It’s impossible to feel joy every minute of the day. Life is often a roller-coaster. Amid the good times are the inevitable stressors and tough moments. Our emotions also naturally wax and wane.
However, it is possible to rejoin joy, according to professor and psychologist Gerald Young, Ph.D. It is possible to keep returning to joy even after experiencing something difficult. It is possible, he said, to get on a path that leads to joy.
And creating that path is something all of us can work on. “In our efforts to rejoin joy, we can be the source of much of our change process,” Young said. And those changes can be anything from being a more sensitive partner to working harder to switching jobs to becoming more compassionate overall, he said.
Below, Young offered several suggestions on creating positive change in 2013.
Evaluate your current path.
When surveying your life and the direction you’re heading, Young suggested considering: What do I like? What don’t I like? Then consider “How can I work on what I don’t like?” he said. Then break your answers down into daily or weekly actions.
For instance, you might decide that you’d like to be more present in your life, so you start taking walks and focusing on the nature around you.
Look for behavioral cues and triggers.
If you’d like to change specific habits, analyze your actions, Young said. Pay attention to what precipitates your behavior. This can give you concrete clues into what you need to modify.
For instance, what places, people or thoughts seem to trigger your behavior? What solutions can you create to avoid or eliminate these triggers or minimize their influence?
Work on ways to reduce stress.
Young underscored the importance of reducing stress in helping you rejoin joy. Engaging in stress-soothing strategies, such as breathing exercises, helps you think more clearly, shift to a positive and more realistic perspective, and problem-solve, he said.
As he said, “Stress might bring you down, solutions bring you up.” (Here’s a variety of ways to reduce stress.)
Focus on positive habits.
According to Young, “It’s easier to develop a positive habit instead of stopping a negative habit.” So he encouraged readers to adopt positive habits instead of trying to eliminate negative ones. For instance, instead of saying that you won’t pick up another drink, find a healthy replacement habit, he said. Instead of rehashing an old argument with your partner, work on new ways to communicate, he said.
As Young writes in his book Rejoining Joy, “We need to remind ourselves that there are positive choices that we can make in most any situation, that we have made positive choices before in other situations, and that we can continue making positive choices no matter what happens along our path.”
Joyful woman photo available from Shutterstock