Over the years, I have found that joy actually comes from acceptance. You can increase joy and decrease stress in your life by accepting yourself, your life, other people, and whatever situations may be presented to you. Of course, joy is quite the opposite of stress, or always feeling resentful, angry, frustrated or guilty. You have the ability to experience joy in everything you do and every moment of your day. It may sound farfetched or impossible, but it is not. I hope this article encourages you and offers you guidance in your progression towards that reality, so you can experience the greatest joy possible in your life.
So what does it mean when I say that joy comes from acceptance? It means that things don’t always have to be perfect or how you think they should be. Things don’t have to be how your analytical or conscious mind decides they are supposed to be. Your ego may believe that things should happen in a certain way or a specific timeframe, and other people should act a certain way (or not). But those kinds of thoughts cause stress, anger, agitations, resentments and guilt within us. Joy, then, comes from learning how to accept what is; starting with how to love and accept yourself exactly as you are.
When I talk about the need for acceptance of oneself, an interesting fear usually comes up for most people. They are afraid that if they accept themselves as they are, then they will become complacent and not want to make any healthy changes for themselves. That really is not true. I will teach and encourage you to realize that you can love and accept yourself for exactly who and what you are right now, and it is because of your love and acceptance that you will want to make positive change that increases joy and decreases stress in your life.
Let’s say you are overweight and have been struggling for a while to lose 20lbs, 100lbs, or maybe 200lbs. You can actually accept and love yourself where you are, and even how you got there. If you do, your mind will then be in a neutral place as you consider where you are and where you would like to be. You do not want to think that what you did was all wrong or bad, an error, mistake or problem, because that thinking decreases your mood and energy and gives you the opposite of what you need to lose the weight you want to lose. You need energy, motivation, desire and inspiration to start exercising, make good choices, buy different foods, eat healthier or eat smaller portion sizes, in order to overcome and rise to the occasion. All of that will not occur from a place of low energy, being down on yourself, being stressed, or feeling hopeless or helpless.
That example is just one of the benefits to shifting the way you view yourself. The other is a sense of calm that comes from accepting your reality. Wherever you are right now is your reality. Why would you be upset by what is real? The only reason is because you think reality should be different from what it actually is. When you have an illusion in your mind of how you believe something should be, and then you look at reality and that illusion is not met, you get upset. That is the opposite of what you should be doing or what could be occurring. When you look at your reality and get upset, you start to fantasize about how it should be different, you then create the opposite effect in your body than what you need for a positive change. But if you accept what you see as real, then you remain calm and in control of your emotions, instead of getting stressed out and losing your joy.
So accept and love yourself as you are, and for everything you have ever gone through that brought you to this point – with no condemnation or negativity. Then, from a neutral place, you are able to gain greater clarity of what you would like to change, work on, improve, or put time, effort and energy into. How do you want to spend your time and energy in life, and all the moments you experience? Do you want to feel positive and energetic about yourself, or negative and hopeless?
Acceptance of life is exactly the same as accepting yourself. So how can you learn to accept the circumstances of your life? It is identical to what I just said about being overweight. Your reality is whatever is happening around or in front of you. If you are behind an elderly lady at the cash register of a store and she is counting all of her pennies to pay, but you are in a hurry to get to a meeting, the reality of the moment is what is actually happening. Your stress, anger and agitation come when you believe the situation should be different. If the story in your mind says you should be able to get through the line quickly and off to your meeting, then that is what causes your stress. Again, the opposite needs to occur; you need to be in reality, not an illusion in your mind.
While you are in reality, you can make some clear decisions. It doesn’t mean you become complacent or make no change. You can choose another check-out line if that’s what it takes to get to your meeting, but do it calmly. It is a decision you make. Or you can stay in line, watch her count her pennies and decide all is fine. Maybe you find as you wait that the scenario is kind of cute and it reminds you of your great grandmother, and then you reminisce about some really wonderful times from childhood. So you have lots of options. Unfortunately, you may wish she would hurry up or the situation wasn’t happening at all, and then stress comes from believing the story in your mind rather than acknowledging what is actually happening around you. You think “if things around here would change, then I’d be happy”. That is just not so. What really needs to happen is that you change the way you think about the situation, and stop believing the illusion. When you do, then you experience happiness.
Now I’ve talked about how to accept yourself and situations around you, but there is one more area of acceptance that either creates joy or stress in your life. You need to accept others. Even though everyone is unique and different, the same process occurs with each interaction you have. Your level of acceptance of each person, will determine your level of joy or stress.
There are people with all sorts of different personalities on this planet. You will undoubtedly meet some with similar characteristics to yours, and some without. People also have varying degrees of personality traits; they are like a soup with all different ingredients. You will be able to relate on some level with people most like yourself, maybe on certain topics or ways of living. But a ton of people exist who do not share the same kinds of ideas on how to live, they don’t have similar traits, or way of making choices and they aren’t handling themselves as you do. It’s when you interact with someone very different from yourself that you often create unnecessary stress in your life, because you tend to think: “If that person would just be different… (meaning, if he/she would think or act more like you, or be the way you think that person should be)…then everything would be fine and I would be happy”. But that is not what will make you happy over the long haul. You need to accept them for who they are in order to keep your joy, or happiness.
Now, accepting people for who they are does not mean condoning their behavior or saying: “Okay, I will continue to hang out with them even though they are physically, mentally or emotionally abusive to me.” I am not saying that at all. Acceptance means saying: “Okay, this is what is being presented to me, or what this person is offering, and it is my current reality. Why would I get angry or stressed about it?” You can then make a decision calmly because you love yourself and want to take care of yourself. You can watch them, accept them as they are, and make the right decision for you.
What people often get caught up in is the illusion in their mind that others ‘shouldn’t do that’, or they ‘shouldn’t be like that’. ‘They should be different, more respectful, kinder and less abusive’. Then people get more and more angry, upset, saddened or stressed when others are not the way they think they should be. But believing the story in their heads is what upsets people, not what others have the right to do or not do. I am not saying that people have the right to be abusive, but they have the right to do what they do and experience the necessary consequences of their actions. I do not condone abuse or think anyone else should condone it; it’s a matter of looking at the interaction and making a choice to maybe move on or take action. Someone can file a lawsuit, call the police, etc, but the point is that there are many different options. There are a lot of ways of handling it, but it does not have to cause stress, anger or frustration. In other words, you may not agree with other peoples’ words or actions, but you can still accept them as they are, and make decisions from a calm, clear perspective.
In looking at all of this, how can you increase your joy and decrease your stress? I would say that you need to increase love of yourself, life and others, and accept yourself, life and others. It does not mean being complacent or condoning unhealthy behaviors. It means looking at yourself, life and other people for who and what they are, and making very clear decisions about what you want to put your time and energy into. Life is short and your time and joy are precious, so you need to be clear on how you want to spend that time, and accept whatever is real in each moment.
I encourage you to adopt what I have described in this article into your everyday life. It’s not always easy to do, but I hope you understand it because it will make a world of difference in the amount of joy or stress you feel. If you have any questions or need help applying this in your life, please contact me. I wish you well as you learn acceptance as a tool to achieving greater joy and less stress. Have an amazing day!