Life is hard.
Our days seem to always be packed as we try to fit more and more into every twenty-four hours.
When we reach a minor set back- an extra long line at Starbucks before class, stop-and-go traffic on the way home from work, forgetting to take dinner out of the oven, uncooperative WiFi right before an assignment is due, or unusually cranky kids (or floormates, same difference 😉 )- we’re frustrated, angry, and extra stressed. We not only let those emotions get the best of us, but we take them out on those around us as well.
The first week of this semester, I was angry. I was curt, irritated, and just very tense all the time. Literally anything would drive me insane- my suitemates talking at night, the kid snoring next to me in class, a group of slow walkers in front of me…you get the idea. I wasn’t getting much sleep because I was so uptight which obviously affected my mental state each day.
Even at that time I knew I was being irrational, but I didn’t care. I admitted to myself that there was no real reason for me to be feeling or acting that way, but I wasn’t sure why it was all hitting me so hard; Instead of trying to figure out the reason, I was lazy and so I enabled it to keep happening.
Then one day, I was fed up with being fed up.
I took a breath and I decided to choose joy.
My life has been so much lighter ever since I realized all I needed to do was alter my mindset. I decided to work on letting things go in the moment that they were happening. I tried to stop dwelling on the little things, on the petty. I still have days when something happens and I walk away extra annoyed (only to later voice these “unfortunate” occurrences to my poor roommate, sorry Abby 😉 ), but after a few minutes I reason to myself and am able to let it go and move on.
“We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” – Henry J.M. Nouwen
It’s important to note that choosing joy doesn’t mean that you have to be happy one hundred percent of the time. It doesn’t mean you live in a dream world, refusing to recognize any of the bad that happens. It doesn’t mean you accept ignorance or rudeness in your day-to-day life.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I’m currently loving Mark Manson’s New Book (affiliate link). In it, he has an entire chapter related to this idea called “Happiness is a Problem.” By choosing to choose joy, you aren’t going to be some stereotypical Disney cast member who is always chipper and never acknowledges that anything can be wrong in the world. You’re still going to have problems in your life because, well, that’s just what life is. You can’t wish for a problem-free life because “there is no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems” (Manson, 30).
Choosing joy means choosing to run your own life. It means making your own rules for your own emotions. It means recognizing and being grateful for the little things. It means accepting what happens and dealing with it, even if that’s not always with utmost grace. It means taking a step back and reflecting on what is going on around you and what you are feeling as a result. It means choosing to not let small wisps of life become a huge deal.
“It’s not the circumstances that create joy. It’s you.”
Okay, this sounds nice and all but how does one actually accomplish this?
You know, I don’t have an exact procedure for you to follow. There’s no “happiness timeline” or magical exercise to remove all negativity from your life or even your mind. I won’t tell you how to live because I really can’t do so. There are a lot of articles out there about “finding happiness” that recommend things like prayer, music, calendars, journaling, or even cleaning. There are tons of advice discussing how to repeat some list of confirmations to yourself over and over or view yourself in a different light. You see, though, “nobody who is actually happy has to stand in front of a mirror and tell himself that he’s happy” (Manson, 33).
Honestly, stop trying to be happy.
Sound contradictory to everything I just said?
Choosing joy isn’t trying to solve the happiness equation of life (spoiler, there isn’t one).
It’s slowly changing your outlook to adapt to annoyances or obstacles and see them with gratefulness and appreciation instead. Once you can alter this way of thinking, you won’t have to purposely wonder about how to be happy, you just will be.
One night, you’ll be sitting watching TV or walking back from class or ordering a smoothie and this focus word of “joy” will simply overwhelm you. You’ll realize upon looking back just how truly happy you’ve been lately. You’ll see how much all of the little bad things really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but also how much all of the little good things add up to let you enjoy your life. You’ll see all this because one day you decided to change how you thought about them.
I’m a firm believer that everything works out in the end, that what happens is what is meant to be. By taking a minute when times get tough to remind yourself that one obstacle will not be the end of the world, you can move past any issue.
Choosing joy isn’t turning all of the negatives into positives.
Choosing joy is taking the negatives with the positives and choosing to not let them define you.
“Busy is a choice. Stress is a choice. Joy is a choice. Choose well.”
~ Did you pick a focus word for 2017?