i! I’m Mary Kathleen Scott the artist and printmaker behind Breadcrumbs Studio and the voice here at Discovering Breadcrumbs. My encouragement and thoughts to grow and work towards your purpose.
This is a part of The Cultivate Project. A once a month project where I explore mindsets and practices we can cultivate and nurture to bring more care to ourselves and others. And this month we are talking about Joy.
As we lead into this holiday season, the one word that comes up over and again is joy. We hear it and yet somehow often in this season, we don’t live it. And I think for many of us we don’t live it all the year round. But it’s important that we do cultivate joy during this season and certainly the entire year round.
And if we can cultivate an inner joy during one of the busiest times of the year it should become a habit that we hold onto all year.
When I say cultivate joy, I don’t mean a slap happy grin that’s always on your face with not a care in the world. Yes, this would be great but to even get there we have to nurture the joy deep within ourselves. A joy that comes from self love and trust that opens us to our whole selves and then begins to overflow outside of ourselves.
You may know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever had the feeling of a happiness that makes you feel content yet have momentum at the same time. One that comes from a place you don’t know. There is no explanation, but you’re just having a great day. If you’ve never had that feeling, then you definitely need to keep listening.
This inner joy is powerful and can drive you to do new things, become open to new opportunities, and make you more attractive to others (at least people who exude the same joy). When you cultivate this joy, it becomes a habit and you live with it daily. But the best part is, it can affect others around you.
Living with joy doesn’t mean though that you have no problems, no sadness, no stresses (though these will feel minimized) because you will have them. You will grieve, you will struggle but living with a cultivated joy means you will also move through these things with strength, with a stronger hope, and with love for yourself and others. And I want to emphasize, cultivating joy creates love. Love for ourselves, love for our neighbors, love for our work, love for where we are, love for where we want to be. And I might argue that this love for where we want to be begets desire and desire often drives us to purpose where we discover our calling.
As we look into how to cultivate and nurture joy, lets take a look at the opposite – what might be stealing our joy and those things we can do to counteract it and release a deep seeded joy.
Theodore Roosevelt influenced more people than I’m sure he ever thought he would with one quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison only leads to jealousy which leads us out of love and into hating ourselves and eventually to others because they have and you don’t. We can never move forward while nurturing comparison. We’ll only be trying to keep up. To avoid the comparison trap, it’s necessary to cultivate self love and gratitude. Comparison introduces problems, shuts out opportunities, and creates a wall between us and others because we will fill the lack we feel with inauthentic actions. We become someone we aren’t and it’s hard to love ourselves when we have to always work to put up our inauthentic selves. It’s tiring and we fall deeper into hating ourselves so that digging out becomes harder as well. Yes, it takes work, but it’s so worth it when we nurture self love – for our true selves.
One way to do this is also to begin a gratitude practice. In the last episode, I mentioned it was hands down the number one thing you can do for self care and to bring more peace and joy into your life. Go have a listen if you haven’t already after listening to this, but gratitude can be practiced in a number of ways and if done intentionally and daily you’ll notice a joy creep in that can’t be squashed, even in stressful moments. Practicing gratitude helps direct our attention from our limitations to the things we do have and gives us a more abundant outlook.
Beginning with gratitude leaves little room for comparison which leaves room for joy to grow in your heart and your mind.
Cultivating joy helps us move out of victim mode which keeps us stagnant, stuck where we are, and comparing ourselves to other people’s situations. We face these things with confidence, with empathy, with strength, and with a more hopeful approach. We no longer sit in victim mode but instead become an overcomer.
What do I mean by victim mode? This is where we might feel hopeless, expect a rescuer to help, feel misunderstood or feel powerless. By cultivating joy within ourselves, we begin moving out of this feeling of helplessness. The most obvious movement is when we begin to see and appreciate what is around us. This appreciation leads to a problem solving mentality as we begin to see what we have, we can see how to use what we have, and move forward by making decisions. As we nurture this gratitude and appreciation, we begin to ask what we really want and how we can get there. And the more we can nurture what we want, the more joy we feel.
First, start with your day. Act like and even say it, this day is going to be a great day. Attitude is everything and even in tough times we can infuse our days with hope and a good attitude. When I think of this, I think of Ted Lasso showing up at his boss’ door every morning with a biscuit and a smile, no matter her reaction. There is an inner joy he exudes even though he is coping with hard things in his life. And obviously he’s asserting a positive attitude on his day despite his problems and the attitudes of others around him.
Take a moment to reflect on who you’re hanging around. Do they complain a lot? Do they love to blame or talk in a negative way? If so, you need to spend less time with them, or find a way to bring a positive attitude to the relationship. Find others who build you up, who speak positively and exude joy. My husband can’t stand to be around pessimistic people – it goes against his very nature – which is eternally optimistic. But he says when he’s around people with negative thinking it just puts him in a bad mood and he can’t stand it. He wants to be joyful so is always drawn to people with a positive mindset.
Get a mission. Find something you want to do and do it with purpose. It can be as simple as running a 5K – ok that may not be simple to you but hopefully you get my point. Once you decide you want to run that 5K, you have a mission. But a mission means purpose which means you have to attempt to follow through. That can be hard but as you work towards that purpose and achieve it, the joy you find in the process will help you keep moving forward. It becomes about the process, not whether or not you actually do the 5K. It is a momentum builder for joy and helps you forget about the negative stuff. The thing is, you have to choose a mission or purpose that you actually want. Something you desire, so you have to be clear on that with yourself. And then have your why behind that desire.
Keep a gratitude journal. Like I said before gratitude opens up the pathways to joy like nothing else and closes off the trap of comparison.
Live in the present moment. Slow down and appreciate the moment now, no matter where it is. What is this moment giving you? A lesson, a beauty, an opportunity? There’s a number of positive things any moment can give us.
Share in someone else’s joy. We can do this by just giving a compliment, by helping someone else, or by celebrating with someone a win they had. Even just having a laugh with someone else allows joy to enter.
This is a time of celebration and a time we focus on joy. But I encourage you to carry it over into the rest of the year. Many of us are drawn to the stress of the season, usually due to overpacking our days, spending more money than we should, and facing relationships that can be stressful. But we can overcome the stress of the season by focusing on what makes us joyful, living for the present moment, and entering each moment with a positive attitude. Most of all celebrate the season in appreciation and watch as love blossoms inside. After all love is the reason why we should express joy during the Christmas season. God loves us more than we could ever imagine and out of that love he wanted to draw closer to us and so incarnated as his son to not only express his love but to experience us as one of us and allow us to experience him as one of us. So as we move through this season, lets experience ourselves and each other in the same way, with love. This will lead us to true and deep joy.