I don’t think that gratitude and joy always come automatically. I think you have to purposefully look for joy, focusing on the blessings around you, because so often our gaze is blurred by the hustle and bustle of life…or overshadowed by negative things happening around us.
According to Brene Brown, happiness is different than joy. Happiness is more connected to circumstances. Just because you lead a grateful and joyful life doesn’t mean you are happy all the time.
“Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.” ~Adela Rogers St. Johns
Gratitude and joy take PRACTICE. The second I get up in the morning, my 3 year old is clinging to me…not even caring about the fact that I just cuddled him and barely had room to move for the last 7 hours of the night. He is whiny, then demands a peanut butter granola bar, then asks for a TV show. As soon as I grab my cup of coffee and sit down, another kid comes down wanting their morning hug and saying “I’m hungry”. I feed those two, then once again sit down to start my 5 minutes of reading for the morning. Immediately the 3 year old starts climbing up onto the chair next to me asking for things (doesn’t he know I’m trying to do 5 minutes of quiet time for my devotional time!) Once he is settled down, my daughter takes his spot next to me chomping loudly on her gum in my ear.
Once I have space, I get my 5 minutes of reading and quiet time in, then open up my wordpress to type a blog. All of a sudden I hear “Can you get me milk?”, and “I’m hungry”. My kids sometimes eat 5 breakfasts in one morning.
Funny that while I was reading about gratitude, I was feeling quiet annoyed..and even said out loud “Can’t a mom ever have any space?!” I promise..there is an alarm on every chair in the house that if my butt is touching it for more than 3 minutes, an alert goes out to one of the 4 children.
Then I stopped and smiled. I told myself…look at them. What are you grateful for? I’m grateful for being home all day yesterday and how well the kids got along and played all day! I’m grateful for the one on one time I got with my daughter yesterday school shopping, Starbucks, and great conversation. I’m grateful I know my husband will be getting up any minute and making dragon fruit pancakes for the family. I’m grateful I have clingy kids that one day won’t want to cuddle me and sit by me anymore.
It’s not always our first reaction…especially for a person that needs space and quiet time (not something you get everyday with four kids). However, I’ve learned the more you practice it…purposefully force yourself to look for the joy and gratefulness even when you aren’t feeling it…the easier it comes. The MORE you feel joyful. The more you can let things go. The less annoyed you feel. The less stressed you feel.
I think it is hard to get there without faith. In fact, Brene found in her research “Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us.”
I often pray for God to help me see the joy around me. I try to thank Him often to bring out that gratefulness inside me.
Practice it. Practice it everyday. There are so many things that can hold us back from joy and gratitude (which I’m diving into next in my reading), but we have the power to live from a place of gratitude and joy.