This time of year can be a time of peace, joy, and comfort for many people throughout the world. Decorating, baking, thinking of our loved ones, holiday music, the beautiful lights….that ‘holiday feeling’ can bring us comfort and ease the pains that many of us have throughout the year.
But on the flipside, there can often be the not-so-great things that the holidays can bring….stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and a general feeling of inadequacy when comparing our holidays to others who seem to just have it all together.
Not to mention, because of the pandemic, this year brings along its own set of issues. Perhaps we are unable to be with family which normally brings such an important aspect of love and connection for us. Yes, we have Zoom….but we all know it’s not quite the same (don’t get me wrong…I am very GRATEFUL for it, though!)
Clearly we are supposed to feel joy during the holiday season! Joy is a recurring theme in so many songs for the holidays: “Joy to the World,” “good tidings of comfort and joy,” “joyful and triumphant”….you get the drift.
But with everything going on in our lives, how do we find joy if we aren’t feeling all that joyful?
The difference between ‘joy’ & ‘happiness’
First of all, what IS ‘joy‘ and how is it different from ‘happiness?’
If you Google this, you will find a million different explanations and opinions as to how they are different. The general consensus, however, is that joy is a choice and a mindset. It exists inside of us (if we want it) no matter what kind of pain or struggles we go through. Joy is an attitude of the heart and a way of life…….a general overall feeling of happiness and things that satisfy our soul. We can choose to live with joy.
Happiness, on the other hand, is dependent upon outside things given to us and is a temporary emotion. You can be happy because of something happening to you or something that you observe, but it is short-term. If you won the lottery you would experience happiness, but it would be short-term unless you embody the essence of JOY in your life.
This all blew my mind and I’m here to admit now that apparently I have been wrong all of these years about telling you all that GRATITUDE makes us happy, and that we should practice it regularly to maintain a state of happiness and fulfillment.
How GRATITUDE & joy work together!
I am correct in that GRATITUDE does bring us happiness. If you were to say what you are GRATEFUL for right now, it will make you happy. But maintaining JOY requires a diligent and regular practice and mindset of GRATITUDE.
Now knowing this, I realize that GRATITUDE and joy are very similar. Both are a state of being and both are within our control. Both are a choice and an attitude. This is great news in knowing that we can decide to embody them both. The problem is, it’s not always easy to achieve. So how can we use GRATITUDE to make us more joyful, especially during the holiday season?
“It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” – Br. David Steindl Rast
The best way to nurture an overall feeling of joy is to maintain a regular practice of the almighty GRATITUDE. This requires so much more than just fleetingly saying what you are GRATEFUL for at any given moment.
It requires a tangible practice, something like writing in a GRATITUDE journal or simply writing 3 things you were GRATEFUL for before bed every night. In my group “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain,” we dedicate ourselves to a regular practice of GRATITUDE in order to better live with our pain. When maintaining these practices on a daily basis we open ourselves up to receiving more joy in our lives.
The wonderful Brene Brown who is a leading expert and researcher on vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy has interviewed thousands of people over the years for her work. She says that she has “never met a person who described themselves as joyous who didn’t actively practice GRATITUDE.” That’s pretty powerful stuff!
Comparison robs us of our JOY!
Another way that we can find inner peace and pure joy is to stop comparing ourselves to others!
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
That statement could not possibly be more true! On Facebook you may see pictures of friends’ picture perfect Christmas trees, all the baking they are doing, their stunning holiday decorating…maybe they’re even saying that their shopping is done already (UGH!!!) Perhaps you are receiving holiday cards galore in the mail and you haven’t even started yours!
Okay…I’m not being hypothetical…….I’m actually talking about ME here. Ha ha! But I’ll admit, it gets to be a lot to handle and when we compare ourselves to others, we feel inadequate and resentful towards ourselves.
We also tend to compare ourselves to our past selves. This is a dangerous practice to get into as well. Those of us who live with chronic conditions have very different bodies and very different situations now than we used to. Comparing our abilities TODAY with what we used to be able to do is pointless, and leaves us with nothing but heartbreak.
But why? Why do we rob ourselves of joy like that when we’re comparing ourselves to someone else’s highlight reel?
In the grand scheme of life, will it really matter about the perfect decorations or the baking or any of that stuff? No!
Will it matter if you experienced joy this holiday season? YES!
How our pain can bring us JOY!
The pain that we endure and live with can actually be used as a way to foster our joy, believe it or not. When we think about the worst days we’ve ever had, reminding ourselves of the fact that not every day is like that is enough to make us joyful and GRATEFUL.
I would even argue that true joy cannot exist without enduring suffering at some point in our lives. Otherwise, we would just accept all of the good that comes our way as commonplace and not as the true blessings that they are.
Joy is not something that you achieve. It is not dependent on obtaining things, reaching goals, or anything starting with “If only….”
Don’t be the person who is waiting for circumstances or things to enjoy true joy. Do it NOW! Our lives are too short! When we are GRATEFUL and joyful for the way our lives are at this very moment, any happiness that comes our way will be magnified and amplified.
And joy, like GRATITUDE, is highly contagious. Use your joy to spread to those you come into contact with in your life. Can you imagine what a world this would be if we all showed joy and GRATITUDE rather than fear and negativity? Use your joy as the ultimate holiday gift to those in your life, but more importantly, as a gift to yourself.
You already possess all that you need to be genuinely joyful. All you need is to keep your mind and heart open to the abundance that surrounds you. The joy of living is ours for the taking! Let’s grab it!
Good tidings of comfort and JOY to each and every one of you during the holidays and into our brand-new year, 2021. May hope and GRATITUDE encompass your hearts and bring excitement for what is to come.
Peace & love, Lauren
ps. I’ll be discussing the topic of JOY on my live broadcast of my weekly show, “Gratefully Living the Chronic Life” which airs Thursday, December 17 at 8pmEST. It will also be available for later viewing by using the same link. All past episodes are available on my YouTube channel: “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain on YouTube!”
If you aren’t already a member of our beautiful community on Facebook, we would love to have you! “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain” is a group of thousands of others LIKE YOU who choose to work to look at their struggles through the lens of GRATITUDE to have a fulfilling and joyful life. JOIN US!