Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Keep Choosing Joy

“Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to act how you have always acted. If you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind” – Anonymous

I read that quote for the first time in, I believe, January or February. It is the perfect introduction that sets you off on a journey of changing your mind set in the book 'Power Thoughts' by Joyce Meyer.  I had listened to messages and read book where they touched on the topic, and I also have had my own thoughts on the topic challenged and changed as I have grown and learned; the idea that we choose our thoughts, and those thoughts can change our life, is a pretty huge thing to wrap your head around.

In my journey so far, I have found I tend to focus on ‘Love’ as an overall theme for everything I do. While it perhaps doesn’t always come across that way (yay for learning and growing!), it is the way I strive to act and conduct myself. I am aware that sometimes tough love is required, and loving people doesn’t always mean giving them answers they want to hear, but love is an incredible thing and truly needs to be expressed as the sole motive behind every single thing we do or say.

While choosing love can sometimes be difficult, choosing joy can sometimes be harder. I am the classic case of ‘I’m tired and hungry which means I’m grumpy and I don’t want to be around people or do anything and I just want to nap and play with a kitten and eat sweets and watch something cheesy’. Anyone else share these same oh-so lovely character traits? Choosing joy means, in the midst of whatever is happening, you are choosing to be positive—looking on the bright side of things when every thing and perhaps every one around you is encouraging the more negative side to take centre stage.

Kittens and cupcakes-- instant joy.
Why do we do this? Why do we allow negativity at the forefront of our minds? I think it’s probably because it’s easy. It’s a lot easier to be down in the dumps when your paycheque isn’t as big as you want it to be, when you can’t afford the new clothes, new house, or vacation you want. When you can’t see friends as often as you would like, when there’s no one physically around when you want someone there, when your dreams aren’t becoming reality. A lesson which needs to be learned is being negative about these things isn’t going to make them any better. Being negative isn’t going to improve the situation—it’s going to do the opposite. You are going to focus so much on the negative that any situation or circumstance that is less than ideal in your life is going to go from the size of a rain drop to the size of a tidal wave.

I’m not devaluing the importance of feeling emotions, or saying when the worst things happen you have to pretend to be happy and like nothing bothers you. I’m actually kind of saying the opposite….

While bad things happen and situations may not be what you hoped, there are always so many reasons to choose joy. When I’m feeling down in the dumps (and don’t have any kittens or candy around) I start to make a mental list of things I am thankful for. Sometimes this list starts as simple as acknowledging the every day things I take for granted which sustain life as I know it:

‘I am thankful my body works in amazing ways I don’t even understand.
I am thankful I have hands that allow me to create things.
I am thankful I have legs and feet that work so I can bike and run.
I am thankful I have food in the fridge and a roof over my head.
I am thankful I have clothing to wear that I got to pick out because I liked it.
I am thankful I breathe.
I am thankful I have a bed.
I am thankful for safety and protection.’

As soon as I start focusing on the things I am thankful for, I automatically start to feel a jump in my heart that spreads through my veins and leaves a smile on my face. I can’t help but be blown away by the sheer magnitude of greatness of the daily things I take for granted. This gratefulness almost always turns into joy. If I am not feeling joyful yet, I continue my thankful list:

‘I am thankful for friends who I can reach out when I need them.
I am thankful for a husband who encourages me, challenges me and supports me.
I am thankful for Love.
I am thankful for God who loves me and has more thoughts toward me they outnumber the grains of sand!
I am thankful for my workplace.
I am thankful for passions.
I am thankful for joy.’

I am thankful for joy.
I become so in awe of the fact I can choose to be happy in the midst of life, I can do a few things:
  1. I can acknowledge how remaining negative and dwelling on things does nothing to improve the situation but actually makes it worse. Had I continued to be negative, the littlest things would have seemed catastrophic and I would have left no room for joy to begin to grow again.
  2. I can assess the situations with a clearer headspace. I am no longer feeding the negativity. I am focusing on joy and being positive. This achieves a lovely balance for productive problem solving.
  3. I can be positive. In the midst of what is happening around me, I know that being positive is good for my mental, physical and spiritual health. I will make better choices in all areas of life, I will surround myself with positive influences, I will continue on a path of positivity.

I used to be confused when people would talk about choosing joy. It seemed to me people were devaluing the things we, as human beings, feel and experience. It seemed so fake—like when we are having the worst day we are supposed to just smile and say cheesy things like “Everything happens for a reason!” (not true!) or “It’s in God’s hands!” (yes, God takes care of situations but we need to actively pursue the life His word tells us we should strive to live!).  This, to me, is crazy. If I feel bad, I feel bad. But the bottom line is I don’t want to feel that way so I’m going to change it—from the inside, not just the face I’m putting to the outside. Too many approaches, like those previously mentioned, also remove from us our ability and responsibility to change how we feel and think to ensure we live a happier life—they leave us thinking we need to learn to live in the midst of negativity. The truth is, we need to learn to leave negativity behind and focus on positivity.

Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer was an awesome book that challenged you every single week with a new power thought. From things like ‘I love people and I enjoy helping them’ to ‘I am difficult to offend’, ‘I live in the present and enjoy each moment’, to ‘I put God first in my life’. There are 12 power thoughts and I plan to put them all on my wall to remind me that life doesn’t have to be spent wondering how in the world you can make things right, be happy, and overcome the negativity in your life. You can actively choose how you think to ensure you are continually choosing joy in the midst of what comes your way in life.

Images in body of blog courtesy of Pinterest

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