suggest that excitement deceives to thinking the event provides happiness, but excitement is just intense temporary satisfaction. Excitement brings restlessness and a desire for more.
Being joyful, on the other hand, is not dependent on short-term relief. Joy, for me, means being satisfied and content in the present moment. Learning to be satisfied in the present moment translates to the next moment and the next and so on. When you can enjoy each moment for what it is, you can have joy in all situations. Joy is a discipline that must be practiced, developed, and nurtured. Unfortunately, few people want to work towards joy or do not even know it's something to strive towards. It's hard to see joy as an achievable goal through all the noise of excitement has to offer us. I want to share how you can start the process of developing joy in your life.
As a Christian, my spiritual growth is the largest source of joy in my life. Being joyful is discussed throughout the bible and often a topic in sermons as well. Biblical joy often is depicted as choosing to respond to external circumstances with inner contentment and satisfaction, knowing that God will use these experiences to accomplish His work. Recognizing that His work can be done through our lives and done in other people's lives. As a Christian, I try to rest in the understanding that in all situations, good or bad, that God's hand is present. Spiritual beliefs are a great ally to discovering joy by recognizing that it comes from The Higher Power. Having this knowledge brings relief and freedom to myself and many others. I also know there are practical ways to help teach how to be actively joyful so you can apply spiritual truths with practical ways of practicing the discipline of joy.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to develop joy. Mindfulness is simply being attentive and conscious of the present moment. Meditation is the most common means of developing mindfulness. Meditation often starts by focusing on your breathing. Focused breathing is one of the most common means of developing mindfulness. You notice the air going in and out of your nostrils and apply that discipline in your daily interaction, moment to moment, being aware of what is happening. You notice what's happening physically, mentally, and spiritually. Many meditators spend years developing this skill. Meditators develop the ability to being aware of the present moment. They can remove their personal bias to the situation and notice the moment at face value. I encourage you to look into simple ways to start developing meditation and mindfulness practices. There are many to choose from, but the easiest way to start is utilizing breathing techniques that can be found online.
In summary, it is important to move away from a life that is seeking out and gratifying our desire for short-term excitement. Ways you can develop joy is by leaning into your faith or spiritual beliefs. For me, that is me recognizing who God is and his role in creation. The second step is practicing mindfulness and meditation and developing this as a discipline.
Come back next week. In part 2, we will discuss in more detail the practice of meditation and mindfulness
Aaron Martinez M.Ed. LPC