My line of work exposes me to many different types of people, from many different walks of life, who have had a multitude of experiences. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright horrifying. I sometimes leave work wondering how I can fit all of it in to my brain and still stay sane.
Many people ask me how I stay so at peace. How I always manage to see the good in a person or a situation. How I can see the sun despite all the darkness in the world. No I'm not a genie, or magical fairy, or oblivious to reality, but I do have something that I realize many people have not accessed. Maybe because they don't know it’s there, or they don’t know how to, or maybe they know it’s there yet ignore it. That something that I have is joy.
Joy is sometimes hard to explain, especially if you don't have it yourself. Joy is different than happiness. The way I describe it is that: happiness is external, it's fickle. It can be affected depending on what's happening to and/or around an individual. But joy, joy is ingrained in you. It withstands despite circumstances. It isn't easily altered; in fact it's never altered. It just remains.
I find that many people that I work with have difficulty experiencing joy. And I get it; life happened to them. Trauma came beating down their doors. And when they went to look for relief there was none. So naturally they don't have many reasons to be joyful or even happy for that matter. But I also find that some of the ones who have suffered many of the same life occurrences (or even worse) still manage to have hope and be at peace. What's the difference? I’ve noticed that the latter group of individuals have joy.
Joy is not something that can be given to you, and since it can’t be given it can’t be taken away either. Joy is cultivated, deep on the inside of you. It's in your thought life, your perspective taking, and in your measure of gratitude. Joy dictates how we make sense of the world and our experiences; it controls how we respond to those who don't treat us well. Joy is all of these things. Most importantly joy is belief and faith in a power that is greater than you. Whether you call that power God or some other name, joy is trusting in that power and knowing that there is a purpose for your life even with the challenges.
Maybe you already experience joy and this is your first time being able to put a name to the emotion. Or maybe you haven’t, and you’re on a search for something like it. Whatever bought you here, I hope that you leave with the encouragement to begin thinking of ways to cultivate joy in your life more. If you aren’t sure where to start, there are few quick points below.
- Prayer (or maybe meditation if you don’t pray). I find that intentional conscious contact with God gives me an immediate sense of joy because I’m reminded of His presence, His promise, and the purpose He put in my life
- Gratitude. If we could constantly acknowledge all of the things we have to be grateful for, we would experience joy a lot more. Write a gratitude list, or even talk about the things you’re grateful for with loved one. Intentional recognition of gratitude will naturally put you in a more joyful space
- Service. Do something for someone in need, preferably someone who may not be able to return the favor. When we give, we get something so much more in return. This gives us the opportunity to be reminded of how fortunate we are, and usually we have good feelings about helping others
- Fellowship. Spend time with people who seem to naturally have joy, sooner or later that joy will start to rub off on you. This works especially well when you spend time around happy babies or puppies.
- Action. Do more of what you love. Whether that’s listening to music, writing, playing video games, cooking, or attending outings. Do more of those things on purpose. I find that when I have the opportunity to do the things I enjoy I have more joy.
Keep in mind that in order for joy to grow and stay these things must be practiced intentionally and consistently, in season and out of season; remember that joy is not situational, it perpetual.