Advertising
Advertising

Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy

Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy

    In previous posts, I discussed why the so-called “negative” emotions of anger, shame, sadness, and fear are actually good friends and guides. In this post, I am going to close the loop on this project by outlining why joy, a “positive” emotion, can be your enemy.

    How can this be? How can joy cause trouble? What’s wrong with feeling good?

    Well, nothing, of course. Except that the pursuit of joy (and the fear of losing joy) can distract us from creating long-term happiness and fulfillment. And it can even bring about circumstances that cause tremendous suffering.

    Advertising

    But how does this happen?

    In one of two ways: Attachment and Distraction.

    How is attachment a problem?

    Attachment can be a problem when it clouds your judgment, preventing you from making the right choices (for you) in the hopes of getting or keeping something that you think will bring you joy.

    I’m sure you’ve known people who have quit their jobs and moved away from their friends and families to a new city in order to stay together with a boyfriend/girlfriend, only to find themselves dumped and far from home when what they really needed to do is accept that other person is moving away and get on with life. Attachment to that other person, wanting to get or keep the Joy that comes from being with the other person, brought that on. Similarly, people can get attached to ideas, places and objects, and let this attachment prevent them from making wise decisions.

    Advertising

    We can also get attached to the results of our actions and create trouble for ourselves and others. How many times have we told ourselves the following:

    “I’ll be happy when I get rich/get married/have kids/get a promotion/get a better house…”

    Staying so focused on the payoff prevents us from enjoying the journey, and in extreme circumstances it can lead to problems brought on by unethical behavior. Whether it’s fudging taxes, covering up problems at work, lying to your spouse to keep the peace, all of them can bring serious consequences crashing down upon you…simply because you wanted the joy associated with the payoff.

    Joy can be a distraction

    It can be — and it may be a harmless one, like procrastinating with Facebook or playing video games instead of taking action on something that would bring achievement and fulfillment.

    Advertising

    Starting that big project at work can be hard. Same with fixing up your house, training for a 5K or writing a book, but those things can be incredibly rewarding (much more so than playing Angry Birds). But playing Angry Birds can provide the distraction of fun and joy.

    Right now that prevents you from ever going down those paths.

    Taken to the extreme, distraction becomes addiction. You drink/take drugs/gamble because it feels better than facing some challenge. No one becomes an addict because they honestly want the lifestyle and rewards — they do it because it feels good (initially at least), and it brings joy to have a drink or a hit or another card. If it didn’t feel good — at least in the moment — no one would do it.

    But we do…because people find joy in distraction and they can’t tear themselves away from it long enough to take care of themselves.

    Advertising

    In closing

    Joy can lead to attraction and be a distraction. We get attached to another person or object, or to a certain result, and this can lead to bad decisions. Similarly, we can use momentary Joy to distract us from taking on more difficult challenges that would ultimately prove more fulfilling. Such distractions can prove devastating in the case of addictions. Joy is important, of course — I don’t think we could live without it for long.

    But like the other “negative” emotions mentioned above, we need to keep it in its proper perspective.

    (Photo credit: Boxing Punching Bag on Red via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Dave Kaiser

    An Executive Coach who helps people make better use of their time, from productivity to living their life's mission.

    A New Year’s Resolution Worksheet That Will Make Your Resolutions Stick Want Life to Be Easy? Get a System! Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy Why You Need to Give It Away What Not to do to Get More Done

    Trending in Lifestyle

    1 How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life 2 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power 3 13 Essential Self-Care Tips for Busy People 4 How to Reduce Mental Stress Quickly (And Naturally) 5 Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

    How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

    When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

    So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

    1. Exercise

    It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

    2. Drink in Moderation

    I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

    3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

    Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

    4. Watch Less Television

    A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

    Advertising

    Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

    5. Eat Less Red Meat

    Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

    If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

    6. Don’t Smoke

    This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

    7. Socialize

    Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

    8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

    Advertising

    9. Be Optimistic

    Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

    10. Own a Pet

    Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

    11. Drink Coffee

    Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

    12. Eat Less

    Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

    13. Meditate

    Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

    Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

    Advertising

    How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

    14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

    15. Laugh Often

    Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

    16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

    Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

    17. Cook Your Own Food

    When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

    Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

    Advertising

    18. Eat Mushrooms

    Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

    19. Floss

    Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

    20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

    Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

    Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

    21. Have Sex

    Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

    More Health Tips

    Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

    Reference

    [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
    [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
    [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
    [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
    [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
    [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
    [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
    [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
    [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
    [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
    [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
    [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
    [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
    [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
    [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
    [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

    Read Next