4 Ways to Stop Putting Your Joy on Hold

Stop waiting for your circumstances to be “just so” in order to feel happy.

Posted Sep 30, 2016

Jil111/Pixabay
Source: Jil111/Pixabay

Have you been putting your joy on hold, either because of difficult circumstances or because you are waiting for certain things to fall into place before you can be truly "happy"?  This has to be one of the most joy-stealing mindsets there is.  And it's so common, almost to the point of being part of human nature.

Have you had the experience of wanting something so badly, believing to your core that if you would have that thing, that person, that job, that income, that lifestyle, you’d finally have the life you’d always wanted to live and all would be sunshine and roses?

There is some truth to that longing, in the sense that your quality of life truly can be improved by a great relationship, work you love or circumstantial change such as getting out of debt and finally having enough money to cover the bills month to month.

What I’m concerned about is that as we wait or hope for our circumstances to change for the better, we miss out on the beauty of the life we have now.

1) Don’t become that person

Be wary of becoming that person who is never quite happy no matter what is going on.  You’re not happy in your current home, and complain about it to anyone who will listen until you finally are able to move. When you do move, you like your new place well enough but you miss that your old place was closer to the subway, or more peaceful at night. The discontent, the longing for more, the longing for better, or the longing for what was, morphs and takes on a new form.  Contentment and peace are always just out of reach, it seems.

2) Remind yourself of those who are worse off than you are

My medical work in Guatemala has helped me a lot with any discontentment I might have about my life. The phrase “first world problems” is often enough to snap me out of any self-indulgent self-pitying funk that threatens.  If I don’t have to sleep on a flea-ridden floor, soaked by rivulets from the downpour coming through the leaky roof, if I have enough to eat and am not chronically infested with parasites, it’s a good day.

My "problems" are not really problems at all, when evaluated on a global scale. Every day in my life, with few exceptions, is really a very good day. So many people in this world would give anything to have my life. They’d probably give anything to have your life, too.  Ironically, studies show that people in developing countries are often happier than those living in more affluent societies, because of their focus on family, community and faith. These joy-giving elements (family, community, faith) are also good things to focus on when it seems that life is letting you down or isn’t “good enough”.

It helps me, on a regular basis, to remember what it felt like to be eaten alive by fleas in Guatemala, when I find myself complaining about some minor annoyance in my comparatively luxurious home.

We can always find those who are better off than us with respect to certain circumstances, but it’s equally easy to think of those who are worse off.

3) Keep the perspective that you could lose what you have (at any moment)

Have you ever complained about or resented some element of your life in the moment, for example complaining about your significant other or your job, only to find that your perspective changes dramatically when you lose that thing?  That job you complained about every day suddenly seems really appealing when you get laid off and discover it’s really hard to find another one, or end up in a different job that you consider worse.

Wouldn’t it be great, and so healthy, if we could truly appreciate the (imperfect) things we do have, without needing to lose them or have things get considerably worse in order to fully appreciate them?

4) Don’t let disappointment tempt you into longing for the past or the future

Guard against the habit of letting disappointment, loss or stressful circumstances steal your ability to enjoy the blessings of today.  It’s so easy to long for a past that can’t be recovered, or live for a future that has not yet arrived (and possibly never will).

Over the last few years I’ve experienced some events that were particularly challenging. There are circumstances I was forced to live through that I would not have asked for, or dreamed that I would ever experience.  Some of the related stresses and after-effects are still ongoing, and life doesn’t feel as carefree as it used to be just a few years ago.

Something inside me has shifted and grown though (I thank God for that) and I have found myself surprised lately by the contentment and joy that I feel about my life, for what I do have. I used to love to dream about the future in order to feel excited about my life, but these days I’m just really happy with enjoying the simple pleasures of every day. I have such good people in my life, my faith and faith community give me so much joy and strength, my work is meaningful (though it can be hard) and I am so grateful for my relatively peaceful life in a world that's full of chaos and suffering.It is a huge relief to actually be okay with how things are, even if they’re not ideal or what I had expected.

Is it time for you to let go of disappointments, hurts and unfulfilled expectations and just enjoy all that you do have, every single blessed day?

This doesn’t mean that you avoid taking positive steps to improve your circumstances, for example making a plan to get out of debt. In that case it’s a healthy thing to look forward to a time when you are debt-free, and life probably will feel less stressful. But don’t let your current circumstances (including the fact that you have unwelcome debt) steal the real joy and contentment you could still be experiencing, right now.

Don’t wait to enjoy your life until those longed-for circumstances arrive. Chances are, your life is pretty good already.

Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, wellness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, and flamenco dancer. She has been featured as an expert on the Today Show as well as other major media outlets, and is available for keynote presentations, workshops/retreats, media commentary, and private life and health coaching.

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Copyright Dr. Susan Biali 2016