Finding joy in life is not always easy regardless of your circumstances. I believe every person struggles to feel joy at some point in their lives. Joy seems the least attainable when we or someone we love are suffering, which is why finding joy when your loved one is suffering daily can be extremely challenging.
So how do you find joy? It is such a great question. My sincere belief is that joy can’t be found in a place, a person or a thing, it has to be chosen. I know the word “feel” is used a lot when talking about joy but if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that you can’t trust how you feel. Feelings inevitably change. One day I might “feel” like having Mexican food for dinner but the next day I might “feel” like having pizza. One day I may wake up and “feel” like I never do anything right, discouraged and beaten down by life. But later that same day I might get some really great news and all of the sudden I “feel” like I am on top of the world and I can accomplish anything. I hope you are starting to understand what I mean about trusting our “feelings”. Don’t get me wrong, feelings are important and totally valid because they express how we are seeing life at any given moment in time. However, I think it is very important for us to realize that our feelings are constantly ebbing and flowing with our changing emotions and circumstances.
We choose our behaviors, whether consciously or unconsciously each day and those choices may even change throughout our day. For instance, if Bob wakes up in the morning and he is mad at his wife, Bob is likely to be grumpy towards her until the issues between them are worked out. Bob could then arrive at work with a cheerful smile and chipper attitude towards his co-workers. Bob can choose to be kind to them since his co-workers did not upset him. These behavior choices are directly affected by how we “feel” in the moment.
There are some days I wake up and I am feeling good mentally, physically and emotionally. Those are amazing days and choosing joy is super easy. But there are those days when I wake up and I am not feeling good, maybe I have a headache or a cold. I might wake up with sore muscles and I may just feel a little down. Those days are very difficult to choose joy and while I may not always choose to find it, I do know ways to help myself feel joy in spite of how I am feeling. Here are some of my go-to’s when joy seems unattainable:
1. Count my blessings- it may sound old and cliché but it’s true, I start speaking out loud all the things I am thankful for in my life and I am intentional about not letting any negatives creep in. Some people might like to do a written gratitude flood- writing down every blessing, and hanging it somewhere that they can see it through out the day to help remind them of the good in their lives.
2. I put on music- for me it is always praise and worship music but it could be any upbeat music with a positive message that gets your spirits up and may even make you sing along…for an added dose of joy…dance!! Not only is dancing fun, but getting your heart rate up naturally helps to fight off the “blues”.
3. Find a way to bless someone else- one of the best ways for me to get out of a grumpy funk is to find someone else I can help. It might be bringing someone a meal, sending a handwritten note or even picking up the phone to call someone just to let them know you were thinking of them. Brightening someone else’s day never fails to bring me joy.
“We are the only person in charge of the choices we make” is something I tell my children often. I can’t make choices for them and they can’t make choices for anyone else, we all have to make our own choices. When we realize that we can choose our behavior and we can choose joy, I think it really empowers us to stop letting our emotions and feelings control the way we act. I wish I could say that I am an expert at living out these truths everyday in my own life, but I am human and I fail often. However, knowing these truths allows me to reign myself in when I am in a funk for a day or two. I believe we are all going to feel down sometimes, but I also believe we can choose to pull ourselves out of the mire and find joy even in the most difficult of life’s situations.
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