Seeking Joy

Joy is a term we are all used to hearing. When I think of joy I think of that person that lights up a room, that has an infectious smile, that person that makes you feel better after just being around them, that person who is endlessly optimistic and more than generous. I also often associate joy from a biblical standpoint, being delighted in the spirit. Sometimes I think of joy as young children playing, there is something about children that is innately joyous. Yet, we live in a society that squashes joy, a society that encourages comparisons, that values money over contentment, that constantly reminds us of the sad and horrible things going on in the world. We live in a time where those who show joy can be seen as naïve or even selfish. So how do we find joy when things don’t feel joyous, when pessimism is the voice of society, and sadness preys around us. I think joy is worth it, it’s worth the work, because without joy we have no true contentment. So let’s explore what joy versus happiness is, examples of how we can choose joy everyday, and how we can spread joy, particularly this holiday season.

She chose joy &thenShe let go of the things she couldn’t control, &thenShe found delight in daily living, &thenShe

Seeking Joy

Joy vs Happiness

As I began to research the term joy, something stuck out to me. It was the distinction between joy and happiness that I never even thought of!

Happiness is a reaction to an event or circumstance. It is an outward expression.

Joy is an internal choice regardless of event or circumstance. It is an inner feeling.

I feel it is such a misconception that when we see people smiling and happy, it means they have joy (they might, but they might not). Happiness is wonderful, but fleeting. Joy is profound and long lasting. People who experience joy are those who may or may not be smiling and giddy all day, but those who can seem to always find the light in the darkness, those who endlessly give when you can’t see how they do it, those who can love others who think and look differently because they experience no threat to who they are. When I think of people who are joyful after reading this, I think of women who manage to work and take care of others and yet seem to somehow be completely content, they find time to love themselves as well as love others. I think of the cashier in my college food hall, an older woman who would say “I love you, baby” to every single student walking through her doors to check into the food hall. She wasn’t necessarily happy and dancing around all the time, she was actually pretty low key, but she always found ways to love for and care for others and she made it look effortless. When you left her presence, you felt better for it and you felt a need to do better. Those are joyful people.

Photo by Yan Krukov on

Cultivating Daily Joy

Choosing joy is harder than it sounds. I believe that joy is a daily practice. A practice means you have to work at it everyday in order to get better at it. So don’t be discouraged if you “choose joy” today and don’t feel very joyous, it will take time and daily reminders. So here are some ways to start getting into a mindset of practicing, choosing and cultivating joy in your daily life:

  • Start a gratitude journal – Every night, answer ‘what are three things I am thankful for?’
  • Three random acts of kindness – Perform three intentional kind acts a day for a stranger or a loved one. It doesn’t have to be big things, it could be as simple as telling someone you like their outfit, sending a text of encouragement, or saying “you’re doing great” to a coworker.
  • Meditate – Coming to peace with who you are and where you are through daily meditation or journaling and practicing staying present in the moment. Try out the CALM app for guided daily meditations.
  • Reduce social media – Reduce things that trigger comparisons.
  • Reduce the news – The news is not news, it’s entertainment, so reduce the time you watch the news filled with extreme stories of sadness and fear.
  • Write down your morals, values and mission in life – When making personal and daily decisions, rely on these items to guide you. You will feel at peace when you write down things you hold true to guide you through life.
  • Seek therapy – Therapy can help you work through areas of your life that you are discontent with.
  • Seek spirituality and pray daily – Practicing religion and spirituality is an important part of joy, knowing there is a greater good or greater power can really lift the burden and allow you to feel free to be joyful. Regardless of your religion, daily prayer can reduce your anxiety!
  • Volunteer – Spend some time thinking, doing and serving others.
  • Be kind to yourself – Practice a little self love and self forgiveness, you are not perfect and no one else is either. When you allow yourself room for mistakes and frustrations, you free yourself from the burden of guilt and pain and make room for joy.
  • Let go and forgive – Let go of the small things every day, someone cut you off in traffic, eh no big deal. And for bigger things, perhaps forgiveness is something you can work on, I recommend reading the book “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond Tutu.
  • Have childlike fun – Go dance around in your living room, run through puddles, take a trip to Disney World, enjoy a trampoline park, celebrate Christmas in July, be silly, be YOU!
  • Talk about good times – Connect with loved ones, call a friend or write a note and make sure to talk about all your good memories together! This will help you stay more optimistic.
  • Shift to a positive mindset – Choose to see the beauty in every small moment. When negative thoughts arise, work to put a positive spin on it.
  • SMILE – The simple act of smiling can bring about happiness and eventually joy!
Photo by Charles Parker on

Spreading Joy During the Holidays

2021 has been a weird year. I feel like everyone talked about how crazy the 2020 pandemic year was, but 2021, well it felt like the really long credits after an action movie you have to sit through to see the end credit video. It just kind of felt ‘blah’. 2021 left us in a strange holding period. Many people are struggling with depression and anxiety during these pandemic years, and now more than ever do we need people willing to choose joy and spread joy! Will you be one of those people? Will you work to overcome your aches and pains to try to bring a little bit of joy to a neighbor or a stranger? Here are some examples of ways we can spread joy this holiday season:

  • Bake something for a neighbor or loved one – whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and drop them off next door. It may just bring a little smile to someone.
  • Volunteer – Find a local church or non-profit putting on a food drive or gift wrapping event and volunteer. It’s always great to donate financially, but there is something particularly joyous about physically being there to do your part.
  • Throw a get together – Social events are important to our own joy and spreading joy. Be the one to throw the cookie decorating party, or pumpkin carving event, it will bring tons of laughs for all (hopefully events like this will be normalized this holiday season!)
  • Write a note – Send a handwritten note or holiday card. Last year I made watercolor Christmas cards, and it was as much a joy to the recipients as it was to me!
  • Compliment someone – Random acts of kindness or simply making an intention to compliment people around you makes both of you feel great!
  • Check in with loved ones – Ask how people are doing, listen to them, give advice, support them, show your gratitude and love for them.
  • Start a charity idea – Initiate a food drive at your work, ask your neighborhood to donate gifts for children for a community in need. Get creative and find ways to bring people together to help others.

If you’re anything like me, as much as I love happiness, I want to experience joy! So let’s work together to experience and gift joy this holiday season.

Photo by Edu Carvalho on

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