Inside: We can decide, that whether life is easy breezy or downright horrible to choose joy and wear it like a garment. Here are 7 big and small ways to practice choosing joy.
This is real life. Yet another sewer backup. Another friend in trouble. More financial stressors. A child going through a difficult time. Something’s up in your body and it hurts. Dealing with disingenuous people. Ugh. Sometimes life sucks and you choose joy anyway.
Should we wait until life is calm and perfectly predictable to live with joy?
Do we permit life circumstances to control our every thought and emotion?
Why do other people get to push our buttons and control our moods and behavior?
We can decide, that whether life is easy breezy or downright horrible to choose joy and wear it like a garment.
We can decide to shift our thoughts and remind ourselves that though life feels rocky right now and we are walking through some unknowns, that sometimes life sucks and you choose joy anyway.
Related: Now is a Perfect Time to Be Happy
When we choose joy we are more easily able to identify the gifts of today: we have good, albeit simple food to feed our family. We cannot make life perfect for our friend but we can love them and offer words of encouragement and maybe some homemade soup. We have walked through financial stressors before and will come out of this season too, heart and mind intact.
This challenging circumstance for our child permits us to come alongside and demonstrate our love and support for him/her in tangible ways. We have access to healthcare and fresh air and legs that permit us to get out for a walk or to dance with our child in the kitchen.
And when we walk through hard times we come up against the very necessary and amazing opportunity to practice resilience, to call on the skills we’ve built around self-care and self-compassion. To be reminded of the powerful truth that we get to decide who we are and how we choose to be in the world.
I’m not trying to downplay all your pain or the reality of your situation, nor mine. But I recognize that mindset matters. Moving out from a victim mentality matters. Practicing resilience matters. I have lived a near lifetime of chronic fear and anxiety and I have lived with deeply rooted joy. An unshakable rootedness that anchors me in the storm.
Oh, it is not easy. My husband hears the stress in my voice and those creases between my eyes seem a little deeper today. My jaw hurts because I was clenching all night; I must remember my splint tonight. My right arm and joints have flared up and hurt as they do when I’m shifting into a stress state. But I stubbornly, intentionally choose joy. And so can you.
Sometimes it is easy to tell ourselves to calm down, that all is well, but our body has other ideas. No matter how much we will ourselves to chill out our bossy brain takes over and starts yelling – loudly – all manner of fearful and anxious thoughts and our traitorous body follows like a hapless little puppy.
Yet we can we keep practicing in big or small ways. We can choose over and over and over who and how we want to be in the world. And we can choose not to quit when life feels hard.
So what are some habits we can practice – some practical tips to help us choose joy in these challenging seasons?
1. Learn to listen to your thoughts, emotional experience, and what’s going on in your body. The body is wise. So listen with curiosity instead of judgment and then respond with wisdom and compassion to what you hear. This free Feel More Empowered Workshop can help you get started.
2. Pause and just breathe. Don’t skip over this. If you’re stressed out, chances are you are forgetting to breathe or perhaps breathing too quickly. Pull out your favorite essential oil and set a timer on your phone to remind you to physically pause a few times a day, ground your body, and take some slow, calming, deep breaths.
3. Reach out for comfort or social support. A text or phone call. A long hug from your partner (there is danger during times like these that you and your partner pull away from each other rather than pull together) or other healthy touch.
4. Go to bed. I feel like I say this over and over and over. There are so many people hustling out of necessity – working multiple jobs – just doing their best to survive and sacrificing sleep for this. But there are an equal number of people thinking that staying up till 2 am to work or watch TV is the answer. But sleep deprivation impacts your ability to think clearly and make wise decisions, to respond in a healthy way to stress.
5. Practice Gratitude. Force your brain to see the good. If you are feeling incredibly anxious and jittery I encourage you to use a journal (like my seasonal mindfulness journals) or app to physically write down the things you are grateful for rather than just thinking them. Writing takes more work and causes a bigger hard stop which can help pull you out of your head into your body. A good thing.
6. Enjoy mindful activities like coloring or knitting. Listen to music that energizes or read a book that inspires. Spending time watching TV feels easy – mind-numbing – and curling up with a good movie can be lovely once in a while (and The Office got me through a hard season of life recently) but TV watching is not always one of the best ways to unwind.
7. Gentle movement like walking can help us lower stress or anxiety. We may feel we don’t have time for this in really busy seasons but walking, yoga, stretching or even dancing with a local two-step group can boost endorphins and lower stress and anxiety.
I am sorry for the stress you are walking through. I wish you were not afraid, or alone, or in pain. I can honestly say it would feel far lovelier if my life were absent of struggle in this moment.
But this is real life. And we can do this. And I believe there are amazing gifts that await us on the other side of the valley if we have eyes to see.
With love and compassion,