Am I qualified to write a post on what it takes to live joyfully? Probably not any more so than others who also live joyfully. On the other hand, I certainly have seen the back side of this coin. Meanwhile, others have commented to me that I seem very joyful, happy and peaceful. Students have even written it on their course evaluations. So perhaps writing down a few of my observations is helpful.
Those of us who come out of physically or emotionally abusive families, usually have not learned the the healthy psychological habits of living joyfully. Just like learning to set healthy boundaries or only allowing healthy relationships into one’s life, living joyfully is a learned skill. The joy, of course, is within us – within each and every one of us. But it is a skill to learn how to allow that joy to emerge, allowing it to penetrate our everyday life and relationships.
Here some of the habits necessary for joyful living –
1. Take time to reflect and be grateful every day. Do not seek happiness in external things, situations, addictions or behaviors. If you are caught in addiction seek help.
2. Retrain ruminations and thoughts away from victimization, bitterness and resentment. Drinking thoughts like these is no different than drinking poison – and wondering why the other person doesn’t drop dead. Rather, retrain your mind to focus on the positive things in your day, in your life. Get help through therapy if you need it.
3. If you can’t find something positive – create something. Greet the cashier at the grocery store. Say a pleasant “hello” to someone on the street. Do something nice for yourself. The amount of positive energy in your life is dependent on the number of positive actions you are willing to take.
4. Create a network of healthy and supportive relationships. This is a minimal requirement to begin living joyfully. Without others who also live this way we do not have good models to emulate or the support we need to make difficult decisions and choices. Again, introspection, spiritual direction and therapy can be helpful here.
5. Once healthy relationships are in place, begin removing dysfunctional, abusive or unhealthy relationships from your life. Usually this last step will usually happen on its own. Oil and water will separate.
As adults only we can decide which relationships are life-giving for us. Accept relationships and situations for what they are – as they are. Decide what you are willing to tolerate and more importantly what you are not willing to tolerate. This is not about creating drama or ultimatums. It is about slowly, but surely, removing yourself from unhealthy situations. If positive change occurs you can always re-assess. Until then, healthy adults do not worry about other adults, neither do they take care of them, either financially, physically or emotionally.
To allow yourself to take care of another adult, or to allow yourself to be taken care of by another adult is not love – it is co-dependence, enabling and perhaps enmeshment. If other adults in your life need care, point them to resources to get the help they need. Real love desires that other adults have independence and freedom.
6. With your new-found freedom, healthy relationships and energy enjoy your new, joy-filled life!
Justice begins within.