Optimism and joy are woven in to my very nature. As a 7 on the enneagram and with positivity as my #1 StrengthsFinder theme I constantly seek out joy and positivity. I crave it even. I create moments of joy and constantly plan for the next… It’s how I’m naturally wired.
At a young age, I made it my personal mission to make people laugh and guide others towards the light.I’ve always loved encouraging people and pointing out what’s good and beautiful in them. Even now in my “grown up” phase of life, I use up all of my extra energy to lighten the mood and I chase the silver lining far more than I dig into the roots of my suffering.
But even with my positive, “its always sunny” disposition, I am in no way averse to sorrow and pain. I may even feel it deeper than many. There are painful moments we all experience where joy feels distant and near impossible. When your light is dimmed, when you feel lonely, when you’re experiencing pain, loss, shame or anxiety, the very thought of joy may feel like a cruel joke.
“Joy has gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.” (Lamentations 5:15)
But if you find one small moment of joy and hope in a day full of darkness, that moment alone can keep you going. Happiness isn’t present in difficulty, but joy doesn’t need to smile in order to exist. We do, however need to choose to be joyful. So how do we find joy in sadness?
One thing I’ve learned over and over again is that gratitude is the best practice to nurture joy. When things are going well and we choose to rejoice, we build the capacity to be joyful when things are not going well. In the same breath, generosity is a seed of joy. Week by week, when we plant seeds of gratefulness and servanthood, we are strengthening our “joy muscles”.
If the only capacity for joy you can find in this season is to merely plant the seed… that’s enough. Let that be enough. God will use it.
Let Jesus be your joy-giver. When you find Jesus you find joy. When you know His love, you know joy. When you know his faithfulness and his forgiveness, you know joy. Joyfulness is found in His hopefulness. There is a reason we can feel sorrow one minute and burst into laughter the next. They go hand in hand… Jesus experienced both. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.
While I am still not the best at letting myself stay in those hard moments and feel what I need to feel… I am really good at finding and embracing Joy. Here are some additional ideas to practice and foster joy:
Practice Gratitude. Gratitude is the root of joy. Giving thanks can make you happier. Practice a daily journal of gratitude. If you’re not disciplined enough (like me), speak it out loud. Tell someone what you’re grateful for today. Tell yourself what you’re grateful for.
Listen to Music. There’s a reason I majored in music in college, taught kinder music for 4 years and have found my home on the Makers worship team… fewer things feed my soul and lift my mood other than music. Find a playlist to play in the background, bust out the vinyl records, watch a live recording of your favorite band. Sing in the shower. Loudly.
LAUGH! Do a silly dance in the mirror. Try to make your family laugh with a funny voice or goofy face. Choose a comedy or a funny sitcom on movie night. Watch YouTube compilations of people falling. Initiate a tickle fight. Give your spouse, kids, roommate a big bear hug.
Play! Build a fort. Go camping outside. Give your babies, toddlers & pets daily nose “boops”. Run through the sprinklers. Play a family game of Candyland for the hundredth time. Have a living room dance party. Dust off that deck of cards. Google ice breaker questions and answer them as a family at the dinner table or on a zoom call.
Celebrate- Even the small things are worth celebrating. Your 5th grader finished another week of virtual learning? Celebrate. You purged your closet while also working, being mom and being teacher? Celebrate. You finally washed your hair after 4 days? Happy dance & celebrate. Your family is healthy- celebrate. Another day survived in quarantine certainly warrants a pizza party.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy. You’ve heard this before. But its important to lean into this truth again and again and again. During this Covid-19 quarantine, you are NOT expected to become a bread baking, content creating, quilt-making, body-building wizard with your “extra time”. Do what you can do and let that be enough. By the way, creativity does not need to be extravagant. Solving problems is creative, strategically balancing kid’s schedules is creative, reading a book and dreaming of the future is creative. In this season especially, we all fall short of the expectations we set for ourselves, especially if we compare our accomplishments and progress to everyone around us.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Change the background on your next zoom meeting. Own the shirt you’ve been wearing backwards all day. Do I wear Harry Potter socks with my polka dot garden shoes in and out of my home every day? Yes. Will I sport this look at Target this week?
I’m certainly down for the challenge. Laugh (at yourself), dance, play and consider it all joy my friends!
“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13).