“Joie de vivre” a French recipe for staying young at heart

By on July 27, 2011

By Edwige Gilbert –

When you kiss me, heaven sighs Edith Piaf once famously sang. The song was La Vie en Rose, of course, one of the most gloriously sentimental love song ever composed, certainly the most French. Piaf’s song is about the sweetness of life in a lover’s arms, the singing of which elevates the singer, the lover, and the listener. This celebration of life’s splendid colors is a French tradition.

Long ago the French came to the conclusion that their permanent state of being had to be joy, not despair. Perhaps it was to be different from their neighbors, perhaps they were inspired by their superb wine, the richness of their food, perhaps in the days before television and other gadgets, one simply had to find pleasures in ordinary things… who knows, it was so long ago, no one remembers. It was, in any case, a splendid decision, don’t you think?

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In English, Joie de Vivre is loosely translatable as feeling carefree, however this definition is not accurate, since being free of cares comes across as superficial, and this is the one thing of which the French cannot be accused of. In reality there is no simple way of translating what is in fact the quintessentially French attitude…. Like anything of any deeper value, it takes some time to understand…

In English, we have moments of happiness that lighten an otherwise mostly serious state. In French, on the other hand, we have moments of unhappiness that punctuate an otherwise joyful state. In such difference, there is an important implication involved: what we choose to focus on expands and becomes our reality.

French culture and language encourage a constant appreciation of joy. Joie de Vivre is, then, a way of seeing, a lens through which the French view life’s events. Because it is a lens acutely sensitive to life’s joys, to la vie en rose, such joys become magnified and in the long run will multiply.

Be reassured now! I am not trying to convince you that the French are, on the whole, in the midst of one long and perpetual giggle… that they are deliriously happy, with the sounds of their many delicious joys and pleasures reverberating permanently through the streets and boulevards of Paris … of course not.

We all agree that being human is hard, no matter what culture, what country you’re from. But consider that when the French man is sad, he’s having a bad day, not a bad life. If you ask him, comment ca va (how is it, how are you doing?), the worst you are likely to get in response is “comme si, comme ca” (like this, like that, or, so so… so so).

The French attitude towards life seems to accept both the positive and the negative, agreeing that both are to be expected from life, that one should, therefore, be surprised at neither… there is also the very helpful assumption that joy will follow sadness, either the next day or the next month, and that in turn that joy will be replaced by sadness, and so on… c’est la vie (ah, such life).

If you can see that joie de vivre assumes and even celebrates both life’s joys and life’s struggles, you might also see, that it tends naturally toward balance, since acceptance does create this outcome.

Having said all that, you might wonder where does Joie de vivre actually exist? Could it be on television, in songs, in books, in the movies? Not at all.

Joie de vivre is by its very nature, an everyday event, and is to be found in the most commonplace things of ordinary life. If it is not there it is not joie de vivre, which is in sharp contrast to American culture which focuses on celebrating heightened joys, higher positive states that arise mostly through the exceptional, the unusual, and the rare.

In French life, such joys are common. Precious moments of joie de vivre can be found in eating–good food helps, they can be found in conversation, they can be found in the joy of warm summer’s evening, the clarified spectacle of a winter’s morning, in a small success of the ordinary day, in the feeling of the body in the embrace of another, in the sound the feet make on the pavement… Ezra Pound, that famous

American depressive, even once participated… the apparition of these faces in the crowd/Petals on a wet, black bough (“In a Station, at the Metro”)… with a little imagination and desire, joys can be found in the most ordinary of things.

Edwige Gilbert a French international speaker, Life Coach. For more than 20 years she has worked with individuals and groups, conducting seminars, retreats and lectures around the world. She has most recently been featured on Lifetime TV (“The Balancing Act”) on national radio and in such magazines as New York Magazine, Vive magazine Woman’s World, American Health, Allure, and Women’s Fitness. Some of her clients include Smith Barney, MTV, Citigroup and the Corcoran Group. [email protected], http://www.newlifedirections.com/.

About Edwige Gilbert

Edwige Gilbert a French international speaker, Life Coach and author of “The Fresh Start Promise: 28 Days to Total Mind, Body, and Spirit Transformation”. For more than 20 years she has worked with individuals and groups, conducting seminars, retreats and lectures around the world. Her forte is teaching people how to transform stress into strength, clear unwanted habits, and live healthier and happier lives. She is the creator of “Fresh Start Program”. She has most recently been featured on Lifetime TV (“The Balancing Act”) on national radio and in such magazines as New York Magazine, Vive magazine Woman’s World, American Health, Allure, and Women’s Fitness. Edwige holds certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming (N.L.P) Hypnotherapy, Yoga and Qigong. Some of her clients include Smith Barney, MTV, Citigroup and the Corcoran Group. [email protected], www.newlifedirections.com.

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“Joie de vivre” a French recipe for staying young at heart