Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:8
In a world so full of stress, pain, and heartache, how can we possibly think of excellent and praiseworthy things? In the middle of our own chaotic, busy lives, how can we find joy? Is it even possible to focus on the positive things in life when we're so caught up with our to-do lists and our own little corner of the world's problems?
I think we can. In small, incremental steps, I think we can move toward being more joyful. I'm not advocating for walking blindly through life, ignoring the hard things. Those need to be seen and felt, too. But I am saying that we shouldn't get bogged down by our adult responsibilities and stress to the point where we feel like all of life is stress, responsibilities, and to-do lists.
Even so, I didn’t know how to just stop thinking the way I had always thought. If I didn’t think those thoughts, what was I supposed to think? The rutted pathway of negative thinking was so deep and worn that I literally couldn’t imagine my mind going in another direction.
I am learning, though, that our minds are not made for inactivity. They are lazy, though, and will take the path of least resistance every time. The only way for my mind to stop thinking one thing is for it to start thinking on something else. The only way to stop focusing on the worrisome aspects of life in this broken world is to intentionally fix my thoughts on even the most ordinary of gifts every day.
The only way to change the belief that I can’t change is to deliberately focus on the fact that Jesus says I can.
I am not condemned to a life of unhappiness. The way I am is not the way I always have to be. Changing my mind is not easy, but through small daily gains — choosing where to direct my thoughts — I am coming to believe in happiness again. - Jessica Bolyard, (in)courage
We don't have to stay stuck in the cycle of negative thoughts. We don't have to let worry consume us. We can live differently.
So how can you and I be happier in our everyday lives? Vacation is one thing, but "real life" is quite another. I was a much happier, more relaxed person while on a recent trip with my family, but I knew it was going to be a challenge to not fall right back into old patterns of stress when I got back. It was going to take work, and I'm just beginning to feel how big of a challenge that really is.
I think something we can all do (I know I could use it!) is to regularly make time for some small things that bring us joy. We don't have time to invest in everything we love every day, but we can make small changes to incorporate some small things into our normal rhythms.
Some small things that bring me joy are:
- Listening to a favorite song
- Sending a quick message to a good friend
- Enjoying a cup of tea
- Taking a few minutes to walk outside
- Setting aside some time to read a book
- Thinking of things I'm thankful for
- Making and eating my favorite foods
- Doing something to help someone else
- Watching funny YouTube videos
- Puppies (other people's-- all the fun with none of the work) : )
I've noticed that my stress level goes down when I take a minute to breathe and engage in something that makes me smile when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm still working on making it more of a habit, but I've already seen how it can really make a difference.
What are some little things that you can incorporate into your daily life to bring you more joy?
Five Minutes to a Happier You by Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage
Happiness Hijackers by Jessica Bolyard, (in)courage
Image source: http://lifenlesson.com/happy-dreams-interpretation/