Choose Love. Choose Joy.

In my journey of personal transformation, I’ve learned the things we desire most, like wealth, love, and happiness, don’t happen by accident, but by consistently practicing thoughts and habits that align with those states of being. 

Many of us are waiting for circumstances to change on their own so that we can feel better; as a result, life is a mixed bag of highs and lows.  We are at the mercy of whatever comes our way, living in constant reaction to events taking place and feeling helpless.  But when I observe people who are happy, wealthy, and in love, I see something in common with all of them: they proactively CHOOSE happiness, wealth, and love.

As someone who suffered from depression nearly all of my life, I had a lot of resistance to the idea that I could choose joy.  I got used to being at the mercy of my unpredictable mood swings.  Some days were spent in bed because of the depression, and others were spent in a state of unexplained euphoria.  I had no control over which one it would be from day to day, and I resigned myself to the belief that I had an unspecified mood disorder which would run my life forever.   

That began to change when a friend invited me to participate in a joy challenge with her.  The idea was to journal things that brought me joy for 21 days.  I wanted to tell her to “go somewhere with all of that,” but there was an ache in my heart whispering for me to try.  I had nothing to lose.

I went to Barnes & Noble looking for a journal and found one with a picture of a bee on it, and the words, “BEE HAPPY.”  I smiled so hard when I saw it.  In that moment, it occurred to me that maybe joy wasn’t so hard to find if I went looking for it.  So for 21 days I went on a JOY scavenger hunt.  I Googled pictures of objects and scenes that made me feel good, printed them out and taped them into the journal.  It became a scrapbook of beautiful images, phrases, and reflections.  In 21 days I learned that joy is a habit–a practice.  And that was only the beginning.

I learned that joy was a result of my focus, not my conditions, BUT…

I came to realize that factors in my environment could influence my focus. 

So the challenge evolved from finding things that made me happy to curating my environment so that I *only* experienced the best life has to offer.  I took inventory of my internal and external surroundings.  What media was I consuming, and was it contributing to my joy?  I paid close attention to how I responded to songs I listened to, articles I read, and social media posts I followed.  I also looked at my friendships.  What people were in my space, and were they making it easy, or hard to maintain my joy?  Who was I holding onto out of obligation rather than genuine connection?  I had to take all of this into account as I began the practice of deliberate creation of my life experience.

Whatever you want in life can be yours.  I believe that.  I live it.  But before you can get anywhere, you have to do a quick assessment of your physical and emotional surroundings to see if you have the right support systems in place.  These systems include your interpersonal relationships (familial, romantic, platonic, etc.), your physical surroundings (is your place messy, dirty, or clutter-free?), and the intangible things you expose yourself to which may trigger negative thoughts and emotions subconsciously/consciously.  You might have the greatest intentions, but if something in your inner or outer environment is off, the imbalance will throw you off your path.

Here are some tips on creating an environment that supports the life you want:

  1. Relationships: It’s vital that we take inventory of all of our relationships (friends, lovers, co-workers, family members, social media followers, etc.) and come to terms with what type of influence they have over us.  Some people are supportive and encouraging while others are “energy vampires” draining us of precious time and energy.  These people poison our dreams with their dissenting views and words of discouragement.  Sometimes their trolling is subtle and disguised as a joke.  Pay attention to how you feel around people, because sometimes you won’t be able to pinpoint or prove the interaction is toxic, but you must rely on your intuition.

    A word of caution, though–before you go around cutting people off, do an honest check-in and make sure YOU aren’t the source of the toxicity.  Projection (the practice of accusing others of behaviors & thoughts you are guilty of) is insidious and hard to notice.  We are all susceptible to projection, so we must take an active and authentic look at ourselves.  If you avoid doing the deep work around your relationships, you’ll find yourself endlessly cutting people off and finding others to recreate the same issues repeatedly.  Questions to ask yourself:

    i. Is this person really the problem, or is it me?

    ii. If the problem isn’t me, what is it about me that allows or invites this type of energy into my life?

    iii. What is this person mirroring in me that I judge myself for and needs to be forgiven?

  2. Physical Surroundings: Our physical surroundings are often a manifestation of what’s happening in our minds.  A messy room may reflect disorganized thoughts and feelings.  While what’s going on within can affect the way things look on the outside, the inverse is also true.  When my home is clean and organized, I feel at peace and energized.  What do your physical surroundings look like and how do they reflect/affect your emotional and mental state of being?  Do you need to de-clutter or reorganize your surroundings?  Do you feel a sense of ownership over your space?  Do you feel safe, stable, and comfortable?  If not, what steps can you take to improve your situation?

    A couple years ago, I changed the black blinds covering my bedroom windows to beige.  This allowed more light into my bedroom.  The affect was an immediate mood boost.  I also painted the walls a beautiful shade of amber with streaks of gold.  I bought new linens and pillows for my bed.  The room went from being the place I slept to a haven.  It was my Goddess sanctuary.  My brother came to visit me one day and said it was “bastion of femininity.”  I laughed, but enjoyed his feedback.  The space became so sacred that it made certain people uncomfortable to be in it.  They felt out of place in my room.

    Make your space so sacred that those who don’t belong in it, or don’t know how to honor it, won’t enter it.

  3. Media Exposure: What television shows do you watch, if any?  What books do you read?What’s on your music playlist?  What do you feed your mind/spirit with?  Is it edifying, or draining?  How is your Facebook news-feed looking these days?  What are you exposing yourself to day in and day out?  And how do you feel these things influence your state of well-being?  We live in the age of information–there’s a wealth of info flying around–we can choose to expose ourselves to things that nourish our hearts and minds.

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