How many days do you wake up and feel drained? Completely unrested and dreading what the day holds? It happens to me more than I care to admit to. Instead of welcoming the morning and embracing a day full of new possibilities, I drag all the stress and worry from the previous day into it. It’s like buying a new shirt and pouring mud on it because you know it’s going to get dirty later. What if instead of focusing on the ugly and holding on to the stressful, we decided to choose joy? Imagine how your life would change if you viewed each sunrise as a clean slate, a do over. Let’s talk about how choosing joy can change your life.
Joy Changed Me
In 2016, they found a tumor on my ovary and my world spiraled out of control. It needed when I eventually forfeited my ability to ever have another child and entered menopause at 26. There is nothing like near death to force you on a new path so I got my teaching degree.
My first year teaching was without a doubt the worst of my life (previous year included). I drove almost an hour daily to a very low paying job where the administration hated me and wasn’t shy about it. It took everything I had to show up each day but luckily I formed some strong relationships with some wonderful teachers. This group of ladies got me through. One in particular, would tell me nearly daily, choose joy.
Joy means more than thinking positive
It seems like a simple concept, but it a so much bigger and harder than what it seems. Of course I wanted to choose joy but the devil was piling up stress at my door. If I’m being honest, it took years for me to really understand this mantra. Wasted years. I loved the philosophy but my practice was spotty at best. Even has I wrote this, I’m still not the strongest practitioner. Wonderful thing is that you don’t have to be. His grace are new everyday. If you mess up and spend your whole day angry and hurt, you have the chance to turn it around.
I don’t mean just thinking of positives when I say to choose joy. Life is full of awful things and there is no way to avoid them. Choosing joy doesn’t mean you ignore the bad stuff. It means you acknowledge the pain but you don’t let it consume you. Joy looks like admitting the situation sucks but knowing that it temporary. Find ways to improve it if you can, or even just finding some that soothes the burn a little. Joy is a lifestyle. It’s a habit that takes work to instill but once you do, you’ll wonder how you lived any other way.
Where To Begin
The beginning of this journey looks different for everybody. I can tell you mine started with prayer. Since I was young, I say my prayers every night to count my blessings and ask for forgiveness. My journey to joy began for me when I started praying in the morning. As soon as my eyes open, I say a prayer for my family, for my friends, and for myself. I pray that I will see and feel the joy today. This not something I can do on my own, I need divine help.
Others may start by exercising, writing in a gratitude journal, or meditating. The idea is that you start the day with something that makes you feel good and creates peace within you. Greet the day with optimism and let the rest of the world follow suit.
Facing the Battles
Although you will find that joy is highly infectious, there are still going to be situations that try to steal it from you. This is where the rubber hits the road so to speak. You have to make the decision that you will not let it overcome. I rely on a couple of tactics for this. Firstly, I dig deep to find some good in it. An example is that despite my awful first year teaching, I had some wonderful kids who I loved so very much and met a group of friends that changed my life.
Secondly, I remember that this too shall pass. Maybe that means focusing on your exit strategy for the situation. I have a saying that I use when my daughter is watching movies. She will turn off a movie halfway through because the plot has the main character in a predicament that isn’t going their way. This is when I remind her that “Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good”. Same holds true for life.
Quite often, what challenges your joy most is not a simple situation but a person. They are referred to as toxic. These are the bullies, the manipulators, the liars, those who just make your life difficult. There are a ton of articles out there that will tell you to cut these people out of your life. The reality is that is not always easy or even possible. Even when you do, at some point another one will pop up in its place like a weed. Choosing joy means that instead of seeing the weed, you notice the dandelion and make a wish. I’m not advocating that you stay in a bad relationship or deal with abuse in anyway. There are lines in the sands that should not be crossed and you should walk away from people that hurt you. What I’m referring to is those you deal with occasionally, like a coworker or distant relative.
What is this person teaching you? Maybe they have helped you learn how to gracefully deal with troubled people. Could be that now you recognize guilt trips and manipulation and can build up yourself against it. Keep smiling through whatever drama they bring and remind yourself that you are better and stronger. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to drop to their level. Joy means that your heart stays happy because you remain guiltless. As tempting as it maybe to give them a taste of their own medicine, it’s poison for your soul. At point you might even recognize the truth of what causes their actions. Do they envy you? Are they struggling with hidden pain or self esteem? It can be hard to hate the sick and most of time that’s what’s happening. Their heart is hurt and their soul is ill.
Choosing Joy Doesn’t Mean You Are Happy Every Moment
Just because you have joy doesn’t mean you don’t feel your emotions. You are still allowed to be sad, mad, and everything. Joy just means that you don’t dwell in it. This is one I struggle with most now. I get trapped in my feelings and throw myself a full blown pity party. If this happens to you too, it’s ok. Learn from it, recognize that you would rather be joyful, and move forward. Guilt pretty much the opposite of joy so don’t let it hang around either. When you are fighting to pull yourself out of your funk, then go back to your morning start. Pray, exercise, journal, whatever your go to is that allows you to release negativity.
Let The Joy In
I can’t tell you that just because you resolve to choose joy means that your journey will be easy. It takes conscious effort every single day to keep the flame of joy going. The world can be a negative Nelly and it’s natural to notice the bad. With training and time though, you’ll start to see the world in a whole new light. I can’t fully say how choosing joy will change you. It’s different for everyone. What I can say though is that you won’t regret the effort. Your life is guaranteed to be brighter, if only because you finally see the beauty in it. I hope that you start feeling and seeing the hope in the world and I wish you all the joy your heart can hold.