Are some people naturally more joyful than others? Is joy part of our genetic makeup? We all have times in our lives when we feel sad, down, despondent, but can it be that some people were created to be full of joy and others were not? You’ve met them; the people who can dampen the moods of everyone around them. Do our circumstances dictate our joy or is it truly similar to a muscle, like I mentioned before? A muscle some were possibly born without. Can we decide to build joy in our lives despite our circumstances? Is it an underused resource??????
I’ll let you in on a little secret here…. I’m not a naturally optimistic person. In fact, I can be quite cynical. Today for instance, I was watching a youtube video with my daughter. She had come across this couple that pulls practical jokes on each other, films them, and then posts them on the internet. My initial response, “Looks a little staged to me.” Ok, so it’s not a big deal whether the video is scripted or not, but what is a big deal is that my initial response to things can be quite cynical or negative.
Really thinking lately about how I view my life and having more joy , I even asked my husband if he thought some people are just meant to have unhappy lives. You know, the poor sad souls of this world; are some chosen to live miserable lives?
So then I happened across this article. I had my answer! It stated that a recent study in Germany found that more and more Germans had a harder time having fun and enjoying pleasure due to what seemed to be a broken “joy gene”. That was it! I had my answer!! You see, I have German ancestry. It was all making sense! My cynicism, my pessimism – it’s in my blood!
In further review (meaning I actually read the whole article) it seems that 46% feel increasingly unable to enjoy life due to being constantly reachable and being under extreme everyday stress. Jealousy over life in nearby countries seemed to fuel the discontent as well. The younger the study participants the worse it became. 55% of those said they seemed to have lost their ability to “feel good.” Looking for a cause, researchers feel there was a cultural shift that occurred around 2008 that can be linked to the European debt problems and currency crisis.
What? If I’m reading this clearly it seems that this life view and attitude are completely based on circumstances and things. Money, connectability brought on by physical things like cell phones, jealousy, state of the economy; these are all circumstantial things. The whole point of joy is that it remains consistent regardless of the circumstance. In Philippians chapter 4 the apostle Paul says he’s learned in whatever circumstance to be content. The whole book of Philippians is noted as having a theme of JOY. So this kind of contentment despite circumstance must be a critical step toward joy.
They didn’t come up with an actual joy gene. They were able to pinpoint circumstances that brought down the average “happiness” of individuals. So that leaves me with what I’ve already learned about joy. It’s a life view that is rooted down deep in our souls; one that I am trying to unlock completely so that it overtakes my being.
So far I’ve learned that to increase joy you have to begin living a life of gratitude and remain content no matter the circumstances. Building up my joy muscle! What things do you focus on to remain joyful? I’d love to hear! Next week we’ll start exercising the joy muscle!