Anticipation. We hang on its wing. Expectant. Maybe even border on the edge of giddiness. Our shoulders straighten. Our chins lift. We’re ready. Bring. It. On.
New beginnings. There’s something about them. They come with the perfect canvas for vision casting. But, let’s be honest, some of us approach this time of year with guarded apprehension. Our toes recognize this starting line. Our memory reminds us of what tends to happen as early as three weeks down the road. Our hearts warn us to step forward with caution.
It’s costly to carry expectations, isn’t it? Pursuing life with hope and passion comes with the risk of losing that which your heart so desperately longs to hold on to. We can’t cross one foot into the new year without removing it from the previous one. And sometimes that previous year keeps our feet glued to the grounds of doubt and unmet expectations.
But as the sun rises on 2014, I’m trusting the hope of a new day to stretch across my skin with the warmth of its gentle invitation to keep going. Will you join me?
Here are some practices to help us begin a year of learning how to return to joy:
1. Remember to Laugh
Release those endorphins! We tend to take ourselves too seriously. The stress of life mounts. Our bodies take the brunt of it. Migraines. Stomach issues. Muscle aches. But did you know laughter enhances your intake of oxygen, stimulates your organs and circulation, and aids muscle relaxation. It’s like the ultimate stress reliever. And best part? It’s free.
So, bust out those comedies. Watch the outtakes. Stay on the phone with your best friend, giggling till one am. Break out old photo albums—you know, the ones when your hair passed for an eighties’ rock singer’s. Play Dance Dance Revolution. Or better yet, video your spouse doing it. Find what makes you laugh. Make time for it. Trust me. We need it
2. Allow Yourself to Grieve
You might be saying, “But you don’t know what I’m going through, how can I laugh?” I feel ya. Believe me. But I think we rob ourselves of joy when we give in to the misconception that joy is equated with the absence of pain. The truth is, we can’t avoid heartache. It’s real. It hurts. It’s inevitable.
But can I let you in on something? It’s okay to acknowledge it. It’s okay to weep. It’s okay to throw your fists in the air and scream to the heavens. Give yourself permission to grieve. To cry. To question. Because on the other side of that surrender, you’ll find a source of joy capable to be your strength to make it through this.
3. Change Your Words, Change Your World
There is power in our words. Make no mistake about it. There’s a battle ensuing for the territory of your heart. Words fly all around the battle zone, fighting for the ones we choose to believe. And when you’re in the thick of that war, it’s amazing how easily thoughts can consume you. The more we rehearse the words of negativity in our minds, the deeper the roots of despair sink.
We can tell ourselves to choose joy. But how? The voice of doubt will rage. You can count on it. But instead of repeating it, let’s speak words of truth and hope instead. Let’s make declaration over our lives. Not just aloud; although, that’s necessary, too. But let’s dwell on those words in our thoughts and watch our worlds change.
4. Read Fiction
Okay, so as a fiction author, I’m a little biased here. But, seriously, don’t overlook this one. Story is a powerful mechanism that connects with our hearts in ways that other things can’t. Similar to music, fiction reaches into that crevice where emotion intersects knowledge and awakens things in us we hadn’t realized we needed to hear.
Word of caution, though. Like with all entertainment, guard your heart on what you allow inside. Use wisdom on choosing the best reads, but be sure to make time to let the wonder of creativity fill your imagination.
5. Cultivate Joy from the Inside Out
Can I be a little forthright for a sec? I know some of us would like to gloss over this one, but the truth is, we can’t. We can’t separate our emotional health from our physical health. It’s time to get our rears in gear. Exercise reduces stress, lifts depression, increases energy, the list goes on. Also, make sure you’re getting the proper intake of vitamin B12 as well as Omega-3 fatty acids, both of which can assist as natural remedies for aiding against depression.
So, let’s kick off our shoes, sink our feet into the earth, and begin this year’s stretch of our journeys toward a season of abundant joy in 2014.
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