Retiring: Do You Choose Joy?

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

On a Positive Psychology forum site, I ran into the above quote which really struck a chord with me. Since, I'm familiar with and respect Henri Nouwen's work as a spiritual leader for many people, I reminded myself to soon review several of his books sitting on my shelf. As I read some of the comments posted about the quote, I ran into one that said: How can you choose joy if you do not know joy is at the end of that line? I immediately began to think about how Nouwen's statement applies to people going through the transition into retirement – a new stage in life that can last up to 25 years or longer.

To me, joy is a vital ingredient for a freedom-based, amazing, and meaningful retirement. There is no other time in life when this emotion is more needed and appropriate because the feeling of joy gives you the opportunity to broaden your outlook and build your best future. It touches and opens your heart. Here is a riddle that says it beautifully:

I am small, but I can change your life. I can make you immune to worry and struggles. When you have me, you leap like a little child. But I never come from getting the latest stuff. I can cure your heart when you're feeling blue. No one can destroy me, except you. What am I?

Joy is defined in the following ways:

  • An emotion of great delight or happiness caused by well-being, something exceptionally good or satisfying, keen pleasure, or elation.
  • An intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
  • Great happiness – feelings of pleasure, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind.
  • A pleasurable aspect of something or source of happiness.
  • To enjoy or delight in something or the prospect of possessing what you desire.

According to Barb Fredrickson, a Positive Psychology researcher and thought leader, joy is an emotion that expands your ideas about possible options. When you experience joy, you:

  •  Are more aware of your thoughts, resources, and actions.
  •  Feel more creative, bright, light, and playful.
  •  See colors more vividly.
  • Have a spring in your step and an inner glow.
  • Are eager to get involved in things and build relationships.

Here is how some others describe joy:

  • To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with . ~ MarkTwain
  • Joy is a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters. ~ Oprah Winfrey
  • Joy is prayer, strength, love, and a net of love by which you can catch souls. ~ Mother Teresa
  • Joy is not in things; it is in us. ~ Richard Wagner
  • Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Common synonyms for joy are delight, pleasure, enjoyment, bliss, happiness, ecstasy, and elation.

While joy and happy or happiness are synonyms and used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two words. Joy originated in the 14th century and tends to be rarer than it needs to be. It is thought to be a deeper word that comes from within. Joy underlies all emotions. Happy didn't appear until the 15th century. It comes from what happens to you more by chance. While there are differences, both emotions are helpful to have.

Joy can transform you and open your heart to be your best during your retirement transition and throughout this next stage in your life. It is important to choose joy to make these years the best of the life you have. When you choose joy, you are connecting to a source of energy that enables you to move on, take care of yourself, and others under the given circumstances. You are more resilient and fulfilled.

To discover ways to be joyful, think of when:

  • You have felt safe and relaxed.
  • Things have gone your way and turned out better than expected.
  • You have felt a spring in your step, a warm glow, a genuine smile, or playful.

Using these ideas as a spring board, you can choose to be joyful everyday by trying some of the following suggestions:

  • Discover your triggers for joy and build them into your daily life.
  • Visualize your best possible future.
  • Meditate – especially using a loving-kindness meditation.
  • Practice gratitude and savor goodness.
  • Experience nature – walk, hike, bike, or kayak.

Finally, this is the comment I posted on the forum in regards to Nouwen's quote:

I'm so glad to be reminded of Nouwen's quote. I consider myself to be a realist. Life is difficult, but it doesn't have to be without joy. Nouwen's words are a strong reminder to me that in spite of what is going on in my life and around me, I have a choice about whether or not joy is in my life. To me, it is about being resilient – having grit. It makes me look for small things that might give me joy, like seeing signs of spring, blue sky, and the stars at night. I also believe it is important to share joy and to help others be joyful for a fulfilling life.

I would love to know what Nouwen's quote means to you. I look forward to your response.

Until next time,











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