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If you were to ask a group of people what they want most out of life you’re sure to hear “happiness.” On the surface, that seems like a great answer. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Wouldn’t it be great to be happy all of the time? Unfortunately, happiness is not a permanent situation. While happiness is a great feeling, it is short lived and fleeting. Happiness is not the result of something inward, or our own positive state of being. Happiness is the direct result of something else. And when circumstances change, the happiness decreases and eventually disappears. The short duration of this good feeling is why so many people feel the need to chase it, seeking happiness as if it were the answer to all of life’s problems.

How exactly do we chase happiness? By buying something because it’ll make us feel better. Or by making a decision because it will “make us” happy. We chase happiness by telling ourselves that we would be more satisfied or happier in life “if only.” Unfortunately, the cycle of “if onlys” doesn’t end. Those new shoes that made you so happy in the moment do not supply a long term result. Neither will that car, the new hairstyle or even your bank account balance. Eventually, the appeal will fade and there will be something else that you’re looking for to create happiness. So instead of chasing happiness, the fleeting feeling that is based on outward circumstances, choose to seek joy.

Although the two words are commonly used interchangeably, joy and happiness are two different concepts. Joy is greater than happiness. It is long lasting. Joy is not the result of outward circumstances or things. Joy is the result of being at peace and content with who you are as a person.   It’s a lasting feeling because it is all about you. Instead of being fleeting, it is permanent. It is the part of you that can get you through rough patches.   Joy can stand in the place where the negative thoughts you’ve worked to eliminate previously held ground.

How can you find joy? In order to find joy, you’ll need to take a good, hard look at yourself. Take time to call out all of the wonderful things about yourself. What are you good at? How do you positively impact the lives of the people around you? Next, what are the things that you would like to work on? In my own journey, I’ve realized that I can overanalyze situations. I have a tendency to think issues through to the smallest detail and turn them over and over in my head. I’ve realized by doing this unnecessarily, I’m stealing my own joy and spending energy that would better be used elsewhere. Consciously redirecting my thoughts has helped me to find joy and peace.

The journey to find your joy may not be easy. During the process, be sure to show yourself, and hopefully others in return, some grace. The end result, feeling content in who you are as a person is well worth the work.