Margaret Feinberg, Author. Borrowed from Guideposts.
The word “joy” appears more than 150 times in the Bible. There are over two dozen scriptures dedicated to the power and importance it has in our lives, yet when it comes to truly defining and implementing joy, we’re left a bit on our own. While happiness is defined simply as a state of being, joy is something much more. It’s a feeling that stays with us, that emanates from our being, not dependent on certain circumstances or our current moods. But how do we find joy in our life and, more importantly, how do we share that joy with others?
Here are my tips for arming yourself with joy and spreading it to those around you, inspired by my new book, Fight Back with Joy.
1) Smile at the people you see.
A recent study found that smiling can increase our happiness level and make us more productive, but the grin must be genuine. Start in your own home. Smile at your roommate. Your spouse. Your kids. Allow your eyes to light up, your hidden teeth to show. Look each person in the eyes. Remember that you’re beaming the joy of God to them. You’re reflecting the delight of your Heavenly Father.
2) Radiate grace.
When you see a coworker, spouse, or child make a mistake, do something clumsy, or break something valuable, rather than becoming angry, bring levity to the situation with laughter and compassion. Help them clean up the mess with a big smile and verbally affirm the person’s value and worth.
3) Sing or hum throughout the day.
All of creation has joined a holy chorus giving praise to God. You can join in right now, wherever you are. Turn on the radio. Plug in the iPod. Hum to yourself. Offer joyful praise to God.
4) Place an exclamation point on today!
Don’t let this be another average day. Pause for a moment and consider what simple acts you can do to make today special for you and those whom you love. You don’t need much time or money. Pick wildflowers or gather some fresh tree branches and place them in a vase. Light a few candles. Pull out the white Christmas lights and hang them around your living room. Set out the fancy dishes. Wear your favorite shirt. God has placed the exclamation point of His love on your life. Do something to reflect that exclamation point of loving Him back by celebrating this day He has made!
5) Write a kind note to someone you love.
If you need a fresh infusion of joy, then bless someone else. Grab a notecard and start jotting down all the things you appreciate about someone. Feel the gratitude well up in your heart. Then, pop that notecard in the mail and spread the joy.
6) Do something you love.
Most people I know aren’t guilty of doing what they love too much, they’re guilty of doing it far too little. God has gifted and wired you for specific activities that renew your joy, fill you with delight, and remind you of His love. One of my great joys is hiking. When I experience creation, gratitude abounds in my heart, and I come home a much happier person than when I left (just ask my husband, Leif!). What is your joy-filling activity? Are you an outdoors person, a coffee shop connoisseur, love shopping with friends, settling down with a great book, or cooking a new recipe? Do the activity that God uniquely wired you to thoroughly enjoy and give Him thanks for it while you’re doing it. Celebrate your Creator.
7) Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
A recent study at a Chicago train station asked commuters to participate in a simple experiment. One group was asked to talk to the stranger who sat next to them. The other group was instructed to keep to themselves. By the end of the ride, the commuters who spoke to a stranger reported a more positive experience—even though most had predicted the ride would be more pleasant if they sat quiet and alone. Research is beginning to reveal what I suspect God knew a long time ago, namely, that interacting with strangers helps us feel happier and more connected. Instead of keeping to yourself, say “hello” and strike up a conversation with those around you.