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Joy, in Review

How did the theme for 2023, "Choose joy, intentionally," play out over the course of 2023? Letting a simple three-word phrase guide the year leads to realizations about oneself, and how we all, as works in progress, can become better versions of ourselves.

Choose joy, intentionally.

That was the theme I had chosen for 2023; and you will note that I said theme and not resolution. (More about that differentiating factor here.)

On the surface, it sounds almost elementary. And yet, oftentimes it eludes us…hiding behind busyness, stress, laziness, distractions, and responsibilities--not to mention all the murmurs and vibrations of the world that shake, rattle, and rock us.

It can be difficult to find joy, let alone choose it. And that is why the word ‘intentionally’ plays such a crucial role. Looking back over the preceding 11 months, I kept that small, three-word phrase in my head. Reminded myself, mulled it over, and really centered myself around it.

That does not mean that my year was so amazingly full of joy, all the time. Or that I was sailing through life like I was on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World. Quite the opposite. There were difficult and high-flying times, challenging and triumphant seasons, lackadaisical and the gotta-go, gotta-go.

Here is my review of embracing this particular theme for 2023.

Regardless of the state of my emotions or overall vibe, I made a conscious decision to remind myself to choose joy, intentionally. If you remind yourself of that—you make small adjustments. Modifications that no one other than you may even notice.

You choose to do something that brings you—and only you—joy. Concert tickets, a girls’ night out, a walk in the bookstore, trying that new restaurant out, buying that indulgence you haven’t had in forever, taking that nature trail and immersing yourself in the sounds so different from your day-to-day, and yes, even carving out 15 minutes of your day to savor that cup of coffee in peace. Simple, right? But these are the first things that go out the window when life takes center stage. When we sideline our joy, we think we are prioritizing and making the best and highest use of our time. Spoiler alert: we’re not. All we are doing is throwing our life off balance, which very quickly turns into a voracious vortex.

Choosing joy is not solely about doing something for yourself. It encompasses gratitude and appreciation. Find the beauty surrounding you. That commute of yours that shifts you into autopilot as soon as you sit down? Mix it up. Really look at the places you pass by. Find something to appreciate on the way—city, suburban, and rural routes all have unique and alluring attributes in every season. Secondly, realize the things others do for you that in some small way, makes your day brighter or more manageable, and thank them for it. A few genuine words go a long way in making this world a better place.

Be a decent human being. Most of us are, but we all also have our days. A few misspoken words, the side eye, the sigh, the general hmpf, the obvious signs of irritation. But here’s the thing, our irritations, annoyances, and overall not-good days have a cascading effect on everyone we encounter, intentionally or not. When the frustrations rise and our tempers gets short—we have a choice to make. Do we let it all roll downhill for anyone and everyone who crosses our path? Or do we choose joy, for others, and perhaps determine that little pet peeve is not worth turning someone else’s otherwise good day upside down?

Reduce and eliminate the little stressors that you encounter in your everyday life. For me, it is the stack of receipts I accumulate in my purse. Why? Because it is a constant reminder to balance the checkbook and adds chaos to the inside of my purse, making it less than tidy. So I stopped collecting receipts unless I think a return could be possible. Seriously, why did I not think about this before? Because we are all creatures of habit, even to our detriment. We follow unspoken rules because, well, that’s how it has always been done. Identify those small, sometimes ridiculous stressors and figure out a reasonable way to deal with them.

I strive to be honest in everything I write. This is not a cure all, and I am so very far from perfect. As I like to remind my husband, I am a work in progress. We all are. If we want to be a better version of ourselves, we must first accept that we are works in progress, and then find ways to improve and advance our thought processes, behavior, and lens through which we see the world.

I will be thinking of a new theme for 2024 between now and the end of the year. A few ideas have been percolating in my head, so stay tuned.

But until then…choose joy, intentionally.


To read more on joy, check out other Southern Holly articles below:

Letting a theme guide your life provides more impact than resolutions. My theme for 2023? Choose joy, intentionally.

A reflection on a recent trip shows me that we have so much in common with blueberry bushes. The answer to so many of life's complex issues lies in nature itself.

Joy is a choice. While it doesn't make the hard days disappear, making the conscious choice to choose joy enables you to see the good that is otherwise eclipsed. Choose joy and be a light to others.

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