Jody Pierce, LCSW
The holidays often include times of stress, fatigue, and challenges of all kinds. At the same time, we have great expectations of happiness during the holidays and the television images, magazine images and store advertising all reinforce this. Unfortunately these expectations are frequently not satisfied. We see stories of hope, love, fulfillment; but may feel loneliness, grief, and pressure. Adjusting our expectations and changing our view of happiness can lead to a truer sense of joy.
Joy can be present even in the worst of times. Even though it’s hard to imagine this, joy can actually sustain us and help us cope. When joy is seen as something a little different than happiness; but rather as a feeling of peace and well-being within, we can see how this feeling can be present and helps us through even the most painful times. The definition of joy as a sustained sense of well-being, internal peace, and a connection to what matters, helps us understand that joy occurs in our hearts, not in our heads. Having joy does not mean we do not suffer or hurt, but it is a way of feeling internally even though life can be difficult. Joy comes from our willingness to accept the whole experience of life, the good and the bad. Many things contribute to our ability to embrace joy, rather than succumbing to despair or hopelessness.
Give thanks and express gratitude. Giving thanks and expressing gratitude is one way to focus on the abundance in our lives. In addition to gratitude, Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance, writes that learning to live in the present moment is the path of joy. Having a sense of well-being and internal peace also comes from having a connection to what matters. Our core beliefs, our spirituality, our values and priorities all contribute to an experience of peace and joy. Many remind us that real joy does not come from riches but from paying attention to what really matters to us and in doing something worthwhile.
Here are some ideas for bringing more joy into your life:
- Give Thanks. Express gratitude for the abundance of things you enjoy. Use a daily “gratitude journal” to write at least three things daily that you are grateful for.
- Remember what matters most. What’s most important to you.
- Identify what gives your life meaning.
- Expect joy. Be aware of negative self-talk or the negative things you may say to yourself about your life.
- Live in the present. Savor the satisfactions in the present moment, even the small things you enjoy.
- Do something for others. Reach out. Volunteer. Getting outside of yourself is both satisfying and gives meaning to life.
- Spread goodwill through small positive interactions. Compliment others or perform random acts of kindness.
- Smile and laugh more.
- Take care of yourself. Remember to refuel, manage stress and relax.
- Decrease stress & stay focused. Use meditation, prayer, visualization and exercise to decrease stress and help you stay focused on gratitude and peace.