Having traveled all over this wonderful planet of ours I have encountered a great many people. Through the relationships I have made with people, especially with people who are less fortunate that I am in almost every way, I have come believe that JOY is a choice. I believe it so much I have it tattooed on my wrist just to remind me no what circumstance I find myself in, I should try to choose JOY.
I am not defining JOY as happiness. If you lose your job, your home, your child you most of us would find it impossible to find anything to be happy about. For me, and this is just for me, I define JOY as a sense of contentment that no matter life brings, I will be okay. I find no better definition than in the words from “The Epilogue” for Les Miserables, “Even the darkest night will end. And the sun will rise.”
What are some ways that I have found or I know others have found to choose JOY, no matter their circumstances?
1. Take 2 minutes to breathe deeply. I have an app on my phone/watch that reminds me to do this every hour. It slows my mind and makes me stop. At first I thought is was annoying to be reminded to be breathe. But I think the stopping and breathing is the key. To stop everything and just breathe helps to calm the mind and for me brings peace.
2. Make a gratitude list. Take a few minutes out of your day to write down 5 things that have happened to that day that you are thankful for. So many people are making gratitude lists during the month of November. I love those lists. I often need to focus on the everyday things. When I need a way to choose JOY I write down 5 things that have happened that day that I am thankful for. Usually these are things like “my car started this morning,” or “I got a FB message from a friend.” It is a lifetime of little things that create a JOYful life.
3. Expect the best but have a plan if the worst happens. I returned home from an AMAZING family trip to South Africa a few weeks ago. Our flight home was canceled and it meant missing work and meetings for my brother, sister and sister-in-law and missing meetings for me. We all got on a flight the next night and flight time kept getting moved back. Because this is a 17 hour flight we knew there was point where the crew would “time out” and we would not be able to fly. First, let me say I realize this is not really a problem because we were so blessed to be able to take a trip like this but missing work was stressful. As it got later we all began to mentally prepare for the cancellation. With this frame of mind if the flight did leave we would be thrilled, and if it did not leave we were in the right head space. The flight was canceled and we were as ready as we could be. Were we happy? NO. Did we still have JOY and enjoy one another for an extra day? YES.
4. Say yes. Is there something you have always wanted to do but are waiting for the right time? If you wait for everything to be perfect before you do the things you really want to do you might miss out on the adventure of a lifetime. Say yes to the job. Say yes to that trip. Say yes to JOY.
5. Say no. Learn to tell people “no” firmly but with kindness and compassion. This is the one I have the hardest time with. But nothing can steal your JOY like doing something out of obligation. You do not want to be doing it. Resentment can build. I am working on this skill myself. Maybe we can all work on it together. I would love to hear from you about how you have learned to say “no” and how it has changed your life. Maybe I can take some lessons from you all. Share in the comments.
6. Do something for someone else. There are few things in the world can give more JOY, love and peace than helping someone else. If you are struggling with choosing JOY, volunteer at the Nashville Rescue Mission serving meals or at Center of Hope sorting donated items. If you need to find more JOY in your life spend some time working at The Well distributing food to families in need.
8. Invest in experiences and not things. At the beginning of this article I talked about that have spent time with people from all over the world. I spent several months doing humanitarian aide in another country in 2003. I and about 22 other Americans lived with a large family in a small concrete block house with no electricity or running water. Every night we would sit around the living room and sing and tell stories. This family had very little materially but the experiences I took away from that time, were JOY filled. The family was JOY filled. The enJOYed one another and experiencing time together.
I am not always successful in living a JOY filled life. But I am closer than I once was. What are some ways you find JOY in the every day?