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For the Sake of Joy

For the Sake of Joy January 21, 2015

Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if we could all experience some joy daily? I mean real joy… The kind of joy that lights up and creates momentum throughout your entire day; maybe even brings a touch of silliness to your mood. According to dictionary.com one definition of joy is: a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated. This definition implies external factors influencing internal factors. Could it be possible that we could feel joy the other way around by way of internal factors influencing external factors? What if we started our day by contemplating the feeling of joy and acknowledging our appreciation for something or someone of great value? Wouldn’t this in turn become the source or cause of keen pleasure, albeit not winning the lottery kind of joy, but some joy, right? Joy is contagious and influential both directly and indirectly.

In our western society we are literally brainwashed to feel less than joyful. It’s no wonder some 16 million Americans are estimated to be taking antidepressants long-term… As a result of learned behavior, we tend to be less than joyful unless we decide to be different. Joyfulness for the sake of joy takes practice, determination, and skill. It’s a real simple concept but committing to daily practice is another story. Ironically, it only takes most people seconds to connect to feelings of joy just like it only takes seconds to swallow an antidepressant. Surely, anyone can find something about someone that they value and appreciate. It is the act of acknowledging and communicating what we value and appreciate that validates and increases our joy in the case of other people or experiences or things. When our joy is sourced from another person and shared with that same person it doubles our joy and increases theirs simultaneously. What other benefits might exist from experiencing joy daily? OH, I don’t know…maybe better health, wellbeing, energy, opportunity, or vitality to name a few. We don’t seem to know of any other benefits to antidepressants, only side-effects. Psssst… Joy has no harmful side-effects other than annoying people who are jealous!

I get that someone who is truly depressed may have a harder time deriving joyful feelings but that does not make it impossible even for them. Here again, joy starts with value and appreciation. We tend to get whatever we put out there. Depressed thoughts perpetuate depressed feelings, actions, behaviors, and circumstances. Most depressed people I know do not acknowledge what they appreciate or value outside of depressed thoughts. Whether an external event was the onset of the depression or not doesn’t really matter in the case of connecting to feelings of joy in the present. The practice or discipline I speak of related to daily joy can be likened to exercise. The more you work at it the better you get at it and consequently the better you tend to feel.

One way to help stimulate joyful feelings is through memory. Sense memory such as memories tied to the 5 senses are even better (sight, sound, smell, touch or taste). For example, listening to music from your past while driving to work can trigger fond or joyful memories. Once felt, consider exploring for who or what connects in your present to a similar feeling of appreciation and value. Now acknowledge them or it, for good measure say it aloud to them (when you can or through some other media) or even it. Now… just see what happens when you feel joyful in the present. It might change your outlook or help you cope if only for a moment. You can do this as often as you like throughout the day to help increase momentum. Another example, at lunch have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a grilled cheese or whatever food from your childhood was comforting and reminisce. Follow the same practice over and over again. Light a familiar scented candle, touch something soft, watch a sunset or observe a baby. You get the idea.

What has been described as a practice above can also be considered a form of mindfulness. Cognitive Behavioral work (thoughts create our feelings and behaviors) and mindfulness are what one can expect to receive from me as a therapist and coach. If you or anyone you know could benefit from a strength and skills based approach to moving forward in their lives… share this information, check out the rest of my website, and contact me for a free consultation.

One last life hack I stumbled upon that can make a difference in your day related to connecting to joy is simply to smile:) as soon as you wake up in the morning. Try it out and see what happens. Can’t hurt!

Aaron Foster

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