The pursuit of happiness — for many, an evasive dream.
We have bought into the philosophy of ‘when I have accomplished this, then I will be happy.’ When I receive the promotion, then I will be happy. When the children leave the house, then our marriage will be a happy one. Unfortunately, the when-then mindset is flawed — if we cannot find happiness in the present, easy or hard as it may be, we will unlikely be happy when we have accomplished our stipulated condition.
For most of my life, I have believed that happiness and joy are different from each other; happiness being fleeting and dependent on favourable circumstances, while joy is a more profound sense of calm and serenity. To a large extent, this is true; happiness without joy is hollow and empty, and joy without happiness is a lie; the two are flip-sides of the same coin.
There is good and bad news. The good news is joy can be experienced daily. The bad news is that joy is a daily choice. It requires intention and practice.
“Be happy now. If you can’t find happiness in the present moment, you never will. Joy isn’t around some corner. It is here.”
Mike Mason, Champagne for the soul
Many are tired of trying, having given up on happiness, or, have discovered they can numb the ache, the yearning, the pain, with binging on short-lived thrills. They rush from activity to activity, from party to party, using food, or alcohol, or drugs, binge TV, sport, adventure, fitness, sex, power, prestige, fame or wealth to find fulfillment, only to discover it cannot truly satiate.
There is a shortage of joy in the world. Even in the church, joy is often in short supply.
Experiencing daily joy is simple but challenging. It is not stumbled upon by accident, but by intention. The good news is that we can practice and master the habit to allow joy into our lives. Joy is not happenstance; it is not fate. It is a mindset; it is a choice. It is not for a lucky few. It is within each one’s reach.
No matter who you are or how dire or comfortable your circumstances are — joy is within your reach.
5 Things you can do right now to help you find daily joy:
1. Practice Contentment:
How contented are you with your life RIGHT NOW? Not next week, next month or next year — right now. Never confuse contentment with being ambitionless or lazy. Don’t wait till your book is published — enjoy the writing and rewriting process now. Don’t wait till you’ve shed the thirty pounds — enjoy your adventure of small daily wins. Don’t wait till you’re retired to be happy. Find joy today. Learn to love the process.
It becomes more important HOW you see things and less WHAT you see. It’s a mindset. Contentment will also help you not be too hard on yourself. You’re human. Humans fail. Get up. Try again. Do better.
“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”
Develop the habit to practice it daily. Each morning, even before you get up and swing your feet to the floor, start your day with three things you are grateful for. Give thanks. Then tonight, repeat this practice. Reflect on the day and write down three things of that day that you are grateful for — this will increase your joy and lessen anxiety.
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
3. Take Risks.
There is some risk in striving and seeking (and finding) joy and happiness. What if it doesn’t materialize? Is it even possible to be happy 24/7/365? Yes, becoming intentional about joy demands from us to become brave, to become bold. We have to dare. Take risks. Go beyond our comfort zone. The status quo is to remain in our unhappy state, our perpetual sadness.
Do you want joy? Become adventurous. Do it as an experiment. Push beyond what you know. Say goodbye to the same old. What have you dreamed about but was always too scared to start? Write that book. Go on that adventure trip. Start the side-hassle. Design your course. Take action and allow joy to break through.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
4. Find daily peace.
Through meditation and prayer and faith in a living and loving God, we find peace and purpose. Developing a personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus, in itself, brings joy. He takes away our guilt. He is joy. He is peace. That is the good news of the gospel: finding joy in Christ. Finding joy demands spiritual warfare from us. It is no simple matter. Also, we can taste joy, heavenly joy already in this life, not only one day in the afterlife.
Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord, always.
The secret here is, in the Lord. Through faith. Paul, when he wrote this letter, was in prison, chained to a guard. How could he possibly rejoice? Through faith and being intentional and brave and bold. The joy that we find in Christ is not finite; it does not fade or end.
It is time that we let joy return to the world in which we live. There are endless reasons amidst the brokenness and bitterness to be unhappy, to be robbed from our peace and joy. The challenge is to choose joy despite. (It takes equal amounts of energy to be miserable or joyful.) Deep-seated joy often arises from sorrow and tragedy, walking hand in hand. Amid sadness, it can comprehend something more significant; it can comprehend joy.
5. Become generous.
Bless others. Reach out and touch other people’s lives. Not random acts of kindness but intentional actions. Putting others first, being unselfish, does not come naturally. See the opportunities around you. It doesn’t need to be money. It could be your time. Your skills. Your compassion. Joy begets joy. Happiness and joy are contagious, is medicine for the soul, and benefits everyone who is exposed to it. Shared joy doubles. You will find, going out of your way to help someone, even when it eats away at your time, brings joy. It gives meaning to that day, to life.
Allowing joy back into our lives and becoming intentional about joy and happiness does not mean we will be blissfully happy every moment of each day. Neither does it mean we will be spared sorrow and struggle and pain. In the midst of all the turmoil, or, amid peace and comfort, joy will seep back into our lives if we seek it if we allow it.
“People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.”
Don’t wait to be happy.
Claim it today. You have now. You have today. It is within reach. Know it will be a struggle. Know you need to be intentional. Your unhappiness and lingering sadness can be overcome. Let’s get busy.
We all need joy to thrive.
You can live in joy every day.
You can rekindle joy.
Start today. Start now.
1. Mike Mason. Champagne for the soul: celebrating God’s gift of joy. 2003.
2. Shawn Achor. The Happiness Advantage. How a positive brain fuels success in work and life. 2010.
© Danie Botha. 7 August 2019.
You can find more of my writing at daniebotha.com