Joy is ultimately what most of us are seeking. Whatever we do, in any of our pursuits, our aim is to be happy – to feel joy. The sad reality is that so many of us suffer from depression, anxiety, or general sadness. Life can be stressful and difficult to handle. The moments of joy seem to pale in comparison to the circumstances of our lives which cause distress. As a Christian, the pressure seems much more intense. The joy of the Lord is my strength! The fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy! So why don’t you feel joyful? One of the advantages of the Christian life is a deep and very real joy. But just like any gift, we have to receive it in order to use it. A brand new pair of shoes in the box doesn’t do you much good if you continue to wear the old worn out pair on your feet. Let’s go over some real constructive ways you can tap in to a spirit of joy in your life.
One of the fastest ways to change your perspective in life, is to look for someone to help. As long as we are looking inward, our downward spiral is allowed to continue. Think of the sorrow you might be feeling and ask yourself, “Who else do I know who may be feeling this exact same way?” Reach out with a simple handwritten note, a text message, or a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Those simple acts of kindness are so easy for you to do, and yet they can make a big impact on someone else as well as you. When your focus shifts from what you are going through to how you can serve someone else, your mood can instantly brighten.
Remember Who You Are
When I go through periods of feeling down in my life, I’m usually down on myself. “How could I have failed again? Why do I keep screwing up? I’m no good at anything.” Those and countless other self doubting thoughts that prey on my insecurities well up in my mind until it feels as though I’m drowning in negative self-talk. Did you know that you hear your own voice more than anyone else’s? You also will listen more to yourself than to someone else.
The only way to change negative, self deprecating thoughts is with WORDS. You know deep down that those negative thoughts are lies. Look at Scripture and find the words that are true about you. You were created in the image of God! He who began a good work in you will complete it! You have a future and a hope! You were created to do good works. Write down those words as well as other things you want to be true about yourself. “I finish what I start. I am grateful and joyful in spite of my circumstances. I overcome every obstacle. I am a wonderful friend and people enjoy being around me. I am confident and sure of myself.” As silly as it may seem, read those words aloud to yourself. Do it in the mirror to make it even more powerful! Those words will come against the lies that try to crowd your mind. It might not happen overnight, but keep it up. Daily speaking those positive things over yourself will change your thoughts and your actions.
Count Your Blessings
Another trap I have fallen into is to focus on what I don’t have, or what I am lacking in my life. If only I had this house or this marriage or those clothes or that vacation. There are countless things we can long for and we end up placing our hope for happiness in those things. Look around you! You have so much that you don’t even realize you have. It doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping on a mattress on the ground and living off of foodstamps – you have blessings around you. The ability to walk and run is a huge blessing that I almost lost nearly 16 years ago. That’s one I don’t often take for granted.
Now just because you have much to be grateful for doesn’t mean that you can’t feel sad or go through pain once in a while. The point is that when you find yourself stuck in that frame of mind, FOCUS on the good. Focus on what you have. Because whatever you focus on increases in your life. Focus on what you don’t have and you’ll continue to do without. Focus on what you do have and you will always have more than enough.
Check Your Input
This is one of the sneakiest ways that feelings of depression and dissatisfaction in your life can seep in. Whatever we put in front of our eyes or let into our ears, be it music, TV, social media etc, is finding its way into our minds. Once there, it affects our thoughts either for the better or for worse. When you pour over Instagram and look at all the glorious homes, adventures and gorgeously edited faces you can’t help but feel lacking. In some ways we are inspired and entertained, but there has to be a limit and a balance to the amount of time you spend there. Otherwise it can have a very negative affect on you. Take an inventory of how you’re spending your time. If you want to check out Instagram and Facebook, do that! (And please follow me on both, ok? thanks!) But make sure you spend just as much time reading a good book that teaches you something.
I have some favorite movies, TV shows and YouTubers I watch. When I spend too much time watching other people live, I forget to live myself. Experience life! Make plans to meet up with a friend and get out of the house once in a while. Even if all you do is go for a walk by yourself, it will help clear your head. Getting some good vitamin D from the sun is a guaranteed way to improve how you feel.
Check Your Surroundings
Who are you surrounded by? This one is so key I can’t stress it enough. We may even need to delve into this topic further in a separate post. The people you spend time with affect you more than maybe anything else. They can alter they way you think, the way you talk and what you end up doing with your life. Those can all be really great things when influenced by the right people. But if you hang around people who are negative and always complaining, their unhappiness will infect you like a disease. Spend more time with people who lift you up and encourage you! I spent way too much time around people who just wanted to make fun of me or point out how awesome they were by tearing me down. You don’t have time for that! People with a good self image make you feel better about yourself just by being around them. Get around those people and then become that person for someone else.
What makes you happy? What do you enjoy doing? It it painting? Singing? Playing basketball? Knitting? Whatever kind of hobby or thing it is, do more of it! Every one is talking about “self care” these days and there’s a good reason. We get so caught up in doing what has to be done. We have so many responsibilities and other people who depend on us for various things. Somehow we started to think it was lazy or a misuse of time to do things we actually enjoy doing. Just set aside some time, daily if you can, to have some fun. Aren’t sure what hobbies or activities you would enjoy? Try something new!
Joy VS. Happiness
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a very fleeting feeling that we feel when good things happen. Joy stays with us even in the deepest of pain. It’s a peace that comes from knowing that everything will be OK. Regardless of your circumstances and the storms that may swirl around you, you remain at peace in the eye of the storm. These things we’ve talked about here will help you get to that joyful place, but there is only one true source for that kind of joy. I hope you know where to find it. If you don’t, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!