Joy In January?

We’ve just come through “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year”. It is a time when we sing of “Joy To The World” and “Love and joy come to you…” It seems people are more cheerful and joy is not hard to find. It is a very special time of year.

Then comes…banner_januaryIn my part of the United States that means cold. And snow. And gray. When the calendar flips to January my mind and emotions seem to flip a switch from the joy of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays to the dread of weeks – no, months of cold and snow and gray, drab days.

I’m sounding like a real downer aren’t I?

Unfortunately that’s what happens to me when January comes around. And I don’t like it.

This year I wonder, “could there be joy in January?”

Is it possible to find true joy in the midst of the dreary days? I don’t mean just a feeling of happiness but true, deep-down, a bad day can’t rob me of joy! I am determined to find it.

My first idea was to consider what robs us of joy. I mean, if we seem to have it other times of the year and then ‘lose’ it something(s) must be getting in the way, right? Here are some things I have discovered in my own life that rob me of it joy:

1. Attitude/Mental Focus – I believe we have a choice about what we allow to impact our day. Choosing to be positive does make a difference in how we emerge from a situation, even when it’s not ideal. At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, what we allow to stick around in our heads and hearts will determine the direction we go. Consider this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

The truth is we will be presented with challenges. We are not always going to be happy about them or welcome them into our day. That is the reality of life. The key is what we choose to concentrate on when we walk away from those challenges. If we allow negative comments or minor mistakes to get under our skin and overwhelm our thoughts we will begin to see even the good things though cloudy glasses.

I came to this conclusion on my drive home from an especially chaotic and negative day at work. I found myself reviewing segments of the day over and over in my head and with each segment reliving the frustrations, emotions and chaos. I began to pray as I drove and God revealed to me that I needed to let go. Each of the situations I was reliving was over. It didn’t matter if a patient was nasty to me on the phone or the entire office was feeling overwhelmed and negative. These isolated incidents were frustrating but they were just that – incidents. They were not an on-going challenge to be solved or problem to be reconciled. I could choose to allow them to impact my attitude or choose to let go and focus on more positive things.

Choosing to dwell on past negativity will cause us to carry those emotions into the future and rob us of joy.

choose-joy_complete-collection

2. Physical Factors – Working in an orthopaedic office I have learned much about how in injury or pain in one area of our bodies affects other areas as well. God created our bodies intricately and designed each part to work together…physical, mental and spiritual. When physical factors in our body are out of whack so to speak it can impact other areas, stealing our joy. Here are three that I’ve noticed impacting my joy:

  • Sleep – we all know how a lack of sleep impacts our immune system and our ability to function properly but until recently I didn’t realize how much it impacts my mood. Our brains become foggy when we don’t get adequate sleep and our emotions are more sensitive. Here are links to a couple of studies you can check out:
    Harvard Universityhttp://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood
    Psychology Todayhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201308/all-night-the-effects-sleep-loss-mood
    This is an area I still struggle with. Finding balance between activity and turning the world and my thoughts off in order to get enough rest can be a challenge for me. Reminding myself how it impacts my outlook on life and my search for joy is helping.
  • Water – In my quest to become physically healthier I have learned health experts encourage us to drink enough water. As I pay more attention to water I realize how much it feeds my brain and how well I think. There are studies on this as well:Men’s Healthhttp://www.menshealth.com/health/fastest-way-improve-mood
    WebMDhttp://www.webmd.com/women/news/20120120/even-mild-dehydration-may-cause-emotional-physical-problems

    I’m not suggesting water will solve our problems or automatically inject our lives with joy but staying well hydrated may clear our heads enough to find more joy all around us instead of having to wade through a foggy head.

  • Exercise – This is the hardest time of year for me to get exercise in. Morning is my favorite time to exercise and it’s cold in the house in the mornings. It’s a challenge to get up and change my clothes to get in a work-out to start my day. But when I do, my day starts right! Of course there are studies on this as well, telling how our endorphins (body’s natural opiates, designed to relieve stress and enhance pleasure) clear our heads and improve our mood.WebMd – http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
    While morning is the best time for me it may not be the best time for you and I don’t think the time of day matters. It seems that exercising any time of the day will make a difference not only to our physical health but to our moods as well.

    I am not a medical professional and depend on doctors and medical studies to teach me more about how  my body, mind and emotions work together. But here I share with you my experiences and give you some things to consider to clear your head, making room for more joy.

3.  Outward vs. Inward Focus – The more time I spend inside my home the more I risk my focus turning inward as well. In the winter I struggle with not wanting to venture out into the cold for activities, therefore spending less time face-to-face with people, enjoying their company and serving others. I find my thoughts turn inward as well, usually on things that are negative about my life, body, etc. etc.

This is an area I have to be careful of and must make sure I’m not becoming a hermit once January hits. With the internet communities available there can be more personal interaction than 5 or 10 years ago but sitting in front of the computer can cause less desirable influences as well.

For me it is important to force myself to balance activities outside my home with those inside my home. When I am inside balancing ways to focus on others with cuddling up with a blanket, book and hot cocoa is vital. Making gifts for others helps me focus on them instead of myself. Spending time praying for others, writing a note (sending through snail mail or e-mail) to encourage or cheer another are a couple other ways I can turn my focus outward when I am feeling stuck inside.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to share with you more about what I am discovering about joy in my life. Hopefully it will inspire you to find more joy in January – and throughout the year!

blessings, peace, and JOY to you!
Paula

Dream A Little Dream

Happy New Year!

Usually for me the start of a new year is all about goals.

It’s about figuring out what I believe I can accomplish, writing it down, and making a plan to see it through to completion.

Sounds easy and straightforward doesn’t it?

Some years I accomplish my goals and some years end with goals not reached. Most years see some progress, but honestly at the end of the year there’s a little emptiness. Sure I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished but there’s a little something missing.

Every year I’m afraid to dream.

Goals are good. They are important. When they are S.M.A.R.T. goals we can see a great deal of success.
Check out this previous post for more on S.M.A.R.T. goals.
https://pauladavispeace.com/2014/01/18/are-your-goals-s-m-a-r-t/

But  sometimes there’s a dream in our heart that we’re afraid to utter — even to ourselves. We can’t pin it down enough to turn it into a goal. And perhaps it will take a little help from others and a dose of faith to see the dream become a reality.

dream

I have a couple of those. I can give you reason after reason why they stay buried and why they will never come true.

  • What if my dream is too big?
  • What if my dream is too big and I’m disappointed?
  • What if others think my dream is crazy?
  • What if I’m too old?

These are things that hold me back.

The last few months I’ve been thinking more and more about my dreams, and separating a true, deep desire from a hobby or something I’d be interested in trying. Sometimes being busy with little projects can distract us from going after that big dream – the desire of our heart.

One very cool thing is that God wants us to have desires and when the desires/dreams of our hearts are in line with what He wants for us God assures us they will come true.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

When the Lord plants a dream in us He will see it through to fulfillment. I believe at the same time it requires a few things from us:

  1. Spending more time in God’s word, building our faith.
    We can’t know if the desires we have deep inside us are from God unless we spend time with Him. When we spend time studying God’s word and being quiet before Him we can be sure He will confirm the desires that are from Him and show us those that are not. He will build our faith as we know Him better.


     Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
                                                                                                           Hebrews 10:23


  2. Setting aside fear
    When thoughts of fear and insecurities come to mind we need to stop thinking them. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds but it is vital to our faith-building! Make an effort to be aware of how you’re thinking and choose a ‘faith phrase’ to use to replace the negative.


    For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
    1 Timothy 1:6-7


  3. Take the first step
    Ask God to show you one thing you can do to start chasing that dream in a concrete way. Then DO IT!! It may take years for the dream to be completely fulfilled, but it can’t be fulfilled at all if we don’t get started.


    Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

    Philippians 3:13-14


God does have big plans for each of our lives. As the days of this new year turn into weeks and months we are likely to get caught up in day-to-day activities that threaten to blur our dreams, so make a reminder for yourself. Write it down and/or find pictures that represent the dream. Put these reminders where you will see them regularly and keep it fresh throughout the year. I believe when 2015 comes to a close we will see ourselves closer to seeing our dreams become reality. It really is what God desires for us.

I wish for each of you joy, peace and prosperity throughout 2015. And I pray you will be unafraid – beginning today – to go after the dreams God has planted within you. You’re never too old – or too young to accomplish His desires for you.

And now I’m going to take my own advice!

blessings and peace to you…
Paula