News flash: life sucks sometimes. People face impossible situations that are difficult to navigate. It’s easy to give vague encouragement in hopes that it does the job. Sometimes, however, pep talks don’t do the trick. The magnitude of some situations is significant, and nothing can be said or done to change that. As we sit in such reality, what will our response be? Can we still choose joy?

Joy has Latin roots that mean ” rejoice.” Rejoice is a verb, meaning to show happiness or great delight. To rejoice requires action. I’d like to propose to you that joy is a verb, it’s something you do. So now, joy is a choice.

The biggest lesson we can learn in self-care is to choose joy. When things are going, choosing joy is easy. It’s easy to be joyful when life is void of crushing issues. Choosing joy becomes an act of self-care when life doesn’t go as planned. The ability to look at situations that are uncomfortable, unforeseen, or unpromising and still decide to rejoice will carry you through life’s hard seasons with hope. This little act becomes a mental tool for us to adjust our minds from the negative of a situation to the positive. When we rejoice in the good, no matter how small, hope ignites in us.

The secret of choosing joy is realizing that you can make the choice and not necessarily feel happy at the moment. Happiness, by definition, is a state of being. It’s temporary and changes with time and experiences. But it is possible to be unhappy and choose joy. Choosing to see the good in a situation requires you to change your perspective and may even mean choosing to focus less on the problem.

When life presents situations that we cannot change, it is easy to spend time fixated on the problem. Worry and fear take root, and overnight the mind is centered around something that can’t control. Choosing joy is investing your time and energy into things you can control. We can’t control cancer, but we can manage the relationships we build with loved ones. We can’t regulate marital troubles, but we can restrain our words and how we treat our spouse. In those hard times focusing attention on things we can control gives us hope that life is not entirely out of our hands. We still have influence, and it’s our responsibility to focus on those pieces life.

Choosing joy looks different for all of us. It may be easier to choose joy at a job that doesn’t pay well as opposed to choosing joy when there is no job, and rent is due. If we can learn to choose joy we can face life’s smaller hardships, then we can take on the bigger challenges with optimism for the future.

Take a moment today to find a situation to choose to rejoice and notice how it improves your day. Pay attention to how your perspective changes when you focus on joy. Take time to write down how it makes you feel. After a few days of doing this, read over your entries and see if you notice a pattern. Are your days better? Does work seem to be less frustrating? Are you and your spouse less argumentative? Choosing joy can drastically improve your situation. If you can learn to choose joy in the small moments, you’ll become a person who can be content in any circumstance because of your ability to see the good, no matter how small. So, choose Joy.