"The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives."- Russel M. Nelson
In the gratitude workshop that ReConnectEd to Life presents for our November Connect Ed Workshop, we discuss the difference between joy and happiness. We notice that the state of happiness that we may feel on any given day and from moment to moment is largely dependent on what we are experiencing at the time. For example, eating our favorite foods can make us happy. Playing with our beloved pet or buying a new outfit are also ways that we feel happiness. On the flip side, I would venture to say most of us aren't overly eager to take out the trash or do our taxes or go to the grocery store. However, we are back to feeling happy when those things get done. Joy, though. Joy is the more exciting feeling to play with because we ultimately get to choose whether or not to be joyful. Where happiness is dependent on what happens TO us, joy is an acquired mentality that, when practiced regularly, we can learn to live in more often than not. How does one practice joy, you may ask? Through gratitude.
My sister texted me the video to a new Dolly Parton song the other day. I listened to it, and before I go further, I mean no offense to Dolly Parton. I enjoy her "I Will Always Love You" and
"Coat of Many Colors" as much as the next person, but the lyrics to this song really struck me as sad. To quote, "When life is good again, I'll be a better friend, a bigger person when, life is good again. More thoughtful than I've been, I'll be so different then, more in the moment when, life is good again. I'll open up my heart, and let the whole world in, I'll try to make amends, when life is good again." This was a song obviously referencing the pandemic and how much better life will be when that goes away and everything is back to "normal". I also feel sadness knowing that so many people have suffered, gone without, been abused, during what are unquestionably very trying times. Throw in what is arguably the most divisive election in history, and it is easy to understand why may of our lives feel thrown into a tailspin. But hope abounds. If we let it. Through choosing joy by way of gratitude.
"Joy is the best makeup."- Anne Lamott
My sister and I had a funny little convo about the lyrics in the Dolly song. I texted her, saying that we shouldn't wait until "life is good again". Instead, we should MAKE it as good as we can NOW! She texted me back that she knew I was going to say that and I said, "YAY!" and LOL'd. That had me reflecting about the fact that there was a time when I wouldn't have responded the way I did, and instead would have agreed with the sentiments. What had changed for me? It's not that I am naive or blind to all the ways people have suffered and continue to suffer through this pandemic. It's more that I choose to focus on all the good that has come and will continue to grow through the struggles, the losses, the despair. I choose to be grateful for any reasons I can find- for the people in my life, for the good I see people doing for others, for simply being healthy and alive. If the pandemic has done anything good for us, it has reminded us that life can be taken from us quickly and unapologetically. Understand this. Feel this in your bones. We do not know how much time we have on this Earth. Let's spend it filling our minds with thoughts that create joy for life itself, by finding ways everyday to be grateful.
Always begin with yourself. Joy begins and flows from the inside out. Remember, a healthy brain comes from consistently practicing The Four Seeds of Self-Care. A nutrient dense diet and consistent exercise routine brings our physical body into its optimal state of energy and mobility by increasing blood flow and oxygen to your brain and nourishing every cell in your body. A meditation/prayer practice as well as getting enough sleep for what YOUR body requires will promote your brain's ability to more often be able to process less than desirable feelings of stress, sadness, and despair quicker, as you learn to sit with your emotions and be mindful of them, instead of trying to bury them. When we notice how we feel, we then begin to cultivate the ability to change those feelings if we aren't experiencing the joy in our lives we deserve. Our lives are made up of the thoughts that we think. Our brain is the garden that we are constantly tending in order to grow the seeds of the feelings, thoughts, and emotions we desire. We must feed it well if we are to experience the full bounty of our capabilities to realize the life we want, through our experiences and our relationships with others.
Finding as many ways to say "thank you" in a 24 hour period is key. We just began a new 30 Day Self-Care Challenge- The Mindfulness of Gratitude, which is all about being grateful for our lives and the miraculous body we inhabit. The challenge offers a daily inspirational quote, self-care tip for the day, and a journal prompt to put into practice the art of mindful gratitude. However, you don't need to be doing the challenge to practice gratitude in your life. When you wake up in the morning decide that regardless of your circumstances you are going to spend this day finding reasons to be thankful. If someone helps you, let them know how much you appreciate it. If you catch yourself smiling, be thankful for that moment. Look for the beauty in nature and be thankful for the view. Think about your busy schedule as a reason to be thankful that life is so full. Remember always that you get to CHOOSE how you will experience your one and only precious life. Choose wisely.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel