The Joy Experiment- Week 1
I'm not going to lie to you here and tell you that after just seven days of these new habits, my life is changed, I'm 100 times happier, and everything is perfect. That's just not how these kind of things work. And besides, I'm not trying to sell you on doing things exactly like me. That's not the point of this. The point of this "experiment" is to see what happens (and according the the research study I'm in the middle of conducting for grad school, it's best to remain as objective as possible). That being said, there are a couple of key pieces I have noticed so far.
Observation #1: There's something to be said for intentionality.
Before I even had an idea of this project, I had started easing myself into waking up earlier. I realized that when I get home from work in the afternoon, most of my time is spent on grad school homework, and then I tend to be too tired to get a whole lot out of my evening (which is another whole issue that I'm hoping we can fix). So, I wanted to get a little more time in my morning for things that I enjoy. Although I have only shifted my wake-up time 15 minutes earlier at this point, there are definitely still some mornings where it is a bit difficult to haul myself out of bed to work through my morning routine. But I have found, even in just these seven days, that when I intentionally still work through good morning habits (meditation, time in my Bible, and working out), I feel much more motivated and more likely to exercise patience during the day. (On a side note- patience is going to be a very interesting thing to track during this as an elementary teacher.) There's a similar pattern with my nighttime routine. The goal is to be off of any electronics at least half an hour before I go to bed, and I have been journaling my prayers before I go to sleep. When I follow through with this routine, especially the prayer part, it feels like a bookend to my day, especially if I also followed through with my morning routine that day. I get to start and end my day with God, which is, by far, the best way to do it.
So to summarize the point of all that, at this point in my "experiment," I'm beginning to think that what's really affecting me most is the intentionality of choosing to engage in these practices. Our relationship with God is designed to be intentional. Matthew 6:33 instructs us to, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." James 4:8 promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Jesus taught that, "'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'" (Matthew 16:24). Any relationship is more meaningful when it is intentional, rather than accidental or forced. And if I were to make a prediction for what I will notice the rest of this month, I imagine it will demonstrate that intentionally growing in relationship with God is the foundation of growing my joy, peace, and fulfillment.
Observation #2: Sabbath is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
One of my key action steps this month is to take a 24 hour Sabbath every week. That means 24 hours setting aside any work or "have-to-dos" and spending time focusing on God, building quality relationships, and doing things that bring me life and joy. Obviously, these are things that can and should be part of the rest of my week, but the Sabbath is a time set aside for just that. I decided that my Sabbath would be from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday. This was the time that I felt would be best for me to make the most of my Sabbath.
And I did! I took those 24 hours to be creative, spend extra time with God in His Word, play music, and spend time with my church family. Now, near the start of a new week, I feel so much more refreshed than I usually do after a weekend. My weekends were usually spent with some relaxation, but mostly either working on stuff or feeling like I'm supposed to be working on stuff. By implementing a Sabbath (again, bringing in the intentionality piece), I made the conscious decision to set that aside, to trust God that what needs to be done will get done... but it doesn't have to be done right then. The great thing was that the Sabbath was not just a benefit during and after those 24 hours, but also before. Around Thursday and Friday, when I was really hitting the slump of "how do I still have this much left to my work week," looking forward to my Sabbath felt like the light and the end of the tunnel and provided some extra motivation to get through.
So, overall takeaways of week one are that I'm pretty sure this was a good move, to put it mildly. I'm feeling very hopeful in where this is headed. In all honesty, it really can't go wrong, as far as I'm concerned. Everything about this "experiment" is designed to help me draw closer to God because that is exactly where joy is found. Needless to say, I'm excited to see what the second week brings!
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