Joy is that illusive thing that we all want more of but don’t always understand how to walk-in outside of those happy, good-news moments in our life. But what if I told you that we don’t have to wait on the good stuff in life to make us happy?
That we could learn how to experience more joy on a daily basis regardless of what’s going on in our life. And not just experience it – but cultivate more joy by practicing 2 seriously fool-proof habits.
To cultivate means to promote the growth or development of something or to devote oneself to. And a habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.
Notice that the definition of habit is an “acquired” behavior. In other words, it’s a behavior that you aren’t necessarily well versed in or feel natural doing. It’s a behavior that you decide to do and keep doing until you no longer have to consciously think about it. It’s automatic.
Wouldn’t it be nice to “turn on” joy as we go about our day? Wouldn’t it be nice to teach joy to our children and practice in our families? That would lead to a better atmosphere at home, for sure. Don’t you think?
The bible tells us that joy is our strength. And I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed and feel like quitting sometimes. I know now that it’s joy that helps me overcome tough seasons, and actually works like a hand that literally picks me up off the floor.
What? You’ve never dropped to the floor in an outright break-down during a tough moment? Well, I sure have. And I’ve learned that joy makes getting up and getting through, a whole lot easier.
And let me tell you something. Joy never came easy for me, and is still an area that I need to watch on a daily basis. I have a tendency to get really intense and focused – with joy running behind like a small child just trying to catch up.
Yes, I know my blog is basically dedicated to teaching others how to live a joy-filled life. So how am I qualified to teach you about joy if I struggle with it myself?
Well, who better to teach than someone who has gone through many years of anger, depression, and frustration and learned how to walk-in the victory of joy? Who learned how to tap into the power of joy and experience the life-changing benefits of it. And the following 2 fool-proof habits will teach you simple ways to cultivate more joy in your family.
Choose Joy Over …
Joy isn’t the same as happiness. Happiness comes rushing in after positive and pleasurable circumstances. Like when you get a promotion or you get an unexpected check in the mail. That good feeling comes automatically without any thought.
But what happens when nothing good seems to be happening? When you’re experiencing what I like to call a valley-season where you feel vulnerable and exposed to the harsh elements of life; and all you can see is how far you’ve got to climb.
We all experience these valley-seasons and while they’re the right environment for us to grow and get stronger – they simply don’t feel good. What do we do then? How do we get out of the funk?
We make a decision. A decision to practice joy. That’s right you can practice joy because it doesn’t function like happiness. It’s not based on outward circumstances. Joy is a decision. You can choose joy over disappointment, frustration, and negative thinking.
Now, I totally get that in the midst of bad news, feelings of joy can seem no where in sight. And the thought of “doing” anything that produces positive feelings usually isn’t our go-to reaction. That’s because sulking or having an inner (or outward) tantrum feels good to our senses. We just need time to be in the moment.
But if we get really honest with ourselves, we know that letting our emotions just run wild isn’t good for us. We know that when our toddler gets mad and proceeds to demonstrate his displeasure in the moment by screaming and hurling his toy across the room; we disapprove and quickly correct the behavior.
But when we are having our own tantrum – we all too often just “go with it.” There’s just one problem. A toddler’s memory of why he was mad in the first place is gone as quickly as it came. We, on the other hand, can hold onto negative feelings and emotions for hours, days, weeks, and even years in some cases.
So learning how to stop them in their tracks before they take hold is essential to cultivating joy in our family. Being about to call on, better yet maintain, joy through all our circumstances will serve us well. And teaching our children to do the same is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
So, how to we do it? By trusting that hard times don’t last forever. That you’re not merely figuring out your life on your own. When we truly surrender, we can trust that Jesus is already working everything out for your good. And this problem won’t last forever.
Behind every fleeting storm cloud is a constant blue sky. When challenges come, joy rises up because we know, like the blue sky, God’s love for us is constant.
Just because it doesn’t look or feel like it at the moment, you can send a message from your heart to your head that it’s going to be alright. How do you do that? By doing what you would do if you had your desired result standing right in front of you.
No, I’m not saying you should run around faking it. I’m saying that we need to apply some faith to our situations. Which means that you believe you already have what you’re believing to happen. And if you believe it – than your actions will line up with your belief.
When you see a chair, you usually just sit down without thinking about it. That’s because you believe it’s going to support you. Your belief, or faith, lined up with your action of sitting down in the chair. If you saw the chair and didn’t think it was going to support you; your action would be to stay standing.
If we believe that our situation won’t stay like this forever, and that God’s love for us is never changing – we’ll act in accordance with that belief. Now, some problems are more “weighty” than others, and we’ll need to remind ourselves of what we believe frequently. But practicing and cultivating joy is a skill we ALL could learn how to better and better everyday.
Freely Give Grace
Another way to cultivate joy in our families is to extend grace to our self as well as our spouse and kids. When we extend grace, we’re sending the message that mistakes are OK. We all make them and it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
This doesn’t mean we disregard actions that need to be corrected, redirected, or punished. But grace helps us to deal with the action and still nurture the heart of the person.
How many times have you messed up and had a really hard time forgiving yourself? I know I have. But I’ve learned that if I can’t give myself permission to be human, then I won’t be able to do that for my family either. And when we’re all running around passing blame – joy gets trampled on.
3 ways we can easily apply grace in our family
Giving grace isn’t always the easy method for cultivating joy, but it is extremely effective. And I’ll add that’s it’s necessary. We ALL need grace. The following are 3 ways you can apply grace in your family.
Affirm more than we criticize or correct.
As parents and/or spouses, when we only open our mouths to points out how the bath towels didn’t get hung up, the beds didn’t get made, how the socks are still laying on the floor beside the bed, and the only grade you mention in your child’s school folder is the one that fell below the others – that’s a BIG problem.
And it’s a major point of growth for me. And one that I need to constantly stay on top of when it comes to my kids and even sometimes my husband. I have a tendency to “point out” what’s not working right or not being done.
I’m learning how to affirm and encourage more which actually helps to motivate everyone in my house to do the things I told them to do in the first place! That’s because affirmation is a way more powerful leadership tool than criticism; which ends up wearing them down instead. With affirmation, your family will be built up emotionally and will enjoy their lives more.
Eliminate the pursuit of perfection
When we expect perfection from ourselves and our children, we’re setting our family up for failure. That’s because perfection is an illusion that can’t be realized. It’s a chase that you’ll never catch up to.
And in the process, you’ll cause yourself and your children to feel like you can never measure up to unrealistic expectations. This ultimately leads to the regression of motivation due to the fear of making a mistake and “not being perfect.” And as Winston Churchill said, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” And oh so true are those words.
Choose to see the best in the person and the situation
In other words, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. This is wisdom for EVERYONE but is especially helpful between spouses and siblings.
It’s amazing how I absolutely trust my husband’s love for me and know he’s never trying to hurt me. But in the midst of a heated discussion I somehow become blinded to that understanding, and can feel like he’s out to get me.
It’s the same way with my girls. My youngest daughter is one of the sweetest people I know. She’s just naturally bent toward compassion. And her older sister is well aware of her sister’s pleasant nature. But when she notices that something of her’s is missing, for example, she can launch an all-out war to get it back. All the while, completely ignoring her sister’s good character.
After all, isn’t this what we want others to do for us? When something seems to look or sound bad we want others to give us the benefit of the doubt before passing judgement. And when we put this into practice in our family, it is sure to grow more joy in your home.
I want to encourage you that these habits can take time to develop in yourself and your children. So, try creative and fun ways to remember them as a family. To get you started, you can have your kids decorate a small poster board with the 2 habits and post it on the refrigerator for the family to see throughout the day.
I also recommend having personal reflection time to write and keep track of those habits you want to shape and develop in your life and family. You may practice a regular quiet time routine like I do.
Or you may write in a journal. Either way, I find when we make time for creating habits, they’re more likely to stick! If you’re looking to make cultivating joy a priority, try journaling your transformation.
To help you, I’ve created beautiful Transformation Journal Printables to guide you in the journaling process.
But most importantly, be intentional about implementing these habits into your daily family life and make a BIG deal when you see them in action!
Do you have any habits that you practice to cultivate joy in your family? Please leave a comment and share with us so we can learn from you, too. What do you think about these habits? Do you think your children will respond to them?
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