The smell of homemade apple pie fills the room. You open the cabinets over and over because you are so proud of your newly organized kitchen. You read a familiar story to your child and mess up all the words just so you can hear him giggle. You lie down next to a fire and listen to your favorite music. Do any of these things make you smile? If you had a list of things that made you smile or laugh, what would be on your “joy list”?
Cultivating joy in everyday living is not something we often think of. We are too busy getting things “done” or tackling the day to day demands and needs of those around us to think about having fun. Real fun is something we save for vacations, right? Well, what if we made a decision that we were going to enjoy life everyday, all day? What would need to change in our lives?
The first step toward living an enjoyable life is the belief that it is possible. Just think how much more enjoyable life would be if you were intentional about creating a joyful life. Most of the time, we don’t stop long enough to think that it is within our power to create something different. The truth of the matter is that, with help from God, we can be the author of our own life storybook.
You were created uniquely different than anyone else, with different passions, likes, and dislikes. What makes you tick? Think back to the times in your life when you felt totally blissful. What were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you? Dig deep and make a list of as many things, people and places in life that make you smile and feel wonderful. Be as detailed as possible. This is your “joy list”. Now, think of things in your life that really drain your energy and put you in a grumpy mood. For me, my “energy drain list” consists of things like cold weather, negative people, clutter, loud noises, and overeating. Make a list of people, places and things in your life that deplete your energy.
Now that you have your two lists, start saying yes to your “joy list” and no to your “energy drain list”. Saying yes to more joy means you will create opportunities to experience joy on a regular basis. You will spend time with people you love, hang out in places that fill you up and do things you love to do. Maybe it means you will journal under a tree with a tall glass of lemonade. Perhaps you’ll go for a run with your best friend or have a snowball fight with your family. Creating joy can be as simple as watching a good movie, taking a cat nap in the sun, or making ice cream sundaes for dessert.
Saying no to the energy drains will require that you set some boundaries in your life to protect your energy. What personal standards do you need to set to take care of yourself? What agreements do you need to make and keep with yourself and others in order to be at your best? Saying no to your energy drains might mean you plan ahead so you can be on time and better organized, or go to bed early so you have plenty of sleep. Maybe there will be conversations or people you need to politely excuse yourself from. Give yourself permission to decline the activities that take too much from your energy supply. Saying no to the energy drains may mean you have to ask for help.
Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t particularly care for. At times, we can rectify the problem by changing our situation. We can find a new job or hire someone to do the housecleaning. Other times, we don’t have a choice about our life circumstances. Life hands us matters we have no control over. This is when our attitude must prevail. Remember, you are the author of your story and you can choose how you are going to respond to the unpleasantness of life. Find ways to make the mundane exciting. Relieve the stress and tension with humor. Soften the sadness and pain with sweetness.
And to help us with our attitude and our ability to cultivate joy at all times during life, God is available. We can choose to connect to His love, His strength, His joy and His peace at any time during the day. By staying conscious of our moods and feelings, we can tell very quickly when we fall off the path of joyful living. Immediately make a choice to say yes to the belief that joy is possible, intentionally create joy, eliminate any energy drains, and reconnect with the one and only Source for infinite joy.