Most people want to experience more joy. Joy in life, joy in work, joy in leisure. But it is often assumed that you have to find this joy. A quick search of the keywords “find joy” returns numerous results including how to find joy in your everyday life, fourteen tips for finding joy, and how to feel more joy in your job.

But what if you could cultivate joy? What if you could create effortful joy?

Nothing represents this more for me than running. I set challenging goals for myself in terms of distance. I know it will not be easy and it will be physically demanding. As the miles tick by, I am wrestling with doubts and thoughts of uncertainty. But when I cross that finish line the joy and happiness are enough to convince me to do it again and again.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama

Gaining Control of Your Thoughts

Sometimes the thoughts running through our mind can rob us of joy. It is easy to fall into the same old rhythms of self-doubt, worry, and frustration. Actively pursuing a different mindset can bring back happiness.

It is difficult to change the mantras you frequently repeat to yourself. If you tell yourself upon every failed attempt and missed opportunity you are not good enough, then you will have a hard time finding joy in the situation.

Don’t just attempt to see the silver lining, but put in the work to change your opinion of yourself. Reach for the statements that make you feel good and hold them in your mind. I often have anxiety about things beyond my control, but why should I devote my time to worrying about these things I cannot change.

I begin with deep breathing, then I meditate on things in which I can control and that bring me joy. I can’t control the traffic making me late to work, but I can control the radio playing my favorite song!

Disrupt negative thoughts and replace them with self appreciating and confident thoughts. Having a list of self appreciations can be helpful. Things such as I am enough, I can do this, I am worth it.

Dwelling on bad situations isn’t difficult and replaying them in our minds happens without effort. It will take practice to rein in your thoughts and actively choose to be joyful.

Engage In Something Challenging

Another way you can cultivate joy is by doing something challenging. Most people will have a list of things they want to accomplish, either big or small.

I desperately want to write a book and doing so would bring me great joy. I know that this will not be easy and will probably be a long and tedious process. But the happiness I will feel when completing this goal and checking it off my bucket list will be so worth it.

Exercise and physical activity are great ways to pursue effortful joy. You can take great pride in pushing your body and being able to rely on it to complete activities you never thought possible.

Activities don’t just have to be physically hard, but they can be mentally tough. Stretching your perceptions and taking part in something that challenges your mind can generate joy.

I am terrible at meditation. If I can engage in meditation for only two minutes, this concentrated effort brings me a feeling of elation.

Many times anything you commit to mastering or accomplishing will not be simple. You will have to put in the time, work, and dedication. But with each step bringing you closer to your goal, you are cultivating joy.

Take a Leap of Faith

The final way to put in effort in order to produce joy is by taking a leap of faith. Whether it is letting go of people, thoughts, or experiences, you should get rid of whatever is holding you back.

If something isn’t working for you, don’t hold on to it. Pursue new ventures that are intimidating but exciting, difficult but rewarding.

“The leap of faith involves having a basic belief in yourself and a fundamental trust in the vision of who, what, and where you want to be in the future” – Jim Taylor Ph.D. The Power of Prime

Nothing about that statement sounds easy. You will have to work hard at reigning in those doubting thoughts and replacing them with confidence.

It will be a challenge to remain dedicated and trusting to yourself and the process in order to attain your goals. But accomplishing them and reaching that finish line results in effortful joy.