Each of us at some point in our lives will experience hardship or difficult times. It can be something as simple (but nonetheless hurtful) as someone saying something negative about you, a personal rejection or someone showing harsh resentment toward you.

A few of us will experience life changing hardship such as the sudden loss of a loved one, a serious illness or injury. In such situations, it may be difficult to stay positive let alone find the joy in life.

When we experience hardship it is natural for negative feelings to emerge: regret, denial, disappointment, and nostalgia for better times, anxiety over the future, lack of confidence, self-doubts and unhappiness.

The Key to Experiencing Joy Even During Difficult Times?

The key to experiencing joy, regardless of the circumstance in your life, is to choose to be happy. The truth is, we all have the choice to be as happy as we’d like. Most of us regard true happiness as an elusive trait that’s based on a variety of qualifiers, such as obtaining the right amount of stuff. Ironically, the people many of us consider to be the most successful in life often have the most difficulty achieving happiness. The truly fortunate are those who understand and make use of their inherent ability to choose happiness.

Strategies to help you stay focused on the joy in life, even during imperfect times.

* Take the time to honestly evaluate your situation and options: When we fight and resist the circumstances of our life, we create a state of fear and upset that almost always makes the situation worse. In fact, according to research, the #1 enemy of happiness is fear! When we’re able to let go of resisting, we are better able to restore peace of mind and see our situation more clearly and what needs to be done.

* Express gratitude for the things that matter: Most people understand there is power in expressing heartfelt gratitude. The problem is, when (it feels like) the world as you know it is falling apart around you, it can be pretty difficult to come up with a meaningful list of things to be grateful for; so it’s important to learn to focus on experiences and relationships rather than stuff. Stuff can only create temporary happiness.

* Make self-nurturing a priority: Often when people are feeling sad or overwhelmed there is a tendency to take the path of least resistance from moment to moment. During times of stress it is more important than ever for your body to get the nourishment and rest it needs to enable your emotions to stay strong and resilient.

* Smile often, especially if you don’t feel like it: Don’t think you have to wait until everything is "perfect" to feel happy again … the key to feeling peace and joy is always looking for the opportunity for growth, and making the choice to be happy, even during imperfect times. In this regard, there’s a lot to be said for the old adage – “fake it till you make it."

* Look for opportunities to laugh more, especially if you don’t feel like it: Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

* Raise your expectations: Some people choose to set their expectations as low as possible so that, whatever happens, they can never be disappointed. This strategy is basically a defense mechanism to protect against any possible pain or embarrassment, not to mention the refusal to come face to face with reality. Even the happiest people get disappointed sometimes; not allowing yourself to feel excited, hopeful, or optimistic about the future is denying yourself the joy of anticipation for better times.

* Reach out and help others: Whether by sharing your own story, or taking your mind off your situation by volunteering to help others less fortunate – helping others will take your mind off your own troubles and fill you with joy.

* For long-term happiness, cultivate the skills to become more resilient: Having the ability to bounce back stronger than ever from a crisis is the trait known as resilience. While it is true that some people are naturally hardier, resilience is a set of skills that anyone can practice and master over time to become more resilient in life.

The ability to remain focused on the joy in life, regardless of our circumstances, is rooted in the desire to grow beyond mere existence to a life that is overflowing. The good news is, there is an infinite amount of joy to go around, and the only obstacle to placing it within reach, exists within our own minds.

Author's Bio: 

Marquita Herald is a transformation guide, the creator of the life by design blog IGG-Tips, Tools & Tantalizing Ideas, and the author of three books, Stepping Stones to Greater Resilience, Inspirational Words of Wisdom for Challenging Times, and It's Your Time Now - A Guide to Living Your Life by Design.

She writes to inspire readers to reach a little beyond what's comfortable to achieve goals that matter ... refuse to accept simply "getting along" in life out of fear or limiting beliefs ... cultivate the skills to become stronger and more resilient ... learn to master the self-motivation skills that will keep you energized and moving forward ... make the choices each day that will over time create the fulfilling life you really want for yourself ... and to choose happiness, each and every day.

Marquita's professional background includes a successful 20 year career in hotel sales and marketing followed by a decade as a life and small business coach.

To learn more about her books and how to begin living your life by design, please visit her at http://www.inspiredgiftgiving.com