Joy seems like it’s in short supply. Sure, momentary happiness is plentiful. That first bite of your favorite sandwich, a quick LOL at your coworker’s meme … we can always get a quick boost. But, what do we do to maintain our joy? You know that long-lasting, deeply satisfying feeling of contentment that goes beyond our circumstances. It’s that place in our souls where we live richly, but how many of us can even get there in our everyday lives?
If you’re finding joy scarce these days, I have good news for you. If you’re a Christian, you have joy. It’s a byproduct of your life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), which means it’s yours. It can be full or empty (John 15:11).
So, the real question isn’t where is your joy, but what’s stealing it from its rightful place in your life?
Protecting your joy may be as simple as shifting your mindset and your schedule. Here are a four ways to do that:
- Balance your day with life-giving activities.
I get it. So much of being an adult is doing things that don’t thrill you. Whether it’s changing diapers or paying bills, your mental to-do list is less than exciting, and often, downright draining. That’s why you need to make room for joy boosters in your schedule. Even if you are busy taking care of everyone else, I dare you to find 15 minutes just for you. Dig into that personal project that you’ve left undone. Pick up that hobby you forgot about. Whether it is reading a book or gardening, you’ve got to the find time to do the things that bring your joy to the forefront of your day.
- Practice mindfulness.
This may sound a little “out there”, but mindfulness is nothing more than learning how to be present in the moment. Put down the phone. Shut off useless worrying. Pay attention to what (and who) is in front of you. I was in college when I first heard the famous Jim Elliott quote, “Wherever you are, be all there.” It’s never left me. It makes me keenly aware that, when I get out of my head and in to the moment, I worry less. I notice more. I see, even on the darkest of days, the tiny ray of light shining.
- Stop wishing things were better.
In this, I am the chief of sinners. When going through a difficult season, I am the first to complain … and complain … and complain. I wallow in a negative attitude that feeds off a relentless persistency that life go the way I want. That negativity not only saps my joy, but the joy of people around me. I know better. We all do. There are dozens of different outcomes to our circumstances. Things could always turn out differently and a little closer to our ideal. Holding firm to the picture in your head does nothing but deprive you of realizing your reality and all the joy that it currently has to offer.
- (And while you’re at it…) Stop wishing YOU were better.
I know some people exist in an easy, breezy relationship with their self-perception. I am not one of those people, and maybe you aren’t either. We can be so hard on ourselves. We read self-help books and devotionals focused on our ever-present need to fix ourselves. The trouble with this mindset is that it’s based in you being fundamentally flawed and in desperate need of constant improvement. Yes, we should always seek to do and be our best. But, if we’re not careful, we wind up never loving ourselves as we are — like God does. What joy can be found in the simplicity of you in all your beautiful imperfection! “Radical self-acceptance”, as author Anne Lamott calls it, can reveal much of the joy that exists already inside of us.
Try to imagine a life where joy is the default. It’s not that far-fetched. However, just like everything else we hold dear, it requires our involvement. We must guard against the thieves of joy that manifest in our actions and attitudes. So, be vigilant and protect your joy like the precious gift that it is.
How are you going to protect your God-given joy? Share in the comments below.