by Dan Jones Austin, TX
Some people seem to have more joy than others. Do you ever wonder why?
Studies consistently show that joy is not related to gender, age or race.
Men and women, young and old, people of all colors no group is more
joyful than any other group. Joy is also not related to wealth, education
or religious affiliation the rich, the educated, those who profess
a certain creed are just as prone to anxiety and depression as anyone
What then, is joy, and where does it come from? The answer is simple and
is basically good common sense.
We all notice that we have an energy level that fluctuates up and down,
and we have a tension level that fluctuates up and down. The word joy
describes how we feel when energy is greater than tension. We may have
lots of tension, but if our energy level is even higher, we can handle
it. We may even welcome stressors as challenges. We may have low energy,
but if our tension is even lower, we can have a peaceful, quiet joy. If
your energy is very high and your tension level very low, you will experience
bliss. If you have very low energy and very high tension, you will feel
The way of staying in joy is this: Think habitually of raising energy
and lowering tension. You can use this in all kinds of ways for
example, in your choices of work, friends, home life, daily schedule,
food, exercise, emotional release, breathing, reading and music, spiritual
beliefs and practices.
There has always been lots of advice about how to live, but really, we
all do the best we can with the energy/tension state we have. In a high-energy/
low-tension state, we are naturally cheerful, optimistic, forgiving, patient,
grateful and compassionate. We think clearly, calmly, courageously and
creatively. Work and relationships go well and life seems very simple.
In a low-energy/high-tension state, it feels like something is wrong or
missing and needs to be fixed or found. We try to make things happen,
but no matter how much we do, its never enough, and this makes us
anxious, critical, needy, impatient, controlling, self-centered, in a
hurry and tired. We dream of being heroes or of being rescued. Thinking
is worried and repetitive, and we drift into addictions. Work and relationships
are a struggle, and life seems very complicated.
Please notice: These are not moral qualities or character traits
theyre signs of where we are on the energy/tension scale. Seeing
this, we can become less interested in judging ourselves and others, and
more interested in helping ourselves and others to lower tension and raise
What are people really like? Are we naturally self-centered or altruistic?
Well, its a law that attention goes to trouble. This has obvious
survival value, but it also means that a person in a low-energy/high tension
state will necessarily have their attention on themselves, where the trouble
is. And when that state is chronic, then attention is chronically inward,
and the person becomes known as self-centered. When that person moves
to a high-energy/low-tension state, the trouble is gone, and their attention
naturally turns outward. The person becomes more altruistic.
If there seems to be so little altruism in the world, its because
there is so much tension, and because most of us are so unaware of how
much tension were used to carrying in our bodies. Its the
same with arrogance and humility, greed and generosity theyre
not moral qualities or character traits, but signs of where we are on
the energy/tension scale. The same goes with other polar opposites: anxiety
and serenity, criticism and appreciation, depression and delight, fear
and trust, anger and forgiveness, judgment and compassion. These are not
things to blame or pride ourselves or others for, but signals of the energy/tension
balance. Without changing that balance, we can will ourselves to make
changes in short bursts, but we dont sustain them.
Some of us live in a fairly steady state on the energy/tension scale.
We think of the results of that balance as our personality, character,
identity, fate, or "just the way life is" what we have
to struggle with. We develop a philosophy of life that assumes that the
things that go with our place on the scale are Certainties.
Others of us have big swings in energy and tension, and were never
quite sure who we really are. We develop a philosophy of life that features
Change and says you can never be too sure of anything.We all have the
potential of every possible state of being, depending on our energy/tension
state. We all have the potential to live in peace, joy and love. So, what
can we do to manage our tension and energy?
Some things that we can do immediately are:
We can breathe deep and free and easy.
We can sit, stand or walk in a balanced way that minimizes tension.
We can laugh at whatever we are taking too seriously (my opinions,
my plans, my schedule for when everything should happen, etc.)
We can relax the muscles in our face, shoulders, etc. We can stretch
and yawn. Fear is just tension. Tension is frozen energy.
We can cut our list of things to do, we can do just one thing at
We can contact our Higher Power and let go and turn something over
and feel the relief that comes from that. Rhythmic, silent prayer along
with deep, easy breathing can be very calming.There are things we can
do on a daily basis as well:
We can take time to renew.
We can find or create a safe place to release emotional tensions
so we dont store them up and become emotionally charged or reactive.
We can exercise in a way and for a time that energizes and relaxes
us for hours afterwards.
We can eat foods that deliver a calm, lasting energy (taking with
a grain of salt the one-size-fits-all diets and experimenting to find
what foods fit us personally.)
We can find music, books, radio, TV and movies that relax or energize
us (never listen to, read, or watch things that tense or drain you just
because everyone else is!)
There are also more long-term things we can do:
We can begin insisting that home be a safe place, a place where
we consistently compliment and thank and encourage one another, a place
where its safe to relax deeply. (If its not safe to relax
deeply at home, its not a home.)
We can choose friends who are the same way positive, loving,
We can find work that gives back more than it takes.
We can concentrate on doing just a few things, and doing them really
We can explore different approaches to preventive health care.
We can work toward more beauty and order in our environment.
There are thousands of ways to energize and relax. We are all smart enough
to find our own ways, especially when we have encouraging friends who
will listen with love and not analyze or criticize or give advice as we
talk our way through problems.
Anyone can change their energy/ tension balance. Many people begin by
charting their personal energy/tension ecology, listing what in their
lives drains and what lifts energy, what raises and what lowers tension
and whatever has or might. Then they start to make changes. Even a little
can make a big difference. There is no limit to the number of people who
can be joyful, and no limit to how joyful each of us can be!
Dan Jones, Ph.D., is the therapist featured in John Lee's book The
Flying Boy and along with John co-founded the P.E.E.R. Training
Program in Emotional Release. Dan also founded New Texas Magazine and
has authored 4 books: Words for Our Feelings; What Makes A Man A Man;
The Roller Coaster Kid and P.E.E.R. Stories. Contact
Dan via P.E.E.R. at (888) 745-7337.