Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Get Your Joy Back : Living for all You're Worth

Several years ago, The Man and I were engaged in a heated conversation when he turned to me and said, "Dayle, you are one big grouch!"

After my initial shock wore off, I realized his words rang true. Somewhere along the way I had lost my zest and joy for living. I was, indeed, one big grouch.

Following a season of intense self-examination, I identified several areas of my life that needed serious tweaking—all within my power to change.

Here are five things that helped me get my joy back:

Be cheerful. Being cheerful is a choice. We can’t always be happy, but we can always be cheerful.

Susan is the most cheerful person I know. I recall one winter evening, after dining out with a group of friends, she realized her keys were locked in the car. She wasn’t happy about it, but she remained cheerful throughout the hour-long attempt to get the car open. She laughed. She sang silly songs. She danced in the parking lot to stay warm. And when at last she drove away, she honked and smiled, like nothing ever happened.

In the late 1800's, William James was the dean of American psychologists. James battled serious depression and after years of studying his actions and reactions, he came to a conclusion. "By regulating the action,” he wrote, “we can indirectly regulate the feeling.” He went on to say that if you don’t feel cheerful, you should act cheerful and before long, the feeling will follow.

When I decided I didn’t want a tombstone that read: “Here lies a sourpuss,” I put James’s theory into practice and found it not only works, but, with enough practice, cheerfulness can become second nature. Try it. The world will thank you.

Seek out silence. We need silence. In silence we can think for ourselves, instead of just parroting the opinions we hear around us. We can dream, and devise a plan for fulfilling our dreams.

Silence also puts us in tune with nature, helping us see those often missed gems—strips of yellow sunlight wrapping around a porch, the elaborate pattern of a leaf, a full moon's path across a lake, billowy clouds sailing against an azure sky. 

In silence we can hear healing sounds—the mellifluous song of a bird, a gentle wind whispering through trees, the scampering of a squirrel across the ground, the voice of God.

When you stop covering the silence in your world, you’ll be amazed at the pleasures that are there, just for the taking.

Write about past hurts, then let them go. When I was in counseling many years ago, my therapist asked me to go home and write about a painful incident that had occurred years earlier. She asked me to describe, in detail, the place, time of day, the clothes I wore, the emotions that surfaced—all of it—during that distressing event.

It was an excruciating task, requiring all of the courage I could muster. I cried. I hit the notepad with my fists. But when the words lay quiet in front of me, there came a moment of certain release. And peace. 

I suppose you could say that writing about painful events is, in a curious way, one’s private therapy, a conversation with oneself, a way to identify feelings and thoughts that otherwise might be left like unturned stones upon our souls, heavy and oppressive.

Today, whenever I’m feeling wounded, I open up a journal and write.

Reach out and touch someone. Much of life is spent obsessing about ourselves and our possessions. But after taking some time to volunteer and mentor, I’m convinced that true happiness comes whenever we reach out and touch another person’s life. It can be as simple as saying “hello,” or as substantial as helping build a house.

Something therapeutic occurs when you help others. Instead of thinking about your own maladies, you feel at peace. Happy. Content. Thankful.

The great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer said, “I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

Open the door to God. Nothing is as depressing as feeling like you’re alone in the world. Believing that someone walks beside you, that prayers are heard, that you are loved, that death isn’t final, can be so uplifting, especially in difficult times. Try creating a special place in your home for praying or meditating. Include a comfortable chair, a small table for holding books or a beverage, a reading lamp, and a light blanket. My faith in God is the nucleus of my joy, and when I take time to pray and meditate, my mind is free of the day’s worries.

***


This post is adapted from my book, Home Improvement: 9 Steps to Living a Joyful Life, also available as an eBookThis adaptation also appeared in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.




Sharing with the following communities:


Jenifer for Woman to Woman
Jennifer for Tell HisStory
Juana Mikels for Wednesday's Link-up
Jann Olson for Share Your Cup

42 comments:

  1. I think we need more people like Susan around us. I'm going to step up and be more positive!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you, Christine, and I've discovered being cheerful really is a choice that we make.

      Delete
  2. This is SUCH a good post, Dayle. I hope a lot of people read it. I do believe in being cheerful. There are unhappy things that happen to us but we can accept them with a glad heart knowing that someone beyond us is in control. I think I am a cheerful person-or I try to be. I find joy in the small and unexpected things in life that might otherwise go unnoticed.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences here and being so encouraging. xo Diana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Diana. I agree. We don't have to be happy in order to be cheerful, no matter what is going on around us. I think finding joy in small things is a great place to start.

      Delete
  3. Dayle, thank you for sharing your heart. This ministered to me & I will be printing this blog. Praying Susan's attitude overflows on me & others. God Bless You~Carol

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the quote about when we regulate our actions we regulate our feelings. That's a keeper.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I've found it to be true. If I act cheerful, the feeling soon follows.

      Delete
  5. I love the quote! It is so true that we act the way we feel. It is so important to change the way we feel by focusing on God's truth. Great post. I am glad that I visited from Thought Provoking Thurs. today. Have a great day!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh Dayle, this is such a good post! Thank you.

    FlowerLady

    ReplyDelete
  7. OK, I loved this so much that I just ordered the book. It says it is temporarily out of stock, which I hope means that a lot of people are getting some good advice by reading it.

    I have told you before that I love the way you think, Dayle. I also love the way you write down those thoughts. I think a whole book of them will be a great blessing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, sweet Debbie. If I had any extra copies of this title on hand, I'd be thrilled to send you one, my treat. I noticed there are a lot of used copies available from Amazon, some as low as one cent. How can you go wrong for that? LOL!

      Delete
  8. What a great post! Not sure how I missed it! I have battled anxiety my whole life...the rest of the family (brothers and sisters) battle depression as well. Some really bad! And I have found all of these things you mention here to be soo true. First time with God, and then DOING for others seems to work well for me. Keeps my mind off of things I can't control. Thanks for writing this! Enjoy your day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, dear Debbie, for sharing. My big sister has battled depression through the years, as well. May God strengthen you and your family.

      Delete
  9. Hi Dayle! This post had me choking up a little bit...I can be the worlds biggest grouch, I admit it. And cheerfulness IS a choice. And I don't make that choice often enough.
    And there is nothing like looking outside myself. I need to 'get out more' and spend a little less time complaining.
    Beautiful post today.
    Ceil

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dayle, wow. I have a huge tendency to be a worrywart, and my first reaction to life events is usually negative. My husband has told me lately that somewhere along the line in the last few years, I've lost something of myself. He's right, I feel it within myself.

    It's one of the reasons that I was so very surprised when the Lord laid on my heart the word JOY for this year. My first reaction was, "Really, Lord?!" And then, when my dad fell less than a week into the new year, and then passed away, I have found myself really contemplating the seriousness of what God wants me to learn.

    One thing that I am realizing is that JOY is also a choice. And He is giving me the desire and the power to pursue it.

    GOD BLESS!

    ReplyDelete
  11. A great collection of thoughts to point us to joy. Keeping God our main focus, reaching out to other's - all such ways to true joy.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a wonderful heart bearing post!!! I love "We can't always be happy, but we can be cheerful" or how about ...Just pleasant! Great advice! So many thought provoking ideas, thank you!

    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  13. That word JOY captures my attention every time now. :) So true isn't it? We can always be cheerful -- JOY-filled.And I'm noticing your ebook. I need to check that out. Thank you, Dayle. I'm so glad we have connected in this lovely blogging world.
    Blessings,
    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  14. Such great words. My hubby has called me a grouch before too. ;)

    Thank you for linking up with Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dayle, thanks for sharing your story and the steps that helped you. I would wholeheartedly agree that journaling is very therapeutic, and I find that when I focus on helping others, my troubles seem less heavy. Thanks for linking up with Thought-Provoking Thursday! :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. awesome post Dayle. And I love that picture. It really shouts happiness to me. The thing that stands out for me the most is silence. I need that alone time, the quiet....and out in nature. Wishing you an awesome weekend with the 'man.'

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dayle, I so appreciated your words here. My husband gave me a similar - and truthful - verdict once. It gives one cause to think, doesn't it? Your thoughts on cheerfulness are so true and I find it so much easier to be cheerful when I continually have Paul's admonition to be cheerful, pray about everything, and be thankful frequently and purposefully flowing through my mind. Silence is another area where we must think alike. Usually when I mention the benefits of silence or my own joy in it, people look at me like I am perhaps from another planet. I've come to be OK with that, but it made my heart jump when I read that another whom I admire embraces it as well. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dayle, this is such a great article. You grabbed my attention with cheerfulness, then finished it up with something I've been realizing lately. Reaching out to others negates the petty things in my own life that weigh me down. Thanks for posting this. Have a fabulous weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  19. what a wonderful post, and so important to remember. It's really easy to let the cares of the day get us in a rut!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love the images of the garden. I'm ready to take any kind of garden pictures at this time of year.
    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

    ReplyDelete
  21. Dayle - Very thought invoking post! Thanks! We all need to stop and think how we can make our lives and the lives of those around us a little better. Sometimes it is such little things.

    Judy

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is a great post. A few years back, when I was going through a challenging time, I learned how the "be cheerful" attitude really does work. Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I have always believed that we can make the choice to be satisfied/happy/cheerful. I'm not always successful, and this week had more than its share of challenges, but I can make up my mind to look at it with peace in my heart or to rail against it. I'll choose peace.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I want to be like Susan all the time - I'm an inconsistent Susan:) I am always telling my boys to Choose Joy! Kind of like 'Got Milk" - your list is such good encouragement:) The need for quiet is so true- but transitioning out of that quiet in the loud of the daily is sometimes a big awkward for me:) Not giving up, though!

    ReplyDelete
  25. These are great tips, and I so agree with them! Cheerfulness is a choice. It's not always an easy one at first, but once the choice is made to be cheerful, the cheerful feeling follows! It goes along with the saying that "laughter is the best medicine". If I'm feeling like a grump, doing something that makes me laugh feels me with such joy! Even today, as my husband and I were out for a hike, we came upon a rope swing in the woods. I jumped on it and swung back and forth. The laughter from my husband and from me put me in great spirits!

    Blessings, Joan

    ReplyDelete
  26. Beautifully written, Dayle, and so very true. Being cheerful and positive is a habit to cultivate and makes life so much nicer! Thanks so much for sharing ~

    xo
    Pat

    ReplyDelete
  27. You are a gifted writer and I have enjoyed reading your thoughts here on joy, especially helping others. There really is something therapeutic when I do this. I can't imagine you ever being a big Grouch!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I find it hard to believe that you were ever a sourpuss, Dayle!! Although I obviously don't really know you, I DO know that having stories in so many Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and by the wonderful blog posts you write, you are a sweet, kind woman! (and P.S. I try to stay cheerful all the time. I'm a Pollyanna type gal.)

    ReplyDelete
  29. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading. It's nice to be cheery! Good luck to you.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Inspiring... Thanks for sharing :-)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I agree, being cheerful is really a choice we make. Funny thing, being cheerful not only makes others happy, but ourselves also. Great post! Thanks for sharing it with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Dayle, just hopping back to let you know that I will be featuring you at SYC this week.
    hugs,
    Jann

    ReplyDelete
  33. I came by to Thank you for visiting me and now I want to Thank You for writing this post!! I have not been feeling well and was getting depressed about it and after reading this wonderful post, I am going to be cheerful no matter how I feel.......
    So happy that I stopped by to Thank you for stopping by....

    Hugs,
    Deb

    ReplyDelete

Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle