What does it “look” like, where do you find it, why does it often seem so elusive?
But before we answer those questions, it’s essential to understand that “Joy” and “Happy” aren’t the same experiences. Happy is a response to something external, dependent on circumstances and emotions; an “in the moment,” state of mind, outward reaction. It “happens” to us contingent on things of this world.
Joy is not as temporary as being happy. It’s inside you—a heart emotion that runs deep and overflows, sustaining you through challenging times, opening the door to peace and contentment. It transcends, resonating within your soul, creating heartfelt gratitude and, what I would call, spiritual experiences.
My most profound understanding of real joy happened on a Honduras mission trip. The children I worked with were genuinely joy-filled despite their harsh reality—lack of food, medicine, dental care, and even clean drinking water. That experience, like so many others in my life, changed me.
J.D. Salinger wrote, “…happiness is solid, and joy is a liquid.” I love that!
Joy is fluid and flexible, not contingent on exacting parameters to exist. It can be known even in difficult times, share space with other emotions, invite peace to sit beside her, and dig deep into the reservoir of self.
To experience the peace that comes from being filled with joy, you first have to acknowledge what—on a core level—matters to you. Your partner, children, parents, and friends count, of course, but until you understand what fills your heart and soul, you are less well-equipped to “be present and joyful” for anyone else. Second, to move fully into joy, you need to be right with God and yourself. Without those two parts in place, it’s challenging to be right with other human beings.
Allow (heck, invite) yourself to feel good, to be okay even when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be on the same side as you. If you figuratively fall on your face—at work, in relationships, when you least expect it—or experience fear or sadness, don’t let those be the moments that “define you.” If you keep rehashing the times you “fell,” your energy isn’t making space for new experiences. Living with regrets is one of the hardest things to face at the end of life.
Recognize what brings you joy—remembering that it’s usually not the same as what makes you temporarily happy.
Take care of yourself.
Learn from the past.
Some humans forget they have value, blanketing others with kindness and generosity but ignoring self-care and self-love. If that’s how you’re walking through life, consider being kind to yourself too. You are worth it!
Whenever possible, remove people and situations that marginalize your joy. Whether that’s someone who doesn’t honor or value you, hanging onto hurts, or a houseful of “clutter” that’s suffocating you, let it go. Easier said than done, yes, but essential to joy creation. Don’t look at what you choose to walk away from as failure, instead see these changes as what they are—personal growth. Releasing what’s toxic opens up space for more joy. And, you deserve that. ❤︎
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