It started with one word: shutdown.
At first, it wasn’t really noticeable. I went about my days as best I could, navigating the “new normal,” and even reveling in the fact that I had more time to slow down and enjoy life. I was reading more books, I was doing more one-on-one activities with my girls, and I started spending more of my days on social media to stay connected with people.
I was so thankful for technology and the ability to get updates on friends and family from afar. I was grateful for the accessibility of news reports and pandemic updates. But over time, I became consumed by the dark side of social media, and like a slow leak in a tire, I didn’t realize the damage it was doing to me until I was completely deflated.
I Was Too Focused On Things I Can’t Control
I was too focused on building our dream home and our expanding family (first, with my dad getting remarried, then a surprise late-season pregnancy for my brother and sister-in-law). I was too focused on all of the new guidelines and requirements my girls would have to follow to attend school in person. I was too focused on the heated political climate and social unrest in our cities. I was too focused on all of the personal attacks and negativity on social media and the stresses, pressures, and chaos of everyday life to notice that I had allowed a toxic vacuum of pessimism and anger suck the joy and encouragement right out of my life.
My joy was eroding, but it wasn’t until I posted a personal opinion on a current event (from a biblical perspective), and a “friend” sent me a private message attacking my character and my values, that I realized I had allowed the wrong influences into my circle.
As much as I tried to fight it, I knew shortly after the New Year that something needed to change. My heart was hurting, and my soul was weary. I was giving and giving and giving to a world that wasn’t giving anything back. And maybe it’s not supposed to, but I still believe there is something pure and good and decent to be gleaned from the fire of humanity.
Mindfulness Is Creating Space for More Joy in My Life
Every January, I choose a word to focus on for the year, and I also choose a Bible verse to live out. This year, the word I chose is “mindfulness,” and my focus verse is Romans 12:2 which reads, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).
I honestly didn’t realize when I chose this word and verse how relevant they would become, as the early days and weeks of 2021 didn’t seem to be any different from everything in 2020 I was trying to leave behind. But the things I am now doing, saying, and participating in have been carefully chosen and mindfully selected to help me reclaim my joy and discern what is good and pleasing to God.
The things I am now doing, saying, and participating in have been carefully chosen and mindfully selected to help me reclaim my joy and discern what is good and pleasing to God.
The first behavior I changed was my television and radio intake:
I began limiting my TV time to two hours each day (most days, I do not even reach that now). I only watch shows with a positive message or influence (no negative news, no violence, no vulgarities). I also signed up for the KLOVE 30 Day Challenge. This required me to listen to nothing but Christian music for a month. Both of these acts alone did wonders for my mental health and peace of mind, but combined, they have allowed me to see just how good our world can be. And now, I don’t want to watch or listen to any other kind of media.
The second behavior I changed was how I respond to people who hurt me:
This has been the most difficult act for me to practice, but it has also been one of the most rewarding. Rather than spouting off a quick, emotional retort when faced with a sensitive situation, I now bite my tongue in grit and take my time to respond in grace. I am much more cognizant of what thoughts enter my mind, what words come out of my mouth, and what actions and body language I make toward others (especially when all they have for me are hurtful words or actions).
The third, and probably most impactful, behavior I changed to help reclaim my joy was giving up all social media for Lent:
For someone who uses social media to not only connect with people, but to network, share my writing, and promote my church (as part of my communications job), detoxing from social media took the greatest amount of sacrifice but changed my life the most.
I hadn’t realized how much the hate, negativity, comparisons, etc., I witnessed on a daily basis on Facebook and Instagram affected my mental and emotional state. Even when I was on someone else’s posts reading comments other people had written about that person, which had absolutely nothing to do with me or my own life, it would affect me negatively and steal my joy.
I knew that to fully turn things around, I would have to do away with all of it for a while. And once I did, a huge weight was lifted. I could feel my anger and stress and the toxicity gradually leave my body. It was freeing. Now that Lent is over, I still strictly limit my time on social media, again being very cognizant of the content I expose myself to.
Be Mindful Of Your Joy, and Make More Space for It
I make no promises or guarantees when it comes to reclaiming joy in others’ lives because each of us has our own unique struggles and situations. But I can say that being mindful of our thoughts, actions and influences when it comes to the world around us does change the way we live. It changes our perspective and outlook and shows us what is good and pleasing to God. Eliminating the negative and toxic controls that pull us away from God, and surrounding ourselves with positivity, encouragement, and goodness, make it a lot easier to live a grit and grace life overflowing with joy.
Want to use your time for something life-giving? Watch this…