On the spectrum of easy to hard there are fewer things easier than telling another person not to worry, or in this instance to choose joy. How am I supposed to choose joy? I want it. I'm tired of being sad, angry, frustrated, hopeless, etc. Is that good enough? Do I need to announce out loud, "I'm choosing joy"? Do I need to repeat "choose joy, choose joy, choose joy" throughout the day, each and every day, until I'm filled with joy?
We all know that choosing to feel one emotion versus another isn't easy. In fact, it seems impossible, as if we are at the mercy of our emotions, unable to rein them in. They just automatically kick into gear and take us for a ride, whether we like it or not. Tell a sad person to cheer up, and you’re most likely to hear, “I can’t.” Tell an angry person to let it go, and you may be the recipient of a burst of anger. Even though we’re each probably "guilty" of encouraging a friend to be happy at one time or another, we know it’s not that simple. If it was, there wouldn't be any grieving in the world.
Despite the reality of all of this, it is possible to be joyful in difficult times. The presence of anger, shame, grief, sadness, etc. doesn’t mean joy isn’t or can’t be present. And the presence of joy doesn’t mean there isn’t any pain in a person’s soul.
How Do I Choose Joy?
Choosing joy is like choosing love. It’s not something done once and forgotten. Choosing is a habit. Many times a day, each and every day, married couples overlook the imperfections of their spouses. They choose to see beyond the particular circumstances of a moment and extend grace to one another. Similarly, choosing joy requires us to look beyond our immediate circumstance to connect with a bigger picture. Joy requires connection.
How Do I Make Joy a Habit?
Good habits seem hard to come by. It's the bad ones that take no effort at all. That's because habits form via the path of least resistance.
- Choosing to make joy a habit requires you to turn your focus outward. Repetitively.
- Shift your attention away from your problems, your difficulties and yourself, and think about others. Repeatedly.
- Connect with the feelings of those also affected. Regularly.
This process is quite possibly one of the hardest things a person can do. It's not something that will come quickly or easily. But considering others before yourself is a definite ticket to joy.