Happy New Year, my friends!
I hope that you enjoyed the holidays and that the new year is off to a beautiful start for you. In a recent newsletter, I shared that I’m heading into 2018 with one and ONLY one intention and that is to experience as much joy as I possibly can. As many of you know, 2017 was a challenging year for me, as I ended my marriage of 24 years.
Anyone who has gone through this can tell you that, even when you’re the one ending the relationship, it’s a grieving process that takes time. The death of a relationship is not unlike the death of a loved one. During these last nine months, I’ve experienced the full range of emotions – everything from concern for my children to disappointment, anger, feelings of betrayal, fear, and the pain and sadness that come from the fact that people change and some circumstances are simply beyond our control.
In fact, this past year, MOST circumstances were beyond my control. I had, however, two important realizations during this time that quite literally kept me afloat during the toughest times:
(1) I have complete control over my choices. No matter how difficult the situation, I have the power to choose what to do, think, say, and focus my attention on. The actions and choices of others (including how they treat me) do NOT have the power to define me or reduce me. In every moment, I have the power to choose who I want to be and how I want to operate in the world (and it’s important not to mistake kindness for weakness; I saw that I could act with grace, integrity and kindness and STILL maintain strong boundaries). I assumed full responsibility for my choices and my recognition of this power was hugely comforting.
(2) I can ALWAYS access joy. Even on the worst, longest, hardest days, I found things that made me feel good and grateful. Yes, some days, I had to work harder at it than others, but there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t been able to experience at least one moment of joy. Which led to my understanding that my joy, like my choices, is completely up to me. Whereas happiness is created by outside forces – landing the job, getting the guy/girl, buying the shoes, etc. – joy is strictly an inside job. Whereas happiness is fleeting, joy is always available if we choose to find it.
These realizations – particularly the second one- have been so empowering that I decided to make the pursuit of joy my major intention in 2018. I am committed to living a JOY-full life and making choices that align with that. Here are some ways that I’ve found to do that. Of course, there are many more, but these simple commitments are a great place to start.
1-Spend time with people you love, people who inspire you and people who share your values. Seek out people who lift your spirit and contribute positively to your life and avoid those who don’t. It’s that simple. Create the cast of characters you wish to surround yourself with and that will naturally bring more joy to your days. But also remember to…
2-Enjoy your own company. There is a peace and freedom in being ok with being alone. Take time to get to know yourself on the deepest level. Make time for yourself each day: journal, take a bath, prepare a meal, go for a walk, etc. People who struggle with spending time alone often just don’t find themselves that interesting or pleasant to be around. Love yourself enough to nurture this relationship (it’s the most important one you’ll ever have).
3-Follow your curiosities and experience new things – hobbies, interests, books, music, foods, etc. Joy is often found in the unknown.(For more about this, check out this post.)
4-Travel and explore. I’ve found no better way to find wonder and awe than in seeing this big, beautiful world we live in!
5-Eat good/real food. Your body deserves the nourishment and your senses deserve the joy and pleasure that a good meal provides. (I wrote an entire guide on this – with some recipes – called, “Wellegant Mind, Body, Life: Nourish Your Body and Feed Your Soul.” You can download a copy here.)
6-Declutter your surroundings. A space that’s cluttered usually results in a mind that’s cluttered. More space=more clarity=more room for joy.
7-Demand quality in all areas. Whether clothing, home decor, groceries or anything else…be willing to have fewer, but better things in your life. And speaking of quality…
8-Cut back on social media. It’s a time suck and, often, an energy suck as well. I’ve cut back considerably on the time I spend on Facebook and other social media sites. I’ve also stopped following a bunch of people/accounts that tend to be “downers.” It’s made a huge difference in how I feel. Be discriminating about how you spend your time and those you allow into your mental space. If, for whatever reason, something feels negative…unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe. Remember, move towards joy…
9-Allow yourself to feel everything (even the tough stuff!) and rest in the knowledge whatever storms you face will pass. We can’t outrun pain or other negative emotions. We can find ways to numb and/or distract ourselves from pain for only so long. Eventually, it catches up to us (and often packs a harder hit when it does!). Instead, allow yourself to feel both the good and the bad. It’s called being alive! How can we expect to live a full life if we spend our time and energy running from anything that doesn’t feel good and avoiding the very things that challenge us to grow? (And the great irony is that when we don’t run from the hard stuff – when we face it head on and feel it, fully and deeply – it passes more quickly and leaves us with the gifts of clarity, wisdom and an even greater capacity for love and joy.)
10-Celebrate everything! Don’t wait for holidays and special occasions to celebrate. Have dinner on the good china, just because. Pop a bottle of champagne, just because. Invite friends over for an impromptu dinner party, just because. Buy yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers…well, you get the idea. You’re alive and there’s beauty and love and goodness all around you. Is there any better reason to celebrate than that??
So, let’s celebrate the many ways in which we’ve grown during 2017 and all the joy that we will experience in 2018!
Sending you love and light,