Choosing Joy

Recently on Trending with Timmerie, Timmerie welcomed licensed marriage and family therapist Joe Sikorra onto the show to talk about how to choose joy, reject the negatives in our lives, and live according to a joy-centered, structured plan.

It’s no secret that depression and anxiety rates have skyrocketed among American adults, particularly in younger adults like Millennials and Gen Z. While one half of the medical industry is furiously looking for answers to the depression epidemic, the other half is frantically medicating a significant portion of the population with dangerous drugs.

What’s causing this wave of depression? It’s not the suffering, but rather people being ill-equipped to deal with the suffering. How do we get over these difficulties in life? How do we deal with tragedy, relationship issues, financial struggle, or difficult, life-changing events?

A few years ago, Joe Sikorra published a book called Defying Gravity: How Choosing Joy Lifted My Family from Death to Life. There in the subtitle lies the answer, said Joe. It’s a matter of choice. While many might take offense to that statement, it requires clarification. There are, of course, people who have undergone traumatic events or suffered abuse and aren’t capable of helping themselves. Mental instability or illness is not something you can simply choose to get over. But Joe is referring to those who have been dealt a tragic hand and have to make a choice: either treat the suffering like an enemy or embrace it as an opportunity to submit oneself to God’s will.

“A lot of times, we don’t realize that we are not making choices that will lead us to happiness,” said Joe. “And you really can do a lot to actually create happiness. It doesn’t just show up. It has to do with your focus, the activities that you engage in, and everything else.”

In Defying Gravity, Joe tells the story of how he and his wife received the news that their two young children had been diagnosed with a rare, fatal neurological illness. What began as a story of tragedy for Joe and his family turned into an inspiring story of triumph as they made the choice to accept the courage and support of God in overcoming a horrible situation.

Joe’s first tip for choosing happiness is to eliminate social media. Stop comparing your life, joys, and sufferings to the façade being displayed by those around you. It’s not a fair comparison and it will only make you feel inadequate. “What am I missing out on? I want what they have. Do I not deserve what they have? How come I wasn’t treated as well as they were?” It leads to resentment, bitterness, and self-consciousness.

“You can’t complain your way into happiness.”

The second tip Joe offered to choose happiness is to stop complaining. Stop focusing on the negative or “the problem”. It’s impossible to truly focus on goals and objectives when you’re constantly looking back. “If only I had this opportunity. If only I was born into that circumstance. If only this person wasn’t so difficult.” The grass is always greener on the other side. Enough of the complaints and excuses. Focus on the positive, encouraging factors in your life and express gratitude for the blessings you do have. One of the best ways to find perspective about how good you have it is to go spend time with those less fortunate than you.

Joe talked about St. Paul as a wonderful example of choosing joy. St. Paul was one of the most brutalized saints in Church history and he could have had it so easy. Before he was Paul, he had a high-ranking position as a persecutor of early Christians. But after making his conversion, he chose something better. He made a living out of getting beat up, tortured, imprisoned, stoned, starved, and ostracized in return for spreading Christ’s teachings. And yet, he was one of the most joy-filled men of his time. How?

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Tune in to Trending with Timmerie weekdays at 6pm CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.