Life is a journey down smooth paths, rocky roads and downright treacherous terrain. Joy comes naturally during the easy times of life, but it takes effort to find moments of happiness during adversity. Here are six ways to find joy during the entirety of life's journey.
Enjoy the good times. When things are going really well in your life, enjoy yourself. This is a time to build memories that will sustain you during difficulties. Capture these moments by taking pictures or writing in your journal. Keep mementos in a treasure box so that you can take them out from time to time and reminisce. Focus on the positive aspects of your experiences and ignore minor mishaps. Science Daily reports that viewing past experiences positively can improve your happiness. Building happy memories now can help you through the more challenging times in your life.
Nurture your relationships. Nothing has greater potential to make us happy than our relationships with others. USA Today says that the happiest people surround themselves with friends and family. Materialism is toxic to happiness because it tends to create competition with others. Nurture your relationships and build a good support system that will sustain you during adversity. Do not be afraid to let others help you through your trials.
Show gratitude. Gratitude is recognizing the abundance and blessings in your life, even in the midst of difficulties. It is appreciating the things that you have. It is savoring the moment and not taking things for granted. It is finding the hidden blessings in unexpected challenges. PsychCentral.com reports that expressing gratitude not only makes people happier, it can increase energy and improve health. In addition, grateful people are hopeful, empathetic, helpful and forgiving.
My friend, Sue, remembers a time in her life where she was overwhelmed with challenges. Her husband was on hospice, the arthritis in her back became debilitating, her son was having marital problems and her daughter was bedridden with a difficult pregnancy. Then, Sue's house burned down.
The one thing that got her through that time was her gratitude journal. Each night before bed, she would write down as many blessings as she could think of. She was grateful for food on the table, for the roses blooming in her daughter's garden, for hugs from her granddaughter. Keeping aware of the blessings in her life kept her from sinking into debilitating depression.
Live in the moment. There are moments of joy in even the most painful times of life. Look for them. It can be a baby's smile, a phone call from a friend, a funny TV show, making love to your spouse, a beautiful sunrise or a sudden summer shower. You need respite from the pain. Open your heart to these moments and rest in them.
Embrace nature. Nature is good for our health and well-being. Canadian science writer, David Suzuki says that spending time in nature can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress levels. It improves your sleep, increases your vigor and boosts your immune system.
Several years ago, I struggled with two difficult pregnancies very close together, difficult recoveries and post-partum depression. Not only did I rely on the love of my family to help me through those times, but I also took a walk on the beach every Sunday morning. The sound of the waves, the feel of the sand between my toes and the taste of salt in the air soothed me. Sometimes, I would gather seashells and marvel at the beauty of creation. Often, I prayed. I always felt comforted and renewed.
Exercise. Most of us know that regular exercise improves our health and helps us maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can also make us happier. FitDay.com says that exercise lowers stress and anxiety, which lowers cortisol levels in the body. In addition, endorphins are released when you exercise. Endorphins stimulate the brain, reduce pain, lower stress and boost feelings of happiness. You can increase your happiness from exercise by working out with others or combining exercise with nature. Anytime you feel the need for a shot of happiness, put on your running shoes and take a jog around the park.
Life is full of pain and sorrow as well as ease and happiness. Those difficult times can make us relish the good times all the more. Embrace your life here, where you are now, and enjoy the journey.
Shelli Proffitt Howells is a BYU graduate, a creative writer, a happy wife and a mother of six. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.