The Joy Journey

I recently took an 18 month hiatus from writing to consider the direction I wanted to take with my blog, after finding myself with a serious case of writer’s block. I was at a perpetual loss to think of a subject that inspired me, which inevitably led to the conclusion that perhaps my blogging days were behind me.

The answer presented itself out of the blue (as answers are prone to do). For a full year, the book “The Happiness Project” had languished in my nightstand. While it had captured my interest from the very first page, I had never made it past the first two chapters. Reading took a backseat to life… which included getting married, becoming a stepmother to two teens, becoming ‘Mom’ to a purebred English bulldog puppy, becoming out of work, going into business for myself, having two dental surgeries, and being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (a fancy term for skin cancer).

It was my recent diagnosis of skin cancer that prompted me to dust off “The Happiness Project”. I wanted to make a commitment to happiness, and thought it would be beneficial to consider someone else’s experience with the same commitment.

(I highly recommend this book, by the way. Gretchen Rubin approaches her experiment with candor, aplomb, and humor, and it’s a compelling and captivating read.)

Inspired by Gretchen, I decided to undertake my own experiment but to personalize it to fit me. I confess that having the name “Joy” influenced my decision to choose “joy” as a goal over “happiness”. But, the tipping point was when I considered the fundamental differences between the two.  Happiness tends to be fleeting, and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people, while joy is true contentment that comes from internal factors like faith in God. In fact, the Bible uses “happy” or “happiness” approximately 30 times while “joy” or “rejoice” are referred to more than 300 times!

Hence… “The Joy Journey”.

How then to map out my journey? I narrowed it down to thirteen internal qualities that I want to focus on… one each month for the next twelve months. Using the Bible as my reference, I chose the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23a) – love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and added to those… wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment. I’ll dedicate the thirteen month to examining “joy” (the remaining fruit of the Spirit), both as a distinct virtue but also from the standpoint that the preceding twelve virtues lead directly to its door.

All these qualities are ones I’ve wanted to more consistently reflect for a long time but this will be the first time I’ll have made them a concerted focus. My theory is that by making them an intentional and ongoing practice, they’ll become a solid foundation for a life that radiates joy. After all, practice makes permanent.

Beginning in April, my blog will chronicle my journey, complete with successes, challenges, and failures. I hope you’ll join me on “The Joy Journey”!

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Happy now?

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Everyone wants to be happy. It’s a universal desire. People wish for happiness, think about it, strive for it, read about it, talk about it, and even try to buy it but rarely, if ever, experience it on any sort of regular basis.

How can so many people be on the quest for the same thing but still miss out on it… or experience it only in fleeting moments? Sometimes it’s because of a misguided wish for things that don’t actually bring happiness while other times it’s an unrealistic expectation of what happiness is.

What if I told you that happiness is within your reach? That there are a few things you can do today to start increasing your happiness?

Well, in no particular order, here are some happiness boosters for you to consider:

1. Change your attitude.

It might surprise you to hear that happiness is a choice. If you tend to see the glass as being half empty, make the decision today to start choosing to see it as being half full. Your happiness largely depends on your attitude (even more than it does on your circumstances).

2. Work less.

No one ever gets to the end of their life and wish they had worked more. The better your work-life balance, the happier you’ll be. And, while we’re on the subject of work… as much as it’s within your ability to do so, do something you love or enjoy. So, if your job is making you miserable, it might be worthwhile to either look for another job or to go back to school to train for a different career.

3. Focus on experiences, not things.

Things will never bring you more than fleeting happiness. When people reminisce about happy times, they’re almost always referring to intangible things. Spending time with others, cultivating relationships, giving their time and talents to make a difference in other people’s lives. All things that money can’t buy. It’s also worth remembering that the quest for tangible things tends to make people work more, not less, and often brings the added stress of debt. Two big happiness busters that everyone can do without.

4. Be social (and I’m not talking about social media…).

Loneliness leads to higher rates of depression, health problems and stress. Having just one close friend tends to boost happiness. But, you don’t have to rely on friends and family in order to be social. Smile at people. Say hello. Make small talk with strangers. Take a genuine interest in others. Life is meant to be shared.

5. Volunteer.

Denmark is one of the happiest nations in the world largely due to their high volunteer rates (43% of the population volunteer). Giving of your time, possessions, or money can boost your happiness like few things can. Volunteering makes a difference, improves your community, and helps you keep a healthy and balanced perspective.

6. Laugh!

Science has proven that laughing decreases your stress hormones and increases your endorphins (the same brain chemicals associated with the “runner’s high” you get from exercise). Laughing is also good for your heart. A study found that only 8% of heart patients who laughed daily had a second heart attack within a year, compared with 42% of the people who rarely laughed. What if you don’t feel like laughing? Consider faking it ’til you make it. Just like your attitude, laughing is a choice.

7. Have faith.

Faith in God boosts happiness because it brings purpose to life. Resting in the certainty that God is in control, and that your eternity is sure,  bring happiness like nothing else can.

8. Count your blessings.

Focusing on what’s going wrong, what we think we’re missing, or what we wish were different are all happiness busters. Making a conscious choice every day to count our blessings is a big happiness booster. Even the days that are largely a write-off – just think about the fact that each day only has 24 hours, and that tomorrow is a new day. That thought should bring you happiness. It does to me!

Ok… enough talk about happiness. Time to start doing. Go and live a happy life… NOW!!!

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