Are You Joy Challenged?

Do you bubble over with joy?

Is joy your default emotion?

While some can answer a resounding “Yes!” to both questions, many of us really want to say yes . . . but we know it wouldn’t quite be the truth. In fact, the overwhelming majority of us aren’t wired to smile before we’ve had our first Vanilla Latte. Some of us are joy challenged.

“Gone are the days that we view joy as a trait that you either have or you don’t. Joy is simply a choice.”

Now don’t get me wrong, we WISH we could smile and sashay into work like we don’t have a problem in the world. We WANT to use our chipper, high-pitched voice to belt out a harmonious “Good morning!” But instead, our entrance into our day is no sashay at all. It’s more like we drag a limp, lifeless body out the door and into life. It takes great effort just to greet someone with a “hey” that is barely audible as we pass them on the way to the office, on the way to class, on the way to our next doctor’s appointment . . .

Let’s face it. We didn’t all receive the joy gene! People who have it are easily spotted because they are typically smiling for no discernable reason. What are they smiling about? Did you know that science tells us they have LOTS to smile about? People with high levels of hope and optimism are at a lower risk for coronary heart disease, they sleep better, have stronger immune systems, and live longer. Happy people seem to have found a fountain of youth, leaving their grumpy counterparts to wonder if there is any hope for them. Well, I have good news! Positive psychology can actually take your ability to experience joy OUT of the hands of genetics and places it squarely in your own hands. This is GREAT news! Gone are the days that we view joy as a trait that you either have or you don’t. Joy is simply a choice.

Every day, you wake up with the power to choose! You can choose to shift your mind to aspects of your day that will give you joy. Joy is not only possible on days when things align perfectly . . . when the kids don’t argue, the food is perfectly cooked, and your husband surprises you with flowers. Joy is possible even on days when you wake up late, your kids won’t cooperate in spite of several bribe attempts, and you drop the ball on a major project at work. Remember, joy is simply a choice.

Ok, so how do we choose joy? It’s all in what you attend to. If your mind gravitates towards the negative aspects of your day, and you choose to replay every negative word that was said . . . every wrong choice . . . every missed opportunity . . . every fearful experience . . . then you have chosen depression, anxiety and anger. But if you can stop those negative thoughts in their tracks and, instead, choose to notice that your 5-year old son packed his own lunch (the fact that you had to re-pack it is beside the point), or spend a moment being thankful for the light traffic on your usually crowded commute, or acknowledge that your husband organized the utensils drawer while cooking dinner. THIS is how you chose joy!

We often look for these deep and profound answers to our biggest dilemmas in life, but the truth is . . . sometimes the answer is as simple as what you choose to focus on in your daily life. Doesn’t this sound doable? So now, by the powers vested in me, I pronounce you capable of joy! This means that with a little bit of effort on your part, you can experience joy. Your efforts to maintain a positive perspective, to choose to see the positive in spite of the negative, and to look for moments of gratitude WILL produce joy in your life! You will become joyful! And before you know it, you will greet the morning with a smile even before your first Vanilla Latte.