My favorite Christmas carol is Joy to the World. This classic expresses the exaltation of the angels announcing the birth of Christ. Every time I sing it my heart seems to fill with emotion. The emotion of joy.

Joy is such a teeny word to have the power to actually lengthen our lives, as well as to enjoy them more while we are living them. Why is it that joy seems to escape the reach of so many people? What is joy anyway?

The classic novel’s title touts Joy Comes in the Morning. Well, does it hide the rest of the time? Joy is defined as ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, as in tears of joy. A delight, no less than jubilation. A state of felicity; bliss. A source of delight. That all sounds good to me. Can I have a double helping please?

Why is it that, as we keep making progress, and we have more and more, we are a nation suffering from depression? Perhaps we have a deficit in the life saving, life improvement state of joy? Forrest Talley, PhD., explains, “Happiness can be brought about by a good cup of coffee in the morning or a funny movie. Joy on the other hand, is more difficult to cultivate.” So, we cannot buy it, or find it with a snap. Is it deep inside us hiding?

Susan Damico, director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, states, “Numerous studies suggest joy predicates lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as stronger immune systems.” Research published in the Journal of Happiness studies found that people with more joy tend to live more than 55 percent longer.

It may be worth it to find out how to cultivate joy. Does feeling joy take work? Do we need to be smarter, purer? Is it out of most of our grasps? No, we are advised, joy can be a simple breath away.

Therapist and radio show talk host, Jaime Bronstien states, “Your joy can come from what you feel passionate about when it is your purpose.” William Schroeder, director of Just Mind Causation, says, “Finding joy can only truly exist in the now.”

As I write this I have looked out my office window and up at the tall pine tree in my view. There, fast at work, peck, peck, pecking, is a woodpecker. I feel a sense of warmth and calm deep inside of me. A smile crossed my face. I feel a quiet, wonderful feeling; joy. Can it really be that simple?

A study in the Landscape and Urban Planning reports, “Getting outside is crucial to finding joy.” Perhaps this confirms the old adage that we need to stop and smell the roses .We need to be present in the moment to recognize what brings us joy and to be able to absorb it.

Joseph Campbell feels we need to do some work on ourselves, “Find a place inside you where there is joy waiting, and that joy will burn out your pain.”

Even Mother Teresa says, “Joy is a prayer, joy is inner strength, joy is love, joy is the part of love by which you can catch souls.” People who love to look at art in a museum or glorious sunsets, would agree with John Keats, who told us, ” A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

Tim Cook told us, “Let your joy be in your journey, not in some distant goal.” Does that mean we can enjoy now and not some deferred payment plan?

Many great minds tell us about joy because they knew it was the best sort of fuel to live on. Poet Emily Dickenson said to “Find the ecstasy of joy in life; the mere sense of living is enough.”

One of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, advised, “Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”

Plato told us, “Love is the joy of the good,” while CS Lewis says, “Joy is the serious business of the heart.”

One of my favorite quotes on joy comes from comedian/actress Rosalind Russell, “Taking in the joy of just living is a woman’s best cosmetic.” That makes sense to me. Maybe my worry lines were created when I forgot to look for the joy, and I was instead looking to the negative.

Getting older does help if we can look back and laugh at ourselves, realizing that we took some things seriously instead of just enjoying the moment when there was so much in life to enjoy. I find such moments often now, in the stages of the moon at night, or from the antics of my dog and kitten.

Now here’s a great way to find joy! Adopt a pet. Watch how they find joy so easily. They do not know it is supposed to be hard.

As the sands of life quickly exit my time glass, I find that my goal is to find joy in as many places as I can, and the more I look the more I find. Many joys are right at hand. Try looking for yourself.

In closing I will quote Cyril Tourneur, “Joy is a subtle elf, I think one is happiest when he forgets himself.”

Diana J. Ingram

Diana Ingram has been a columnist for Los Banos newspapers for four decades.