Last week, I was presented with three opportunities to contemplate the word “joy”. The first was at a church meeting where a group of women and I were discussing the difference between happiness and joy. The second was when I was out to lunch with my running crew and I was talking about how I felt that the real accomplishment for me in running the marathon was in the training. “There’s joy in the journey” I said. And the third came when reading a friend’s Facebook post about her weight loss where she too stated that there’s joy in the journey. And I started asking myself – what does that actually mean, “there’s joy in the journey”, because life’s circumstances are not always joyful.
Indeed, life can be a mess sometimes. We can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by things that have built up over time, or our lives can change in an instant with devastating news. However, joy is cultivated when we’re open to the lessons life presents us with, and by finding gratitude in every circumstances. Gratitude in all things, not for all things. It can be difficult to find gratitude when we’re in the middle of a challenge. However, when we look back we can see everything and everyone who showed up for us when we needed it. People who called, texted, prayed, brought food, threw in a load of laundry; the people who showed up when your life felt like it was falling apart.
Joy is not only cultivated by finding gratitude during big life events, but in the everyday, seemingly mundane moments, too. Sitting in awe to watch a sunset or the moon rise, making eye contact with your baby and giggling together, taking a walk while holding hands with your partner, a good joke, crocuses making their appearance after a long winter, or snuggling with your dog. Life is full of moments to be grateful for.
As Thanksgiving week approaches, take a look back on the year and write down everything you’re grateful for. Allow yourself to feel the peace and joy that comes with this acknowledgment. Let it begin a year of finding gratitude for something every day.