I’m playing with the idea that joy comes when my body and mind are in the same place at the same time. When I paint, that’s the case. My hand is making motions, my mind is entirely focused on my senses: choosing the color, maneuvering the brush, watching for beauty.

If I paint with joy on my mind, I move toward more bright colors and more playful motions with my brush. I wiggle the brush. I make flipping movements. When I choose joy, I don’t get caught up in perfectionism or control. I allow myself freedom.

Heather Rodale, who is a cancer survivor, suggests we make a “joy map.” It’s a way of brainstorming what brings you joy. Write the word “joy” in the middle of a blank page. On radiating lines, write things that are joyful or fun for you. Under those, write things you can do or places you can go to experience that joy. For inspiration and example, take a look at Heather’s map. Once you have identified activities and places, get them on your calendar. Have a “joy date” at least once a month.

Because life is always changing, your map will change. What brought you joy last year may not jingle your bells today. No problem. Maybe “making a joy map” can replace making New Year’s resolutions. (It sounds way more fun! In fact, I just added it to my calendar for December 2016.)

When I was 19, I spent the summer in Mexico. My host mother would ask me, “¿Por qué estás tan seria?” Why are you so serious? I ask myself the same thing often these days. It seems to be a feature of my character. If I don’t consciously move myself toward the lighter side, things get dark indeed.

So I follow the map and let joy lead the way.

[Kind promise: I will live joyfully for no reason.]