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Diligent Joy

Here’s a phrase I came across and fell in love with instantly, more so when I found out what it means: “Diligent Joy.” It makes me smile to say it aloud, and comes from the book EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert (which had positive and negative points and which I’m not recommending). The phrase, however, is a keeper because it hits the nail so squarely on the head. Sure, we have genetic tendencies and formative experiences in childhood, but, thankfully, chemistry is far from the whole story when it comes to whether we’re smiley faces or not.

Diligent Joy, if I’m interpreting Gilbert correctly, means working to forge a happiness mindset every minute of every day. A lot of work? You betcha. But it also takes a heap of effort to make—and keep—yourself miserable as well. You have to repeatedly focus on life being unfair and how no one can help you, how you’re a victim, stuck, and bound to fail. For the same amount of energy, you can insist upon feeling happy. Gilbert writes that many people believe that “…happiness is a stroke of luck that will descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough.”

Stop and think—honestly—if your attitude about happiness sounds like this: you’re waiting for it to happen to you rather than ensuring that it does. This may be the same attitude you have about becoming a “normal” eater. You’re hoping to awaken one glorious morning with a different belief system about food and a whole new set of eating behaviors. Diligent Joy (or Diligent “Normal” Eating) means that you must make every moment count. You can’t sit back and enjoy yesterday’s happiness or spend your life hoping that happiness will drop in on you tomorrow.

Diligent Joy means cultivating a mindset that keeps you present and in operating mode 24/7. You can find joy in mistakes and failures because it’s the attitude you’ve chosen to embrace. After a binge, you can be joyful that you’re fighting to end destructive behavior. After a purge, you can be joyful that you have free will and that some day you will let go of self-harm. Finding joy means settling for nothing less. It doesn’t mean ignoring painful feelings and being upbeat all the time in a phony way. It means connecting to and experiencing painful feelings, but ultimately deciding that you would rather be happy than sad/upset/disappointed/angry/remorseful/anxious/ashamed.

Gilbert says we must make a “mighty effort” to be happy. I couldn’t agree with her more and will add that the more you practice being happy, the more naturally it will come.