I am a very stress-prone person sometimes. It’s not because my life is filled with stressful things. Rather, I make life stressful for myself. I’m a dweller. I remember being in high school and letting myself dwell on several soon-to-be-due projects I was behind on. I actually let myself dwell so hard I was smacked down with a bout of real despair—waterworks and all. It was paralyzing. My dad sat down with me and in his kind fatherly wisdom looked me in the eye and said, “Natalie, it’s all about where you place your focus.” You choose the focus of your life. I learned at a young age that the direction your mind goes can direct the path your life will follow. My dad really emphasized that in the lessons he taught me. Now, a few years later, I’m still not perfect at controlling my emotions or mind. It’s something I work at daily. However, when I remember this lesson from my father it’s easier to change my tightly-wound mindset and choose to have a happy day, even when I’m busy.
Life can be hectic and often stressful. How do you keep your focus aligned to positivity to find much needed balance each day? It’s all about looking for joy everyday—joy in the little things.
If you are looking to increase your joy, the easiest way to start is by accepting the opportunities for joy that you've already been given! More times than not we are constantly overlooking little blessings in our lives that could bring us so much added peace and happiness if we'd only choose to recognize them. For instance, think of a day in your life that was more on the stressful side. Why was it so stressful? Now stop to reflect on the details of the day. Ask yourself questions to better remember the whole day. Such questions may include (but are certainly not limited to): Did the stop light turn green when you were in a hurry? Was the weather nice? Did someone hold the door open for you as you rushed out of a store? Were you able to help someone else is some small way? Did everything turn out in the end? Were you able to grow from that experience? Did you happen to see or hear something that made you smile or even laugh? If not, why not? Like Dad said, it's all about where you place your focus! The grass isn't greener on the other side—it's greener wherever you water it. So nourish the present!
Nature holds many wonders ready to be discovered and rediscovered each day. Have you ever taken time outside to pause and simply notice what’s around you? Consider the intricacy in a simple flower, the texture of the long stem, the veins of the leaves, the vibrant colors in the petals. What masterpieces lay all around us! Many people find great joy in caring for a garden. Gardeners are often able to find a sense of responsibility and capability in successfully nourishing flowers, trees, vegetables, or other plants. Whether it’s a beautiful spring bouquet on the table, a refreshing view out your window, or a basket of summer fruits and veggies, nature has a beautiful way of giving back to us. Take a chance and find your green thumb. You may be surprised at both the delicacy and strength in mother nature’s offspring. You may even find a new hobby you love!
Great happiness can come from simply celebrating being alive and unique. Human beings are amazing! Think of all the intricate mental, emotional, and physical capabilities we have that we don’t even consciously think about sometimes. Next time you go out, try to make an effort to notice people. Notice their differences and similarities to yourself and ponder why they may be the way they are. You can find joy in someone’s unique hairstyle, an elderly couple holding hands, kids playing in a park, a baby squawking in its frazzled young mother’s arms. Each person is at a special stage of life on earth and is having his or her own struggles and joys. Find peace and joy in your own “you-ness”!
Companionship can be an immense source of joy in life. Whether it’s a spouse, sibling, parent, cousin, friend, or even just an acquaintance you may meet somewhere, having the company of another individual can bring comfort, knowledge, understanding, peace, and personal growth. Celebrate in relating to someone and learn from differences. If you aren’t much of a “people person” perhaps challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone and reach out to someone. Be a friend. Connect with a loved one.
The beauty in helping someone else have a better day is that your day becomes better, too! Humans tend to be pretty sympathetic creatures. We’re blessed with the gift to feel, especially to feel what others feel. This is why we hurt when someone else is sad, or laugh when others are laughing. Joy begets joy. The more you give, the more you already have! Lifting the spirits of someone else and doing something kind or helpful can bring peace of mind. Being there for someone else shows reliability, compassion, and a trustworthy character. In serving we learn not only about others but also about ourselves. Lose yourself and find joy in selfless service. It may be a sacrifice of time, means, or energy; it may be as simple as a smile and saying “Hello, how was your day?” Small or big, it makes a difference for everyone involved.
Hobbies, dreams, and interests add a pop of refreshment to life! How many times do you say “Oh, I would, but I never have the time”? Odds are you’ll never have the time unless you look for an opportunity to make the time. As we all know, daily schedules can fill up like California’s bay area freeways during rush hour. Pretty soon you’re clogged up with to-dos, shopping trips, service projects, holiday plans, housework, yard-work, organizing and de-junking the garage, appointments for the kids, taking Fifi to the vet, and who knows what else? Another night arrives, another day gone. While productivity is vastly beneficial and important to a successful and happy life, it’s easy to get burned out if you don’t stop or slow down every now and then. Challenge yourself to make time for you. Make time to enjoy the things you enjoy! Even a half hour or fifteen minutes a day can rejuvenate the mind and energize the body. Go for a drive, listen to that song, lay outside on a blanket, call a friend, make something with your hands. Whatever it is you love, make time to find joy in it!
It might not be a bad idea, at the end of each day, to take a few minutes to look back and reflect on everything that brought you joy that day. Consider writing them down in a gratitude journal or even just on a sticky note. Do this especially on difficult days—you may even find the day wasn’t quite so bad after all! Remember, life is what you make it to be. Choose joy!