3 Ways Choosing Joy Helps to Combat Feeling "Old"
Visiting with My Grandma
Recently, my husband and I had the privilege of spending the day with my 96-year-old grandmother, who I lovingly call Memaw. In our discussion, she mentioned that she doesn't feel old most of the time—not until she looks in the mirror, anyway.
I mentioned to her that with all my health problems nowadays, I sometimes feel as old as she is! Of course, we both laughed, but I wasn't entirely joking. We continued our conversation, but somehow that feeling stayed with me.
We had a wonderful day, but on the way home, I wondered how I may feel if I'm able to live as long as she has. Will I be so used to feeling old already, that it'll be somewhat of a breeze? Am I really getting all my lifetime illnesses over with now, so that I'll be a healthy 80-year-old? That's what I tell myself, whether or not it's true. That part doesn't matter; as long as I'm able to laugh about things now, I'll be just as pleasant as Memaw. Well, maybe nearly as pleasant, since my Memaw is beloved by all who know her.
The Focus of Attitude
Some days I do feel as old as others at least twice my age (I'm only 39), but I strive daily to keep my attitude joyful. Days seem to come and go quicker than they did when I was a carefree child. Does stress and anxiety do that? Does it come from all our past experiences stacking up in our memories making it seem as if time were flying by? I have read many theories from respected individuals about it, but I think it all comes down to our attitudes.
Psalm 17:22 states, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." If David, the man after God's own heart, said this and God in His infinite wisdom allowed it to be in our Bibles, then it is true. Sounds too easy, you say? Oh, believe me, I'm having my fair share of tough days, brought on by poor decisions or from health issues completely beyond anyone's control. Sometimes it isn't easy to have a cheerful disposition.
As the old saying goes, "Misery loves company." It's easier to complain or to have a generally poor attitude when someone is there with you, feeling the same way or even stoking the fires of your melancholy mood.
But (sometimes I'm so thankful for that word!), there are ways we can teach ourselves to focus on the good. Here are three ways to choose joy we can all do from time to time.
3 Ways to Choose Joy
I can assure you now that I'm not a sage with all the wisdom I need. But there are a few things that have helped me when I felt I had no more life to give, and I hope they will be something that may help you as well.
Why three ways to choose joy? Why not 5 or 10 ways? I don't know about you, but sometimes I can't remember 10 ways to do something, or, at the end of a horrible day, have the determination or concentration left to try five things. Just three.
1. What's the Best Thing that Happened to You Today?
It may sound like a silly question, and when I've asked friends that on occasion, I get the strangest looks. But in order to answer the question, it forces us to stop and think about the positives in our days instead of the unable-to-bear negative ones.
For example, due to some health issues, I've recently become nearly unable to walk up or down inclines of any grade. It makes me feel as if I will fall in the direction of the slope, makes me nauseated, as well as a general decline in my balance for a while afterward. For lunch today, my sweetie took me to a city park in our town that I haven't visited before. Today is absolutely lovely, with blue skies, puffy white clouds, and a small breeze. Sure, it's a little warm outside, but it's suppose to be this time of year. There were bright green leaves on all the trees, with picnic tables in the shade near the river's edge. It was such a lovely place, and being the nature lover I am, I longed to walk down there and discover the beauty to be found!
But I couldn't. I took a couple steps down the long slope and stopped. Tears sprang to my eyes without warning because I desired so very much to walk down there that it sincerely caused me pain that there was one more thing I couldn't experience. One more place I can't visit. I felt as if life were passing me by without my being able to fully participate!
Instead of staying gloomy and allowing myself to feel hopeless, I immediately refocused my thoughts on the pleasant lunch we had in the part of the park that we did get to eat in. I am so thankful that I was able to experience lunch with my husband and have the opportunity to watch the squirrels and birds. It was the best thing that happened to me today!
2. Write down your blessings.
I mean this literally. Write them down. It may seem a little silly at first, but you'll be glad you did this short activity. You may need to see it in print, so get your paper and pen (or break out your laptop or cell phone) and write them down. Make a list of 10, 25, or even 100 items that you are thankful for. It's sometimes easy to overlook the everyday things and the things we see or do all the time. To take the time to sit and concentrate on the blessings we take for granted encourages us to slow down and take stock in our lives.
This can be a good way for those who battle depression to regain some feelings of positivity in their lives. If you struggle with anxiety, this short activity may be able to calm you in a way other activities can't, by giving you something to focus on that isn't negative or scary.
If you've never been diagnosed with a mental diagnosis, I'm truly glad for you. It can help you too.
A friend and coworker once said I was Positive Paula while she dubbed herself Negative Nancy. Where have I been living (under a rock, apparently) that I didn't know what she was talking about? This is great! It's even simple enough we can use this with our children as a teaching tool.
3. Do an Act of Kindness for Someone.
Helping someone else is a great way to help yourself too. It sounds strange, but it works! By getting out of your comfort zone just a bit, you can touch the life of another person for the better. It doesn't have to be a life-changing event for them, such as volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to build a school or a home. By all means, if that is what you choose to do, get out there and do it! However, if you want to try something a little smaller, it can still make an impact on someone's day.
I recently took a survey online that asked thousands of people what they would like to receive more: a visit from a friend or loved one, a text message from someone special to them, or a friendly piece of mail in their mailbox. I was surprised to find the majority of people preferred the cheerful text message over the other options. See? That would be easy to do, wouldn't take up much of your time, and it would benefit the recipient of the text. I have a feeling that if you decide to do any of the above, you will also have a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart.
Choose Your Attitude
I genuinely believe that in choosing joy for ourselves, it will affect our attitudes. You will see whatever it is you are looking for. It we look for joy, that is what we will find. The rewards may not be immediate, but they will be well worth the time we put into it!
Remember the three ways to choose joy.
- Identify the best thing that happened to you today.
- Write down your blessings.
- Do an act of kindness for someone.
In doing these things, we will be able to stay young longer and will be able to enjoy life even more.
Which of these ways have you tried?
What about you? What are your thoughts about choosing joy as a means to avoid getting "old"? Remember, "old" is an attitude, not a number!
© 2017 Diana Majors