I lost my joy this week. I’m guessing you did, too, after the horrible events unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut. So why are we talking about Joy in this newsletter after all that has happened? Let me tell you…
My dear friend lives in Newtown and her son attended school at Sandy Hook. Thank goodness he was not physically harmed on Friday, but his god-brother was lost. I have deep sadness for all the lives lost in this event and for all the young children who have experienced terrible trauma. I have been a trauma therapist for 25 years now and know there is a long road ahead for many.
It took me a few days to realize how deeply I was affected by all this even though I’m a thousand miles away. I know logically that the children in my family are not in danger. I know this is a rare event (although not rare enough). But I was feeling helpless in the face of such violence affecting people that I care about. And there were many pieces of this making me feel helpless – the distance from people I care about who are hurting, the horror of what happened, and not being to think of anything to do that could make a difference.
What I remembered from years of experience is that the key to getting out of helplessness is looking at what you can control. First step for me, stop reading news reports about Sandy Hook. Then stop thinking about the details of it. And focus in on where I am and what I am doing; remember that my life is good, filled with love and happiness. Then I can reach out with support to my girlfriend, make a donation to her godson’s memorial fund and start to talk about what needs to change in our society.
It’s so vital to take action – it’s the path back to your own joy. Do something, even something tiny. You may not make a difference in the world (although you might, too), but you will certainly send the signal to your own system that you are not helpless. Joy is within each of us naturally. Just allow it to show itself by taking an active part in life.
I also firmly believe that violence has too large a place in our current society. My prayer is that the result of Sandy Hook will be real change in many areas of our lives. Let’s look carefully at mental health care, the role of guns in our lives, the integrity of our news media and our individual, casual attitudes towards violence and its depiction.
When 9/11 occurred more than a decade ago, one of my lessons was that if I let terror live within me, the bad guys win. In the case of Sandy Hook, if I don’t take steps to get my joy back, then terror has won again. I won’t let that happen and I hope you won’t either.
(Not yet ready for joy? Perhaps a focus on feeling and healing is what you need for yourself first. I don’t know the author of this blog post, Lisa M. Hayes, but I do know that she is sharing wisdom that many of us need right now. Please read her tips for taking exquisite care of yourself.)
May you connect with your own joy. Now and in the days to come. Joy is your birthright. Joy is in your soul. May you feel it in large doses throughout this holiday season.
JOY TO THE WORLD
There are two songs that I know which proclaim “Joy to the World!” One is the inspiring Christmas carol and hymn that I sang and loved as a child.
The second, secular song was written by Hoyt Axton and made popular in the 1970s by Three Dog Night. While its title was “Joy to the World”, it is more popularly known as “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog”. It remains one of my favorite songs that enthusiastically endorsed joy to all the world, including “all the boys and girls,” “the fishes in the deep blue sea” and “you and me”.
Both of these songs, in their own way, promote feeling and sharing joy. And you all know what joy feels like.
Joy is more than happiness. The dictionary defines joy as “great delight; keen pleasure; elation; rapture; bliss.” Those are all some pretty powerful words. When have you felt such elated feelings? What prompted this delightful pleasure?
Think back to as many times as possible when you have felt joy. Is there a common factor(s) or condition(s) in all of these situations? What is it?
Often that element is in the form of a gift. Whether the gift received was a smile, a hug, a sincere compliment, a new car, or a grandchild, joy can be felt physically and emotionally. There is a surge of endorphins (those natural “feel good” chemicals created by your body) that make you feel flushed or excited and cause you to smile or laugh or even cry tears of joy. Joy and delight produce nitric oxide in your body, which supports good blood flow.
All thoughts create cascades of biochemicals which communicate with every cell in your body. Therefore, if you have happy thoughts, then your body will feel lively. (Conversely, when you feel emotionally down or stressed, your body feels the same.)
Earlier this year, we discussed the benefits of laughter as a stress reliever. As the saying goes “everyone laughs in the same language”. And joy can often create laughter, which offers its own benefits. Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Laughter boosts the immune system, decreasing stress hormones while increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, and improving your resistance to disease.
If your joy is great enough, these feelings can stay with you for a long time. They offer another benevolent benefit: when you feel joy, you want to share it with others. So you may make an extra effort to pass joy along to others.
There is a commercial on TV that I love to watch. It shows one person doing something thoughtful for another person, which is observed by a third person who is inspired to pass it on. Eventually, the consideration of others passes through several people…until it comes full circle back to the first person who started the cycle.
Now think back to the times you have given joy. When you did something, said something, gave something that brought a delighted or elated response. How did you feel when you observed and experienced that response? Did your joy start before the giving, with the delightful anticipation of the gift?
Is there a common factor(s) or condition(s) with these giving situations? You know the saying “It is better to give than to receive” is true from your memories of how much joy you felt when you gave to another.
Based on your answers to the above questions, consider what brings you joy. How can you experience joy more often? What circumstances or conditions promote joy for you?
Think of a loved one who may not feel much joy. What can you offer to them to
encourage their joyfulness? It may be to invite them to join in a family meal with you. It may be to spend relaxed time together. It may just be an occasional phone call or letter.
This holiday season focuses on joy. Perhaps this is an especially good time to consider what brings you joy – true joy, not just a passing fashion. Sometimes pure joy can be found in a quiet afternoon with a book you’ve longed to read. Or a Skype visit with a distant friend or relative. Or packing the kids in the car and driving around to see all the magical holiday lights. Or gathering around a jig saw puzzle enjoying easy casual family conversation.
Joy in the large and in the small acts of your life. En-joy them all!
What is your most recent moment of joy?
How can you bring more joy to yourself and others?
What can you do to create more joy biochemicals in your body?
What joys do you remember from childhood? How can you get some of that now?
Joy and Sorrow
~by Khalil Gibran
Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
INDIVIDUAL COACHING BY PHONE
Want to stop that feeling that life is passing you by?
Would you like to able to experience your life as an exciting series of adventures?
Would you like to feel more joy and achieve more success?
That is what I help my clients develop in their own lives. Working with a coach helps you overcome the challenges that can keep you from a successful life. Coaching gives you a companion on the journey; someone with whom to discuss events as they unfold and to help you move toward joy in the adventure. Developing clear goals, focusing intently and staying committed become possible.
If you aren’t sure and would like to explore whether coaching is right for you, please send an email to Janet@lifeadventurecoaching.com or call me at 828-691-4655 for a complimentary consultation.