5 Simple Ways to Increase Joy in Your Life
“…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn …to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:2-3 (condensed)
Holiday Blues? Hard times? Things breaking down all around you? It is very easy to be let down and become surrounded with the fog of bad tidings. Here are a few “G’s” to get back your joy! God has provided joy for us each day and wants us to live in the fullness of this joy. When you feel down take a “shot” at these simple things to get back in grace. Cheers!
1. Gratitude –
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5
Being mindful of the good and simple gifts around us will always bring a higher perspective and increase our joy. Remember to be mindful of simple things like clean air, fresh running water, a warm home, and food on the table. Mindfulness of good things will always encourage us and bring us to the realization that we truly are content in our heart of hearts. Most of us do not know what it is to face the obstacles that much of the world faces and even on a smaller scale what most of our county faces each day to survive. There are people around us that we can be grateful for as well. Smiles and hugs received, loved ones, and even tougher personalities that spur character growth can be a blessing. Another surefire way I find instantaneously increases my joy is reflecting on the past. Whether this is by revisiting old journals or simply thinking “five years ago I was/wasn’t…” This simple exercise always reminds me how far I have come in my personal journey and how much bigger God is than our plans. He is faithful and He answers prayers so just taking time to think of the things He has done great and small helps. God always provides a way for us to thrive, even in the midst of adversity. Being grateful always brings an increase in joy.
2. Get Moving –
“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 10:4
Movement creates a flow of oxygen throughout the body and allows hormones and endorphins to release which boosts our joy. A recent study published in The Week magazine reflects that a simple walk in nature daily helps people to significantly set aside their stress and worries and take notice of the world around them more. Movement is critical for stress release. We were designed to be moving and when we find a small way to do this it will help raise the roof on joy. Whether movement for you is exercising, walking, cleaning, chair aerobics or gardening, once you find your body releasing movement your spirits will also become immersed in the joy of accomplishment. Start somewhere, anywhere, but get moving today!
3. Giving –
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor 9:7
Sitting around and looking at all the things in our life that are not where we think they should be is bound to bring us down. By getting out and finding someone that could use a gift, no matter how small, we are looking outside of ourselves in compassion towards another. Tuning in to the world around us will take us outside of our own problems and give us a different perspective. Just like putting a puzzle together (when you stare too long you can’t find the pieces), we need to take a break and remind ourselves it isn’t “all about me”. Everyone has problems; everyone has things in their life they wish to change. Truthfully we don’t usually have to look very hard to find someone that is in a situation much worse than we believe our own to be. Giving away a smile, opening a door for someone, or buying someone’s coffee on the way to work will allow a moment of connection in relationship that will promote joy in our own hearts…and theirs! When I am at the grocery store and see an item I know someone near me would enjoy I will pick it up and drop it on their doorstep as a blessing. If I am making a meal I will take time to drop off a plate to an elderly neighbor. Sometimes I’ll simply drop off an item I don’t want anymore at the YMCA sharing table and when I see it disappear I feel my heart leap for joy that my “junk” was another’s need fulfilled. Giving doesn’t have to always cause you to reach into your pockets. Be creative!
4. Good Thinking –
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things….. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
This one should seem obvious but it isn’t always. I have heard that the majority of our personality is formed by the age of seven. This means whether we automatically look at something that happens to us as a good or bad thing is also ingrained in our minds. Thankfully, because of what Jesus did on the cross, our habits and patterns trained by our upbringing do not have to be permanent grooves we follow. There are always two ways to look at any situation. When something happens that we perceive to be a negative thing we should consciously take time to look for the good in it or look for a way that God can use this to grow us/those around us. Perhaps you will build relationships with others in your time of need or maybe that wrecked car will lead you to another (more suitable) one. Being late isn’t always a curse either, as hundreds of survivors from the 2001 (9-11) attack on America will testify. Embrace the good and the bad and choose to see the positive side of the coin. After awhile this will begin to come naturally as we train our minds to be sensitive to positive things God is doing in our lives rather than the negative inconveniences. Choosing to find God’s promises each day will help our overall outlook improve and protect our heart from depression.
5. Great Choices –
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:7-9
I was recently in a situation where I felt strongly I was not to attend a certain event. Through some peer pressure and feelings of obligation I caved and attended anyway. Within the first twenty minutes I realized I had made a huge mistake. As the time went on I could feel my heart being weighed down more and more as well as my attitude and mood. After excusing myself and politely ducking out as quickly as possible I hoped my mood would improve but it didn’t; the simple bad choice and company continued to influence my entire afternoon. Sometimes making bad choices can be the number one reason we feel depressed and are not living in the fullness of joy given to us by Jesus’ sacrifice. Choosing not to take care of our bodies is another choice that can affect our moods. Choosing bad company, abusive relationships, destructive habits, or being tempted to control things around us can also dampen our days significantly. When we are doing all we can to keep on God’s path for us we live without shame or guilt and are able to freely receive His grace and goodness. So while we all still make bad choices each day, we know the Holy Spirit within us will guide and protect us as He provides grace to turn our hardships into joy. Taking the moral high road isn’t always immediately fulfilling but it surely will help us to live with a short account and prevent us from looking over our shoulder. Less stress from consequential behavior will keep our joy-cups overflowing. In the above situation I finally had to stop, pray, and turn over my day and bad choice to God. Within a few hours my shame was gone and joy had returned! I was able to conclude my day on more than a positive note – a joyful one!
While there are many more ways to increase our joy each day (prayer, meditation on God’s word, eating healthy, etc.), I do hope you find the above “G’s” challenging. Remember, joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5) so embrace each new day!