There are a lot of things in my life I need to make time for. I have a certain amount of hours in my week dedicated to each of my three jobs. With what remains, I try to make time for walking the dog, hanging out with James, exercising, cleaning the house, doing up the house, reading the Bible, praying, seeing friends, going to church events and probably a bunch of other things I feel I should be doing to be a normal, healthy, functioning, Christian human adult.
I’m better at making time for some of these things more than others, and I often kick myself when I feel I’m falling short of fitting everything in. And, in turn, I feel busy, tired, stressed and like a massive failure, because no matter how good I am at making time for some of those things, there are always more things on the to-do list; more things I should get round to. But there’s one thing that never makes the list, one thing I never actively make time for, that could be the antidote to that tired, busy, never-good-enough feeling: joy.
When was the last time you put space in your calendar aside for joy? For rest? For something regular in your life that has the primary purpose of allowing you to have fun? I’m racking my brain and I can’t really remember. You see, I don’t think we give joy the pride of place it deserves in our lives. I think we see it as a luxury; something we get to have a quick five minutes of once we’ve completed all of the other responsibilities on our to-do lists. But I’m starting to realise that experiencing joy isn’t something we get to do; it’s something we have to do.
At the risk of sounding like a raging millennial, enjoyment is a human need. Without it, you can get into real trouble. When you don’t make time for healthy habits of joy – whether that’s getting crafty, reading a good book or going for a paddle in the sea – you end up turning to unhealthy ways to feel better when you inevitably become miserable. You burn out and then go for quick fixes like chocolate, wine and night after night of binging mindless TV (or is that just me?) You might even run the risk of succumbing to even bigger and badder temptations, simply because you didn’t allow yourself that small but regular amount of joy you needed to be able to take on everything else life throws your way. It’s why, on the seventh day, God took a load off, cracked open a beer and took in the view (although I may be working off a slightly dodgy translation…)
Because while it may feel like another thing to add to your list of things to make time for, joy and fun and relaxation can actually help you make time for everything else. When I’m busy at work, my instinct is to put my head down, ignore everyone else and crack on until everything is done – staying in a constant state of stress all day which means I go home and help myself to a very large gin to recover. But actually, when I pause, make a cup of tea and have a little chat in the kitchen with whoever’s there, that little break gives me the space I need to get my head on straight and tackle my to-do list in a much calmer, more organised way.
And some of your other “to dos” might fit nicely into your joy time. You might love exercising, and see doing yoga as real self-care. Repainting the bedroom might genuinely fill you with glee. And obviously seeing friends, church stuff, date nights, they’re all good for you – joy is often a by-product of many of those experiences once you get going. But maybe we need to flip the focus. Maybe instead of making time for these things we should do – and hoping we’ll enjoy them – we should make time for joy, and see if these things will fit. If not, they go back on the to-do list for another time. Because if you keep waiting for the chores to be done before you have fun, you’ll be waiting and waiting until you inevitably crash and burn.
So when I say make time for joy, I’m really saying make time for joy. Get a good friend to babysit so you have pure, unadulterated time for yourself. Block it out in your calendar and don’t let anyone or anything guilt you into putting other plans in that place. If someone asks you to do something, it’s not lying to say, “I’m busy” – because you are. You’re busy doing nothing. You’ve got big plans to have a bath and listen to a podcast. You’ve got very important appointments at H&M, the cinema and your local coffee shop that you simply can’t get out of. It’s not selfish to set aside some me time – it’s self-preservation. It’s your pit stop in the race of life so you have what you need to do another lap of the track.
As the great philosopher, Winnie-the-Pooh, once said:
Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti