Trigger warning! When I first began to see social media posts about “living life in joy,” I cringed. The saying quickly reminded me of generic Pinterest quotes like “You Only Live Once,” “Cease The Day!” and the most cringe-worthy of them all, “Live, Laugh, Love.” However, once I was done being cynical and a bit judgmental, I realized this wasn’t just another sappy “self-love” social media post. Rather a way to claim peace, hope and liberation during a time of chaos.
Living life in joy has seemingly become the new phenomenon of our generation, and for a good reason. It’s an understatement to say, people of color, especially the Black community, have had a tough time. Slavery, racial inequality, colorism, sexism, cultural appropriation, and everything in between, it’s only right we want to find the one thing others cannot take away from us – joy.
Now, who is joy? How do we find her? And what’s her eta? Because she’s late. We need answers! I’ve been on the search to find joy seemingly my whole life. She comes here and there, but only for a moment. Usually, anxiety and depression seem to take her place when she leaves and they know how to kill a vibe. I want joy. She’s light and fun. Since we are all more than deserving of finding, having, and keeping joy in our lives — I called on a joy expert. Grace Harry is a world-renowned joy strategist who has a vast range of clientele. She has helped everyday people to A-listers like Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill tap back into their joy.
Harry has been through her fair share of struggles. She has had a few career changes and public divorce from Usher Raymond. Even through life’s most challenging moments, Harry has been able to find joy within herself. “We’ve all been born with joy. Joy is our birthright,” she playfully explains. “A perfect example of this are babies. Think about it: they spit up, drool, and snot rolls down their face. As adults, we could see this as disgusting if another adult did this. However, babies don’t think that way. They think everything about themselves is beautiful. Babies live in so much joy despite their circumstances, and we have that that’s still within us.”
When life becomes challenging, we tend to look towards help to bring us back to mental ease. Therapists, life coaches, and counselors are all great ways to help us check in with our mental health. According to Harry, we don’t necessarily need these resources to find joy. “People have come to me with circumstances in their lives that are challenging,” she says. “I like to work with joy because no one can teach you that. You just need to go back to the moment you’ve experienced joy in your life and recreate those moments every second and every day of your life.”
Harry’s point truly resonates with me. When I think back to moments when I’ve been unapologetically joyful and free I think of my childhood. Growing up with mostly a single mother and alcoholic father, my childhood was far from perfect. However, I still remember finding moments of joy — feeling the grass on my toes, the warmth of the sun on my skin, and allowing my imagination to run wild helped me find the light in my life even when it was at its darkest.
As some may call it, inner-child work has become quite common for those who seek to heal from internal trauma. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if Harry associated inner-child work with joy. “I don’t agree with the term ‘inner-child work.’ It makes us sound like a doctor or like we’re trying to fix ourselves,” she says.
“The child that is within you is your life coach. Instead of calling it, ‘the inner child’ go back to that child,” she continues. “That child had a plan. That child was connected to source. That child had their definition of who they were and what made them happy. It’s all about reconnecting with that part of you, making it part of your practice, and not letting anything get in the way of it.”
In my experience, creating an inner-child practice to connect to joy is the easy part; it’s remaining in joy that’s hard. Life is constantly moving, and it’s easy to become too busy, stress, or prioritize loved ones before ourselves. For me, remaining in joy in my adulthood despite my circumstances is a skill I’d like to get better at.
“The way to stay in joy is to take out all the noise,” Harry says. She also advises coloring books, dancing, waking up with the sun, or going back to a childhood park. “I went to this playground in Brooklyn Heights. I sat on a tire swing, and I had this good feeling of not having anything to do but be in that moment, so I went back. On days that I was stressed or uncomfortable, I did it more. I found that the more I went to that park, the more I felt good and safe within myself,” she shares.
“Remaining in joy is not hard; it’s just we’ve created so many narratives to the pain in our hearts. You give away all your power once you decide that opening is hard, and that’s why it’s called a practice. I’m not saying life doesn’t get difficult; it’s just about rearranging the things we say to ourselves.” she continues, “If your friend came up to you and said she wanted to change her career. Chances are you’re going to be supportive and help her create a plan. There’s so much love, support, and encouragement for others than for ourselves. Joy has to be dealt with at the same level. Be that supportive friend for yourself.”
Harry makes one thing clear, being an advocate for your joy is a lifetime commitment. Having a practice makes that commitment more enjoyable. “Do what works best for you,” she says. “Maybe it’s too complicated to do breathwork, or it’s against your religion. Make it as simple as you can; look out the window, sing a song, move within your body. There are so many things that can replace meditation and breathwork. I don’t want anyone thinking there’s only one practice. The only practice is making yourself your project for life.”