Joyful in All Circumstances: 9 Strategies for Choosing Joy

It is January–a brand new year. For many, it is a time of making resolutions and setting goals. I am not usually one for making new year’s resolutions. However, I try to think of attainable self-improvement goals. A word I am choosing this year is joy. Joy. What does that mean, and what does that look like?  

The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” That may sound like a silly goal. But in actuality, it isn’t. I mean look at the world around us. Turn on the news. There is so much turmoil, dissent, violence, and upheaval everywhere. I feel that now, more than any time I can remember, joy has been robbed of our society. I feel that we were created to be joyful people. However, sometimes being a person of joy is a hard thing due to circumstances in our lives.

In the busyness of life, we can get so busy “doing” that we forget to find joy in what we are doing. I know there are times as a parent that I do this. I love being a mom. However, being a mom is probably the hardest job I have ever had and will ever have. It is hard to find joy when I am potty training my two-year-old. It is hard to find joy when my four-year-old does not want to eat what I made for supper that night.

As I think about those two examples, I feel silly that those things get under my skin. I realize I am human. Instead of feeling frustrated, I should be grateful that I have children to potty train. I should be joyful that I have a home and means to make a meal, even if it is not well received by my picky eater toddler.    

Being joyful is not about what I want to do, but rather who I want to be.

So who do I want to be? I want to be a person that brings light to the world amidst all of the darkness. I want to be a mom whose kids look back at their childhood and say, “My mom was always full of joy and love.” I want to be the kind of friend whose friends leave my presence feeling better than when they came. I want to be a wife who can uplift her husband after a long and frustrating day at his job. As I write this, I realize this is a very tall order. It is hard to be a person of joy all the time. However, if we work to do that, we will feel better about ourselves. In turn, the people around us will feel better, too, because of our influence.  

So in this new year, how am I going to be joyful? I have some ideas, and I encourage you to try them along with me. My hope is that by doing some of these simple actions, I will be less likely to react negatively, but instead have the fortitude to find joy and calmness when hard things come up.  

9 Strategies for Choosing Joy

1. Get enough sleep

I am a mom. Is that even possible? That is hard to do. Especially if you are like me and have young kids. Figure out what an adequate amount of sleep is for you, and try to get that much sleep at night. As a parent of an infant and two toddlers, I know that everything is a phase and that someday I will have a full night’s sleep again. In the meantime I am going  to do my best to function on what I am given for sleep and make the most of it.  

2. Exercise

Get out and do some sort of physical activity. It doesn’t have to be anything intense. It can even be going for a walk. There are many places in our community that you can go walk (rec centers, the mall, outside trails when the weather allows, etc.). I personally find running and working out as a great way to relieve stress. If I can find time in my everyday to do something along these lines, I will be so much better off.

3. Quiet time

As a mom, it is hard to find time for quiet. There are some days when I don’t even know what quiet time is. But try to make time for a few minutes for just you. You can spend that time praying, reading, journaling…the possibilities are endless. Maybe it can be right when you get up in the morning. Maybe it can be during kids’ nap times. It might need to be after kids are in bed. But take some time for quiet. I find doing that refreshes my soul.  

4. Listen to music.

Music tends to speak to people. There are times when the lyrics to a song speak directly to our hearts. I encourage you to find a genre of music that makes you happy and speaks to you. Listen to that music as often as possible. I am sure you will find happiness and joy when you find the right kind of music that makes your heart dance.  

5. Have dance parties with your kids

I know that sounds so ridiculous, but seriously try it.  Have you ever pulled up a Pandora station or put in a cd of favorite music and danced with your kids? If you haven’t, I encourage you to try it. When I suggest it to my kids, they are instantly excited. When we do it, there tends to be a lot of giggling and belly laughing. What better way to bring joy than through laughter?!  

6. Laughter

Learn to laugh at yourself. We all have those moments of “mom brain.”  Instead of getting down on yourself when you do something you didn’t intend to do, laugh at yourself. I think sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. I am so guilty of this.  

7. Count your blessings

We have been given so much and have so much to be grateful for. I know sometimes we take those things for granted. Spend some time each day counting your blessings. If it helps you, write them down. A spirit of thankfulness will most definitely bring you joy.

8. Surround yourself with people that lift you up

I know this seems like a no-brainer, but we all have that one friend that likes to complain. We all have that friend or acquaintance who judges everything we do because their way is always the right way. My solution to that is to not spend time with that friend. Surround yourself with people who support you as a mom. Surround yourself with people who don’t judge you if your kids are misbehaving. Lord knows they all misbehave! Surround yourself with people who build you up and don’t tear you down. Life is too short to be around people who make us feel bad about ourselves.  

9. Reflection

Find ways to continue to grow as a mom and as a person. We are all human and we make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes and allow THEM to change you into the type of mom/woman you want to be. Spend time with your spouse/significant other reflecting. Read some good books that may pertain to the area that you want to change or grow in. Let your mistakes drive you to learn more and to be better. We are all a work in progress. No parent has it all down, even though they may appear that way on the outside.  

Being a person of joy takes courage. It takes courage to choose joy in the hard times in our lives.  It takes courage to choose joy during the most frustrating parts of being a parent. But if we can learn to find enjoyment in what we are doing, our lives–as well as the lives of those around us–will be better.  

“Joy does not simply happen to us; We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every every day.”
~Henri J.M. Nouwen


Brenda is an Iowa native who has lived in the Iowa City area since 2005. She is married to her love, Robert, since 2012. Brenda is an elementary teacher by trade. She spent almost nine years as a stay at home parent but is now back in the classroom spending time with her school kids and being a mom to her own kids. She is the mom of three; Gabe (April, 2013) Maggie (April, 2015), and Julianna (September, 2017). Brenda enjoys being active by running and working out. She also enjoys trying new recipes, volunteering, playing board and card games, and being involved in church. Brenda is an elementary teacher and loves cheering on the Cubs, UNI Panthers, and the Iowa Hawkeyes. It is a busy but beautiful life!


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