If I was to ask you to reel off a list of your priorities right now, whereabouts on the list would your own joy feature?

I’m guessing that it’s probably not right at the top. I’m guessing that it probably sits somewhere between the middle and the bottom of the list, behind your job and family and your home and your social commitments. I’m guessing that truly prioritising your own joy is something that happens infrequently – perhaps two or three times a year, when it’s your birthday or you’re on holiday.

I’d make those guesses because for a long time, that’s exactly how I treated my own joy – like it was a nice thing to have, like it was something I’d get to when I’d ticked everything else off my list. In fact, at times, I didn’t just leave my joy sitting at the bottom of my to do list, I actively did everything in my power to avoid it.

And that’s because we’ve been conditioned as a society to resist joy. We’ve been taught that joy is hard won, that we have to hustle and sacrifice and work harder than anybody else in order to qualify for it. We’ve been taught that desiring joy is frivolous and selfish, that there are more important things to worry about than being happy.

I believed those stories for so many years. I believed that putting my own joy at the bottom of my priority list made me a better person in some way – that it made me more selfless, more resilient, more hard working than my peers. And so I avoided joy at every turn, always throwing myself into another project or deadline instead of soaking up the moment.

But the truth is, joy is important. So important in fact, that I created a whole course around it called Joy School. Joy is something that should top all of our priority lists in 2020. Want to know why? Here goes…

Joy is a great predictor of good health

Studies show that joyful people have less chance of having a heart attack, maintain a healthier blood pressure, and tend to have lower cholesterol levels. There’s research to prove that joy boosts our immune systems, fights stress and pain, and improves our chance of living a longer life. Being joyful could quite literally add years to life – which is pretty cool, right?

Joyful people are kinder

Add to that the fact that joyful people tend to be more patient, kind and creative than their peers. Studies have shown that they’re also more likely to have healthy, meaningful relationships that last. Given the current state of affairs, more kindness, patience and joy all sounds pretty good, 

Joyful people are more successful

Lots of people tell me that they know joy is important, but that right now, they’re too busy focusing on their careers to prioritise it. I get that idea, I really do, but what if I told you that the research shows that joyful people are 40% more likely to receive a promotion at work? The science shows that our brains work significantly better when they are in a positive state, as opposed to a negative, neutral or stressed state, and so prioritising your joy could be the magic ingredient for your career success. 

All we have is right now

Finally, we get one short and precious life here on planet earth. None of us are guaranteed anything more than we have right here and now. We aren’t guaranteed better jobs or bigger houses or perfect health. And so if we can’t have control over all of our external circumstances, aren’t we better focussing on finding our joy right now?

Ready to start prioritising joy in 2020? Sign up to Joy School for all the help, guidance and wisdom you need to start living your most joyful life, whatever that means to you.

Sophie Cliff (aka The Joyful Coach), is a coach, writer and podcaster who helps people live their most joyful lives, whatever that means to them. Focusing on mindset, positivity and practical action, she helps her clients get out of their own way so they can achieve more success and contentment. Listen to her podcast, Practical Positivity, here.