Is it possible to find joy and not feel happy? I wrestled with this question yesterday when my dad admitted for the first time since his diagnosis that he didn’t feel well. I listened to him cough until he was out of breath and I could barely hang up the phone before crying. I was in a dark place.
Our culture places a premium on being “happy”. If you’re not happy, you may feel pressure to get a move on to get happy. But in our quest for happiness, we tend to overlook the power of joy. Being joyful is different than being happy. Even when we are grieving, we can find joy.
How is this possible?
Because while happiness attaches to our external circumstances and tends to ebb and flow with our fortunes, researchers have discovered that joy is tied to our spirit. Our spirit is fed by gratitude, connection, meaning and appreciation.
Gratitude is the Foundation for Appreciation
On day 4 of the holiday challenge, we looked at the benefits associated with developing a habit of gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation for appreciation. Appreciation is a deepening of gratitude. For example, gratitude is being thankful you have food to eat. Appreciation is being aware of how wonderful the food tastes, how the flavors meld and your enjoyment of the entire experience.
One definition for appreciation is “a full awareness or understanding of something.” And I think this is what distinguishes appreciation from gratitude –this expansiveness that invites a shift in perspective which creates the space for joy even when happiness remains elusive.
This is how I found joy yesterday. When I looked beyond the grim aspects of my dad illness to see the whole situation, I found much to appreciate.
I admire his courage and quiet resolve to accept without complaint what is presented to him – albeit awful. I love his unique sense of humor still very present in his reply to my offer to take him to his favorite steak place: “Yes! We will throw beef at cancer!” (Someone should make a really make a throw pillow out of that.) And I feel blessed to have this time to hear what is in his heart.
In considering whatever challenge you may be experiencing, what can you find to appreciate about the situation? What can you appreciate about yourself or others and in so doing, move closer to joy?