Turn Stress into Joy in the New Year

The late Thomas S. Monson once taught about the importance of finding joy in the journey of life. He said, “I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by…Instead, find joy in the journey—now.” (Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey,” Ensign, Nov. 2008).

In his honor, my word for the new year is JOY. All of us are here on earth, that we might have joy (2 Ne 2:25), but what seems to come more naturally is stress. The joy of life tends to get bogged down with what I like to call “all the things:” the to-do lists, the assignments, the requirements, and constraints, plus what always seems like not enough time to complete it all. An added stress, social media seems to point out all we’re not doing as parents, partners, professionals, and people.
For the new year, one of my goals is to seek joy. Here are three ways I plan to turn former stresses from “all the things” into daily JOY.

1. Choose People Over Things

Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness (Mosiah 23:18).

There are few things that cause more stress in my life than when something I need has been lost or misplaced. I turn into an angry and agitated person and a monster mother when efforts to locate the lost are unsuccessful.

Recently, I’ve decided to work on turning this source of stress into joy, starting with my thinking and moving on to my actions. First, I remind myself that things are just things. No matter what is lost, it’s still just a thing. Next, I choose to turn the stress of misplacing a thing into the joy of being with people. This could take the form stopping a search in favor of playing a game with my children or giving service to someone in need. Instead of spending so much energy on things, I plan to replace that stress with the joy of people I love, or people who need love.

Another way of choosing people over things has to do with gifts and accumulation. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, that cancer came back in my bones. Two years after that, cancer was back in my brain. My family and I decided quite quickly that memories and time spent together would bring us so much more joy than getting more things, that might just gather dust. Experiences became our preferred gifts of choice. The joy that has come from traveling and trying new things with my loved ones, plus the added joy over having less to keep organized has been priceless.

People have become my favorite things, bringing overwhelming joy.

2. Measure Miracles

For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. (Doctrine and Covenants 35:8).

For years now, a friend has continued a tradition she calls, “November Day Miracles.” For the entire month of November, she encourages herself and others to recognize the miracles that happen in November, a month she has dubbed lucky, one to document daily miracles. This tradition need not end in November, for truly, every day is a day of miracles, if we just train ourselves to recognize them. This exercise of measuring the miracles of our lives can bring a greater measure of joy to each day.

The stresses of daily life can sometimes block our ability to see the miracles and therefore, experience full joy. In discussing this challenge, Jean B. Bingham asked, “How do I find joy despite the difficulties of mortal life?” Her simple answer? Focus on Christ. “We must come unto Him and allow Him to work His miracles” (Bingham, “That Your Joy Might Be Full,” Ensign, Nov. 2017). Learning to recognize the miracles that bless our daily lives can help turn stress to joy.

Gordon B. Hinckley echoed this message. “The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course, there are times of sorrow. Of course, there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice (Hinckley, “If Thou Art Faithful.” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 90-92). When we learn to see miracles in the heartache, we are blessed with joy through sorrow and stress.

Measuring the miracles of daily life takes practice. Our family uses “Best and Worst,” where we share the good (and the hard) of each day around the dinner table. Together we rejoice, even in our hard times, learning to recognize the small miracles that bless each of us daily. So, even through the sorrows, we learn to see the joys.

“Therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.” (Alma 37:40).

3. One Thing More

“What can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

One of the great stresses of daily life is feeling as if there is never enough time to do “all the things.” This stress can steal joy. One simple way I have trained myself to transform this worry into gladness is to focus on just “one thing more.” Each day, I challenge myself to tackle one extra item from my to-do list. Yes, I am often busy with work at home, errands, transporting children to and from school and activities, and so on, but there is always time for one thing more. Somedays, this one extra thing might be simply going through email, clearing ONE junk drawer, making a shopping list, or picking up the mail. If I happen to be having a successful day, that “one thing more” might be able to become two or three or more. The relief and joy that happens from trading the constant stress of a never-ending to-do list for joy of small victories is outstanding. As you attempt this, “may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will” (Alma 33:23).

May 2018 truly be a year choosing people over things, learning to measure miracles, and trying to do one thing more each day. Small changes will have great impact on replacing stress with joy.

Melodee Cooper is a Texan by birth, an Aggie by choice, the wife of a fellow Aggie because “he loves her more,” and a mother of three boys by a combination of time, modern science, and divine intervention. She has taught both 5th and 6th grade math and science, and is now able to be a stay-at-home mom, an amateur decorator, a crafter, a blogger, and a holiday enthusiast. She is battling Stage 4 cancer while remaining optimistic and grateful for the blessings in her life.

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