Have More Joy with These Great Spiritual Tips
Life is always stressful. During certain seasons or particular times of the year, however, our stress is magnified. Perhaps this is one such time of year for you as you prepare your taxes, get ready for your child’s First Holy Communion, plan your son or daughter’s high school graduation (and solidify post-secondary plans), and so on.
When the joys of life seem to flicker and fade, it’s time to bring some much-needed perspective back. Most tips relate to changing our thoughts and attitudes, which is truly at the core of changing how we feel or react to stressful situations. Even more, though, our spiritual journeys can pave the way for even more intentional living as disciples of Christ.
Be intentional, sincere, and humble in everything you do.
Let pretenses fall by the wayside. Stop trying to be someone you’re not, someone else, or someone who doesn’t even exist. Joy becomes more bountiful when we simply accept and embrace who we are.
You might be surprised to learn that most people will respond favorably to you if you are honest in what you say and how you act. The most basic definition of integrity is when we don’t change who we are to suit certain people or in different social situations. We are who we are.
If you aim for sincerity of heart and practice the delicate balance of being intentional in how you spend your time or in producing thoughtful responses to your family members, neighbors, or coworkers, you will notice that you’ve become a person of true joy.
Remain focused on the present moment.
Secularists call this “mindfulness,” but unfortunately with that term comes a lot of thoughtless “emptying of the mind” techniques taught in Eastern religions. The kernel of wisdom from the whole mindfulness movement is that we can learn to be less stressed by turning our thoughts back to the here-and-now.
Far too often, stress is brought on by the avalanche of “what ifs” that comprise worry and fear. Try to think of what you are doing now, and do the next thing. It’s a lot like putting one foot in front of the other and keeping in mind the image that God lights our path step by step – not all at once.
There’s a reason God doesn’t reveal our entire life story to us in one fell swoop. It’s because He knows we need to take life in small increments, bit by bit, instead of always worrying about the next possible disaster. So pause frequently and look around you. Take in the beauty you might have otherwise overlooked because of your rumination on needless fretting. Allow God to infuse you with joy in the moment of now.
Be grateful for blessings both great and small – every day.
Spiritual and secular experts on abundant living agree that gratitude exponentially increases our joy. Maybe it’s important to back up a moment and remind yourself that joy isn’t necessarily the same thing as happiness. We can strive for the happiness Jesus told us about in the Sermon on the Mount when He gave us the Beatitudes. We can even expect to be reasonably happy in this life, as the Catechism states. But we cannot count on happiness to be our ultimate end.
Unlike happiness, joy doesn’t rely upon our fickle feelings to carry us through trying times. Instead, joy can – and often does – mingle with the deep chasm of grief. It’s because we find the blessings in everything around us.
Sometimes you will struggle to find a blessing in your day. But look around and within. Maybe the blessing is that songbird chirping outside your window right now. Maybe it’s the dandelion your three-year-old picked for you an hour ago. Maybe it’s a verse you heard on a song in the car radio while you were on the way to work. Or maybe it’s a note from a friend – or a text, a call, a message, a card.
God speaks to us in everything. Find how He is reaching your heart today, and you will be filled with greater joy.
Live for the next world, not this one.
A lot of our stress is self-imposed. We try too hard to keep up with everyone else, and we become discouraged if we can’t afford such-and-such or the things we do own fall apart. It’s a slippery slope that anyone can fall into, especially since we’re surrounded ad nauseum by such a materialistic culture.
But try to remember that you cannot serve two masters. You must choose either God or the world. The world will tell you that you aren’t enough, don’t have enough, can’t make enough. This is a scarcity mentality. The result is fear, discouragement, shame, and so on.
If you focus on your heavenly journey, you will be better able to live as a misfit (so to speak) in this life without losing your inner joy. In fact, joy might be more prominent in your life, and others might be drawn to possess it. The result of living for God is sublime peace and contentment in knowing that you are truly striving for holiness every day.
Ask God to put one person in your life each day who needs something you have to offer.
Sometimes all we need to lift us out of self-pity is to help someone in need. This needn’t be in order to assuage our own interior pain, but rather can be an exercise in generosity.
If you pray every morning that God will place one person in your path today who needs something you have to offer, He will do it. It’s quite an adventure to watch it unfold, because more often than not, the person will be a stranger to you. And the circumstances will line up providentially.
The world needs the gifts that only you can give. Maybe it’s your smile, your sense of humor, your ability to forgive easily. Maybe it’s a particular craft or talent, such as woodworking, knitting, writing, or singing. Maybe it’s your calm presence. Whatever it is, only you can give it. And there is someone out there today who could use the encouragement that comes from you alone.
Live with less.
You can’t stress when you have less. Sounds corny, but it’s so true. Think about it: if you don’t own a bunch of “stuff,” including high-tech and expensive devices, you have less to maintain, replace, or clean. Try to simplify your life. Clean up both your closets and your interior attachments to things. Find the clutter hiding in your life – maybe in the form of an addiction, maybe related to a fear of letting go – and pray that God will release you from its grasp. Ask Him to give you the grace, courage, and strength to gradually live with less. The joy that replaces your things will be immeasurable.
Fast from social media.
Social media complicates our lives. This knowledge is becoming more mainstream with books like Deep Work by Cal Newport and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Even more disturbing, using the Internet constantly has actually changed the structure of our brains – how we process information, our ability (or inability) to think deeply (read: reflect and pray).
With this in mind, why engage in the dreadful political banter, judgmental trolling, or sad oversharing of others? If this isn’t what you normally see on your social media, it’s likely you feel a bit intimidated or outdone because everyone’s posting photos of roses, cherries, and smiles from their accounts.
You don’t have to entirely get rid of social media, but I promise you, if you fast from it even for a brief period of time, you will rediscover what it means to be joyful – and less stressed.