Before we get started…
Surely we can agree that joy doesn’t mean being ecstatic each and every minute. Or as Wyatt Earp comically suggested in the 1993 movie Tombstone, it doesn’t mean we “laugh all day long like an idiot.” In fact, joy can look a lot like peace. And that peace can carry us through those tough times and dark days.
Low on joy? Think: thankful
There’s a direct link between thankfulness and joy. In fact, it’s a show-stopper to joyfulness when we’re not thankful. Think about it: can you stay grumpy when practicing thankfulness? Try it. Now turn that around. Can you be joyful while refusing to be thankful? It’s like that believe-it-when-I-see-it, or rather, see-it-when-I-believe-it twist. This is no “boot-strap” mind game, either.
Brain science shows that when we remember good things to be thankful for, it sets our brains into a relational mode, where we can connect with God, and people too. Since we were made for relationship, this brings us joy. Dwelling on a list of worries, problems, irritations, and past pains can trigger fear in our brains – and consequently in our hearts, where it can work itself out into our lives and onto others. And that shuts down our ability to connect relationally. Remembering and thinking about joyful times and activities, and people we enjoy being with is where joy starts for today. Even if the memory is years ago, last week, or this morning: remember, remember, remember.
When we do that, we can expect present and future joy. You can see how hard it would be to expect joy if we’re stuck dwelling on painful stuff. This is not saying that life isn’t hard, even really hard sometimes. But look for past joys in order to expect and find more joy in the present. Maybe all you can be thankful for is a hot cup of coffee, or not sitting in traffic. That’s a start.
So here’s a challenge. Start making a list of 100 things you’re thankful for. Real things, ok? And don’t overlook this: small things can be real things. This isn’t a task to be completed in a hurry, and then simply move on. Give yourself 30 days to make this list. You might think you can make the list in one sitting; that may be true. But you may also find that you stall out. Give yourself time, and don’t give up. Each time you add to the list, take a moment to review it. That’s remembering right? Keep going until you get to 100, or even more. You can keep the list to remember in the future, and even make a new list each year.
November is here – and it has 30 days. It’s typically also a season where we try to be thankful here in the US. You could start your list and add to it over the month. Or you could add 3 Thankfuls each day, and sprinkle in a few extra to get to 100. We want the joy that will come from this to carry on. So consider building this habit in November, and expect to discover even more joy in your life as you remember and think about all that we have to be thankful for. We can live every day from a place of joy and peace.
Will you take the challenge? Will you make your list of 100 Thankfuls over the month of November? Share how this goes with family and friends and co-workers. And expect joyful results.
Author preferred to remain anonymous