From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
No matter how many posts and articles I read (or write) about not making New Year’s resolutions and setting realistic goals and starting a new diet (or organizational system or meal plan or reading challenge) on any day other than Monday, I can’t help but start the first day of the first week of the first month of the new year with some degree of expectation.
When I woke up yesterday, I literally began the day with a smile on my face. And, as anyone who’s ever witnessed my reluctant rising can tell you, this night owl does NOT usually wake up happy! But it was a big day, the first “real” day in the new year! A day full of so much opportunity, a day destined for fresh starts and productivity and greatness.
Except, as it turned out, it was just another day.
Another MONDAY at that.
I had to remind my older daughter 17 times to brush her hair and her teeth – and to put her empty banana peel in the trash can, please and thank you. I had to change my toddler’s diaper and convince her that wearing her coat was a good idea, given the 20-degree air blowing around outside. I put on my sunglasses as we walked out the door, only to take them off again when I realized it was actually quite cloudy. And as I backed out of the driveway, I noticed that the recycling truck had knocked over our trash can, spilling bags of garbage all over the street and yard.
It was just another day. Another day we have chores and arguments and projects and appointments, another day with clouds and trash and cat hair and dirty dishes.
But you know what? It was also another day full of beauty and hope and joy. It was another opportunity to choose my outlook, to determine my attitude, to make a difference – even if it’s just for me, even if it’s just for a moment.
See, I believe that we can find joy – true joy! the kind that can’t be stolen by cloudy skies or spilled garbage (literal or figurative) – every single day of the year. I believe it’s possible and even necessary for our mental health and our relationships and our productivity and success. And I believe that just a few simple steps can help us find a whole lot more of this crucial, beautiful joy this year.
3 Steps to Finding More Joy in 2016
1. SAVOR YOUR MOMENTS.
My friend Sara said once that moments are her favorite things. Not Oreos or the fifth Harry Potter book or the color purple or spicy queso, but moments. Much as I love all those other things, I’d have to agree. After all, capturing and savoring moments is why I used to scrapbook years ago – and why I love Facebook now. It’s why forgetting my camera is reason for turning the car around, no matter how far from home I’ve driven.
And it’s why I’ve been known to tear up at random times when I look around and realize this – THIS! – is beautiful. This life, this family, this conversation, this laughter. Even when it’s loud or messy or awkward or weird, a moment sometimes strikes me as so beautiful that I can’t contain my ridiculous tears.
Every day – the regular days, the cloudy days, the hardest days – has sweet moments. Even on days that come with banana peels and mountains of laundry and overdue bills, we can find something to savor.So when you’re struggling to find a silver lining or a glass half full of anything, look for those moments: your favorite song on the radio, the first sip of that cold tea or hot coffee, baby giggles or a side hug from a tween, rain showers or sunsets, an encouraging text message or inspiring quote posted on Facebook at just the right time.
Find those moments – and then savor them. Take a mental picture, close your eyes and bask in the joy for a few seconds, and save it for the next “just another day.”
2. EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE.
I know, I know, this is nothing new! When she writes about how listing out the things we’re thankful for can be truly life-changing, Ann Voskamp boils it down to this: “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.” Just like that – even when it’s hard to find something to be thankful for.
Sara, my friend I mentioned earlier (and, as it happens, my co-author in a book about joy), suffered from an extremely painful, debilitating disease. And yet, throughout her life, she learned to choose joy anyway. She wrote about that after spending another Thanksgiving holiday alone:
“I’m not in the least bit bothered to be here alone on the holiday of gratitude, because it’s the same as any other day. I am simply grateful. I appreciate my life because it’s the one God has given to me, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it wishing for anything else.”
She was simply grateful – every day, good or bad, no matter what. Wow! Personally, I’m still working on making that kind of gratitude such an ingrained habit. But I believe we can take strides toward this in 2016.
Perhaps for you it will help to keep a written journal of your thankfulness. Or maybe, like me, you need to commit to verbally thanking someone each and every day. I try to send my husband a text message every night before bed (he works nights), thanking him for something – even on days we argue, even on days we don’t see eye to eye. The habit of gratitude that leads to an attitude of joy is something I’m pursuing big time this year.
3. MAKE YOUR CHOICE.
Sara’s and my book is called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. It was named after Sara’s mantra and mission: choose joy. That’s what she named her blog, and it’s what she painted on a wall in her condo. When she shared a picture of that painting, she pointed out that the biggest word, the most important part wasn’t JOY; it was CHOOSE.
If we’re going to make this year different than the last one, we have to make a choice. We have to choose to pursue joy, just like we will commit to health and love and hard work and fun. We must make a choice. We must draw a line in the sand, step over it and never look back. No matter what 2016 brings us, it will bring us moments of joy and opportunities for gratitude.
Let’s choose to find them and savor them – and to enjoy the beautiful picture they create!
Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver was released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016. It is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.