I admit to not enjoying exercise. Every time I walk or do abs I have to have a conversation with myself that goes something like this:
Me: You’ll be glad you did it.
Me: Ok, I’ll do it.
So, when Me talks Me into it (and sometimes me doesn’t) I never fail to be glad I did. A sense of accomplishment, stress relief, better sleep, and that I actually did something I know to be beneficial. These are some of the win-wins.
Physical exercise is a convenient metaphor for another type of exercise that hasn’t always come so easily. The exercise of joy. Huh? Isn’t joy something you either have or you don’t? As with our physical bodies, our joy muscles have to be worked.
Here are several I include in my regular joy workout that you may find helpful.
- I am not any less or any more capable of joy than the next person. Like it or not, we all have problems. I used to think certain people were gifted optimists and I was doomed to struggle with a negative outlook Right there I was declaring myself disadvantaged, so why even try . This is an equal playing field. Anyone can decide to participate.
- Joy is something I choose. Imagine a wet cold day. Two people are walking with umbrellas to their destination. They both get soaked on the way by an annoying unthoughtful driver who pummels right through the “river” conveniently located next to the sidewalk they are on. One grumbles the rest of the day. The other sees it as a “good story” and an opportunity to make someone else laugh in the telling. Point being, we are all going to get wet. When we do, can we turn a grumpy thing into a thing of joy?
- Life is not perfect. Get comfortable with that and life will be much more enjoyable. Much of the unhappiness in my life has stemmed from this; it never measures up to the ideal I have been rehearsing. It never will. Maybe it’s time to have a proverbial march and hold up my “death to ideals” sign. Perhaps then I can live the life I actually have and stop comparing it to the ever elusive fantasy. I Long with a capital L for water. Beaches, white sand, sound of the waves. No humidity, no noise and no dogs pooping on my white sand. Maybe a hammock and someone bringing me a margarita. This is my ideal. My perfect life. We all have our perfect lives in our mind. How about we just get comfortable with life not being perfect? Then we will be free to enjoy what is. By no means am I saying, live without dreams. Live with dreams and desires, but realize that sometimes it’s easy to live IN a dream and miss the moment.
- Simple things. What can I do daily that celebrates life? I have 3 things I do every single day. 1. I open the blinds in my apartment first thing. 2. morning coffee 3.- afternoon coffee. Who says it has to be big stuff? If it’s small and it brings a smile (or a caffeine jolt) to my life, then it’s valuable.
- Stop comparing. They may appear to have the perfect family (I mean look at all those Facebook photos), but that’s called editing. You just don’t see their kids melting down and their spousal conflicts posted on every status update. Maybe people look at my updates and think, “gosh she is living the dream. Every time she posts a picture, she has a coffee cup in hand”. Hm…. maybe I AM living the dream.
- Joy doesn’t come from getting everything you want. It comes from practicing gratitude for all you already have. There are gifts every day if I so choose to see them. It can be simple. I’m not a millionaire, but I can truly say that practicing gratitude has made the ordinary into the spectacular. Therefore, I am rich indeed. How do I personally practice gratitude? I write down on strips of index cards all the little things. (I will read through them on December 31 to remember the gifts I received throughout the year).
- Eternal perspective. If we think it’s all about getting every desire fulfilled in the here and now, I hate to break it to you, but life will be one long disappointment. How often do things ever turn out exactly as hoped for? The thing is, God has put eternity into every heart. And here we are in an imperfect world that guarantees sorrow and setbacks at some point– trying to squeeze all the goody into here and now. Sometimes when the ache for a perfect world void of suffering overtakes me I stop and realize that I was made for that. Heaven is real and one day every dream will be realized. This helps me endure. I don’t escape by shutting out my earthly reality. I get busy living here and hopefully I bring a bit of goodness to others in the process.
- Speaking of bringing goodness, did you know that it’s proven that our own joy is increased when we seek to bring joy to others? Let’s get really practical. Sharing a meal with a friend. Writing an encouraging text. Taking time to listen. Cleaning a toilet (hey, this is my life as a small business housekeeper). The ways to bring joy are limitless. The only thing required in all this is that you actually do it, not merely fantasize yourself doing it =) An intentional life is a life lived well. Think of the many times you have been the recipient of an act of kindness. Get in the game of giving. You won’t regret it.
By the way, I should mention that this wasn’t written from my private ocean front condo. The closest ocean is, what, atleast 5 hours from here. I have struggled with depression the last year and so I’m an unlikely source to be handing out tips on joy. That’s the beauty of it. An imperfect girl, learning to enjoy her life and inviting other imperfect people to embrace theirs as well.