Overcoming the Struggle to Find Joy
Life isn’t always easy.
Understatement of the year, I know.
My point is that, even for the most optimistic among us, there are moments—perhaps even seasons—in life where it’s a struggle to find joy. It’s hard to remember what we have to be grateful for. Any hardship makes it hard to find happiness again.
That’s normal, I think. (I hope.) It is real. And it is true. I would never discount the experience in a harder, darker season of life—mine or anybody else’s.
But in his book, Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer, Brother David Steindl-Rast says:
“Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens to us.”
You know what that means? Whether we like it or not, joy is always on us. And I think that’s a good thing—even in the hardest moments, we get joy whenever and wherever we want it.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to find, though. Here are just a few ways I’ve brought joy into my life when the struggle has been real:
Buddha said, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
A wise one, that Buddha. Because this one’s important.
When feeling joyful feels like a struggle, it’s likely that we’ve forgotten what we have to be joyful for. I’ve had dark periods in my life, and I’ve no doubt you’ve had them, too. But there’s always been something to be thankful for—one person, one activity, one item, one moment. And likely a lot more than one in every area.
There is always joy to be found, but it’s hard to find when we’re committed to reasons not to.
If you’re aware enough to realize that you’re struggling to find joy (and wanting to get to the other side of that), then I imagine you’re aware enough to pause and find it. Once you think of just that one thing (or person or activity) you have to be thankful for, I guarantee your attitude will shift and it will be a struggle to remain sad.
Count Your Less Traditional Blessings
According to Helen Keller: “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” And if anyone had reason to struggle to find joy, I believe she might have.
Here’s the wisdom in her words: there’s joy in the struggle, too—in the darkness that we often think is obscuring it.
I call the search for this counting your “less traditional” blessings—the hard stuff, the learning curves, the challenges. By acknowledging them and thanking them for the lessons and the opportunities for growth that they provide, you’re that much quicker to let them in and let them go.
And, of course, to see that there’s joy in every circumstance.
Don’t Discount Your “Everyday” Joy
I think joy carries around a certain “blissful” connotation, as if it must always be the most over-the-top, mind-blowing experience of happiness.
That’s wonderful, and I hope we all get to experience that level of joy often—but it is just that: one level. There are much smaller and quieter moments of joy that we all experience every day . . .
. . . in the 30 minutes you take to disconnect and walk around the block . . .
. . . in the sunrise you catch because you had to get up early . . .
. . . in the sweet conversation with the woman behind you in the coffee shop line.
And by ignoring them or discounting them, we’re quick to feel that there isn’t any joy at all, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Take time out of your every day to acknowledge the quiet, everyday moments of joy. And be grateful for those, too.
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David Steindl-Rast reminds us that: “We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
This need not be a struggle, even though we’d often like to make it one. Joy is not a thing you find; it’s a thing you have—always. And we always have the capacity to access that.
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How do you find joy in your day-to-day life?
I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!
Love your thoughts here, Whitney! I wrote on this topic from a different angle for inCourage recently, “When Joy is Hard to Find”, because I’ve struggled to experience joy and happiness in various seasons of life when things were particularly hard. I’m also a fan of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #theHappinessDare (which I think you’d love!)
You inspire me and create beautiful products. Blessings!