There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. - Kahlil Gibram
I've been thinking a lot about joy lately and I concluded that we experience millions of joyful moments in various forms and degrees of emotion, and that it is subjective. We are all different and find joy in different things, yet there are some similar themes. Also, it doesn't have to be the really big things that make you jump and scream with excitement, like winning the lottery - it can be little, everyday things that happen that bring the feeling of happiness. Joy can also feel like comfort, satisfaction, gratitude and feeling blessed, or feeling at peace and connected to a higher power or faith. I reviewed a lot of information in books, magazines, and the internet to see what others said about joy and I found several themes - people, spirituality, pets, nature, helping, gratitude, success, seeing joy in others, activities & events, being creative, and other (i.e. chocolate). The people theme was at the top of the list to describe what brings joy. We feel joy when with children, other family members, and good friends. We celebrate special occasions, engage in fun activities, laugh with one another, and help others. We may enjoy helping others and touching other's lives, doing kind things, sharing, seeing joy in the faces of those we care about like the cooing of an infant, or the smiles and bright eyes of children. We may feel joy when we are grateful and feel blessed for what we have, be that good health, a job we like, a roof over our heads, or the people in our lives to name just a few. We may feel joy when we sing, dance, write, cook or bake, or create in some way. We may feel joy in faith in a supreme being or the feeling of a presence of a spiritual divine with or within us. Pets bring many people joy - they seem so excited to just see us or to go for a walk. We can feel that sense of joy when we have accomplished something, big or small, such finishing a university degree or merely mastering a new skill. And many of us feel joy when we venture out into nature and marvel at this earth and all it's amazing glory. Little things bring others joy throughout the day, such as that first cup of coffee and watching the sun rise or a delicious meal. So, there is no final definitive description or example of joy that applies to all people, but for many, joyful moments involve others in some way. When I think about what brings me joy, I could add so many items to that list.
One way I experience joy is to give to others so I thought I would attempt to spread some joy in a very small way and make a photograph of it. I purchased some inexpensive joy Christmas ornaments to hang up around the community for people to find and keep. If you've ever reached into the pocket of an old coat and found a dollar bill, you'll remember that tinge of excitement when you discovered the unexpected nice surprise. I wanted to do this for others, but with these decorations. Another aspect to this project was to use the actual word, thinking that the word "joy" may be a psychological trigger that would evoke a joyful emotion. The photo above is one of the ornaments, and I hung it up at a local park where people walk every day. On the tag I wrote a note about keeping the ornament as a reminder to find the little joyful moments in their lives. I hoped that finding some tiny little treasure, and the word "joy", might get them thinking about the little joys in their life and have more of a lasting impact. Then I photographed the ornaments hanging in the city. It would have been fun to stick around to see the face on the finders, so I'll never know whether it had an impact but I just have to imagine that it was a good feeling for a moment at least. When we feel good, we act differently. Our feelings and our behaviour are connected, so the change in behaviour will trigger more happy feelings.
So how does photography come into play you may ask? Well, the possibilities to use cameras to give or receive joy are endless. Think about what brings you joy and go make a photo image of it. It may be your happy pet, or your child giggling, or a sunrise. If you find joy in doing something or giving to others, you might consider photographing a happy family event and printing out pictures for family members, or yourself, to enjoy. You could make interesting photos of nature to print out and give as gifts to spread joy. You could share your photography talents by participating in an event such as Help-Portrait.com or use your talent to become involved in a social activist event. If pets bring you joy, photograph your pet and hang the print in your workspace. Where do you find joy? How have you, or might you, express joy in a photograph? How could you give to others with your photography? Think about what brings you joy, and have fun creating your own joy image.
"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves". - Buddha