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The Power of Choosing Joy    

The Power of Choosing Joy

Art by FISK

By Dom Roberts

There are millions of books sold each year on the topic of “happiness.” Companies have created apps, supplements, videos, and workbooks in an attempt to help people achieve inner fulfillment. I can think back on countless times when I’ve tried to rearrange my life, change my thinking, and fix my habits in an attempt to be happier. 

The problem with this mindset is that happiness is subjective – what brings you satisfaction is based on a multitude of things like living up to personal ideals, reaching goals, or acquiring certain possessions. For the longest time, I thought that if I could just achieve the goals I set for myself then I’d be happy, but the goal line kept moving further and further away. I was so consumed by the content I would see online, the vacations, parties, career opportunities, and life milestones that I believed I was lacking experiences that could make me happy. I would find myself spiraling deeper into the lies of comparison, causing me to feel even more unhappy.

I remember one day while getting coffee with a friend, an infamous LA parking ticket could be seen waiting for her on the window as we walked up to her car. My stomach dropped for her. Anyone who’s walked up to a car with a ticket on it knows that “oh shit” feeling. But she just glanced at the ticket, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oh well, I’m choosing joy today.” That statement played over and over in my mind for the rest of the day. I’d never thought of joy as a choice. This new outlook that I'm in charge of my attitude and outlook was not one I had ever put into practice. We are all victims of life’s uncertainty and some situations are more serious than getting a parking ticket, but the reality is that we do have the ability to choose joy every day. 

Choosing joy is not the obvious choice nor is it an easy one. It takes careful consideration of what you’re going to allow to infiltrate your emotions and what you’re not. Choosing joy isn’t just another form of toxic positivity, which denies all negative emotions and requires you to act happy when you’re not. You’re acknowledging your feelings and current situation and saying to yourself that “despite these things out of my control, I’m choosing to keep an outlook that’s hopeful.” 

The difference for me between happiness and joy is that happiness comes from fleeting moments and is more of an outward expression. Joy, on the other hand, is something that’s cultivated inwardly and is connected to our purpose and meaning. Happiness tends to fixate on circumstance, whereas joy is a state of mind and a lifestyle that helps us embrace our low moments. Choosing joy can help us to see the silver linings that surround us every day.

This self-care practice is something that I use to help combat my anxiety and depression. If I’m having moments where I’m struggling mentally, I look to moments that bring me joy. I make sure to affirm myself against intrusive thoughts. An example of this is when I have a thought that says, “Nothing is going to work out for me. I’m a failure.” I challenge that thought with a positive one like, “It's ok to have moments of doubt, but you’ve come so far and have done such a great job. You’re only getting started.” Anxiety often has us attempting to predict the future and control the outcome. When that outcome is outside of our control or differs from the one we had planned on, it can trigger feelings of disappointment. But when you operate under the mindset that joy is a choice, you’re able to lessen your negative thoughts and replace them with gratitude for the good in your life. 

In a society where pessimism runs wild, reminding yourself of the gift of joy can change your life. For me, joy is a means of celebrating life despite your circumstances. In the hard times or moments when life has kicked me over, I’ve used joy as a reminder and a reason to keep going. Joy keeps us thankful for what we have, what we’ve experienced, and the things ahead. Joy is our weapon for the things that feel stacked against us and lets us know that at the end of the day, we’re going to be okay.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.