Before I really started down my journey with depression, I strongly believed that joy was always our choice. That’s probably why it took me so long to understand that a chemical imbalance in the brain sometimes takes away that option from us. I say that just to make it clear that I’m not trying to be insensitive to anyone who is walking through a season where joy is simply not anywhere within reach.
I do, however, still firmly believe that being a joyful person is a learned practice.
Let’s take a minute here to talk about how I define ‘joy.’ To me, joy runs much deeper than simply being happy, cheerful or content; those things are momentary, but joy is eternal. It’s not about what kind of mood you’re in that day, but a measure of the position of your heart. A person can be going through tragedy and still be joyful because they know their true identity, they believe in themselves, and they have confidence in their ability to overcome the obstacles they are facing at the moment.
Choosing joy is honestly really difficult in the moment. It’s so much easier to complain about your circumstances. It’s so much easier to get angry with someone when they’re rude to you. Reactions such as being annoyed when you’re stuck in a really long line at the grocery store takes no effort at all. The easiest reaction to a circumstance is usually the most negative one. But at the end of the day, if you always choose the negative reaction, the position of your heart is going to end up being mostly negative. Living with that kind of negativity is exhausting. Grudges are heavy. They weigh you down more than you realize.
In those little moments, choose joy instead. Choose to find the redeeming part of an infuriating situation. Choose to let go of that grudge before it weighs you down. Choose to look at the person who is being rude to you and give them the benefit of the doubt.
All those little decisions are exercises that strengthen your ability to stay positive. Pretty soon, those choices get easier and easier, until your new gut reaction to every situation is to meet it positivity. After a while, your ‘joy muscle’ will become so strong that your ‘muscle memory’ will kick in without you even realizing it. Then, when really big things happen, (a death in the family, the loss of a job, a break up with a significant other or a friend) your joy muscle with be so strong that it will take much less effort to get back on the path of positivity than ever before.
Today, the next time you are tempted to react negatively to a situation, don’t give in. Choose joy instead. Choose positivity.
At the end of the day, grudges, negativity, and hate are much heavier a burden than love, grace and joy will ever be.
Featured photo for this post by Tyler Chase Manuel