I am a relatively happy individual. I have a very bubbly personality and even though I am introverted by nature I can easily make friends and find common ground with a stranger pretty quickly. It gives my husband anxiety when we go out and the random person sitting next to me and I become besties because we are wearing the same shoes. Or the day the female sheriff and I had a twenty minute conversation about how women need to be more uplifting to each other while we were in line at Chic Fil A. When I walked away and rejoined my family I was asked, “Did you know her?” to my response, “No, but I liked the way she did her makeup so I compliment her on it. Now we are best friends.” Even though I can be outgoing and happy I am not always joyful. What’s the difference?
I am not an expert by any means on this topic, nor do I believe that my advice is perfect for everyone, but my goal here is to be transparent about how life’s struggles and situations can truly affect your inner peace and joy, how i have navigated through and why I believe that actively choosing joy can not only change my life, but the lives of those in my home and who I come in contact with.
Why is it important to choose joy?
You have been given one life, one go ’round on this earth so why not do your very best to make the most of it and truly live life to the fullest? This does not mean hardships, trials or even tragedy will not touch your life, but what it means is that in spite of all of those things you are doing your very best to rise above them because you know your life is more than the hardships, more than the bad day, or week, or month, or year. If you are a wife or mother or if becoming a wife or mother are things you want in the future you have a responsibility not only for yourself but for them to be the best you can possibly be.
Who are you choosing to be joyful for?
Choose to have a joyful soul for yourself first. I know, I know putting yourself first in anything is so much easier said than done. Especially if you have kids. We’ve been taught from a young age to put others before yourself, take care of them like you want to be taken care of, give, give, give of yourself for others. Yes, I want you to continue to serve others, check on your neighbor, volunteer, give to the poor, and obviously take care of your family. But you truly cannot be a servant to others if you are beyond empty and your soul is weary. It is so hard to serve when your heart feels like it is being crushed by depression, anxiety, fear, worry and stress. Girl you have to get your head and heart right in order to be there for others when they need you most.
When you get yourself right and joyful, (notice I didn’t say happy, because happiness and joyfulness are actually not the same thing.) You can start to pour out that joyfulness to your husband, to your children, to your neighbor and to your friends. When your heart is joyful you are creating an environment for your family to also be joyful! When you have a family unit that practices choosing joy together, oh, that is a beautiful thing!
What does that look like for you?
Choosing joy is going to look different to everyone. Everyone is living different lives in different homes and in different environments so choosing joy will also be different. This is a glimpse of what it looks like for me. It may be similar for you, or this may seem hooky duke, and that’s okay. Choosing joy is me daily actually writing down at least five things I am grateful for, every single day. Today my five things were 1. Warmer weather in Ohio 2. Sunshine 3.My Daughter waking up in a happy mood 4.My husband and I getting some alone time together 5. I get the privilege of having a weekend even during quarantine. Write them down, share them with your husband and kids, be vocal about the things in your life that you are excited about and grateful that they are there. No matter how small. I write mine down in my Rachel Hollis Start Today Journal, but seriously you could use any notebook, or wipe off board.
Another way I actively practice “choosing joy” is when life gets hard, I get anxious, or my patience is running thin. Take a step back. Either physically and or mentally walk away from life and take 5. Give yourself five minutes to refocus, adjust your mental state, and take some deep breaths. Remember, Happiness and Joy are not the same thing. You can have a joyful heart and now be somersaulting through your house with happiness. Take the time you need to focus on what is important, what your goals are for the day or the next five minutes even and adjust your mindset.
Why comparing lives is ruining your joy.
If you read this post, this point is the most important to take to heart. STOP COMPARING. Stop comparing your job, your home, your kids, your spouse, your yard, your clothes, your skin, your hair, your body….to anyone else’s. You my dear are the only one living your life in your body. No one else will live the experiences you will live through. Your kid is not going to be like anyone else’s kid. Will you find similarities and relatable topics between your life and your friends? Yes. Can you celebrate their accomplishments without boasting your own? Can you look at the bigger house your cousin has or the better job your brother has and celebrate them without belittling your own? Comparing will only bring jealousy, boastfulness, misery, discontent, or arrogance. None of which are healthy or productive attitudes to have. You are the only one living your story and living your life. Celebrate and be grateful for where you are right now, and be motivated to set goals for where you want to go, without comparing yourself to someone else’s goals or life.
Does location help or hinder a joyful soul?
For me? Yes! I am someone who thrives when the sun is shining and I can spend time outside. I love hiking, biking, running, or just sitting on the patio with some lemonade and the sun beating down on me. It is easier for me to be positive and joyful when my environment reflects joyfulness. When the weather is cold and overcast and I am forced to stay inside I feel a little bit trapped and my heart can quickly grow anxious and find discontentment with where I am and where I am going. So to counteract that I have slowly been making my home one that brings me joy. We are currently house hunting and living in an apartment with our daughter, 80lb dog, and the two of us. We often feel like we are on top of each other’s space. When you feel physically cramped it can be easy to let that feeling of discontentment creep into your mind and heart. Since I love outdoors, I have brought plants into my home, I have added some of my photos to the walls, and made my environment one that genuinely brings me joy. Sometimes that just means making sure the laundry is off the floor and put away, or the kitchen is clean and organized. Simple changes like that to your environment can make it easy to be joyful and not so stressed out.
What do you do when you just don’t want to?
I feel this question in my soul. What if you just need to cry it out? What if you have held it together but that last bill that just arrived in the mail is the final straw to tip you over the edge? You lived through the tragedy now you need reminders of the whole thing with a bill? What if you just cannot handle one more parent teacher conference where you feel shamed that you worked 60 hours this week instead of giving every moment you had to him. What do you do when you just cannot handle one more person announcing their pregnancy when it is month 13 for you to get a negative test? What do you do when for the love of God how this is happening to you and you have been handed more than you can take and you just don’t understand how you can choose joy let alone find a glimpse of it in your life right now?
Girl…First of all…You are not alone here. This life is so damn hard sometimes. Like, cancer, miscarriage, infertility, abuse, loss, abandoned, lonely, depressing, overwhelimgly hard. How do you choose joy in the face of trauma? How do you carry on for your family when you are fighting demons in your head? How do you choose joy when you just can’t?
You give yourself grace. You pour, dump, throw your life into God’s hands and pray that you can learn to trust that His story for you has meaning and is going to be okay. You give yourself the space you need from toxic relationships, from verbally abusive friends or family, from judgemental people who seem to have it all together even though you know deep down they are just as messed up as you.
Give yourself time. Time to heal, to fight, to grow, to learn and to accept that you may never know why the hell you are walking through is happening to you, but you know it will eventually end you are stronger than this circumstance. You, are not alone.
Forgive yourself of the past. You cannot change what you did when you were 16, 21, or 33. You can change who you are and what you do today. You can learn from your past and if you need to promise yourself never to go back to that. Aggressively go after your goals. Encourage those who are where you once were and forgive often.
The phrase “Choosing Joy” sounds like an adventure that will be filled with rainbows and waterfalls and content toddlers when in reality choosing joy can be more like a warzone accompanied with ugly crying, hiding in your bathroom eating ice cream in the tub and so many tears. Honestly, that is all part of the journey friend. Those days will happen. Hopefully they come in a rarity but they will happen. And that’s okay. Give yourself grace. Take time when you need it. Ask for help, and fight for the things that mean the most to you. Hunt for the things you are grateful for every day and actively embrace the moments where you find joy.