Joy has always seemed to me to have somewhat of an elusive nature. Although we continually strive to have more of it in our lives, there are times when it can feel hard to come by. How can we be joyful when there is so much pain and suffering around us?
In today’s frantic world, our happiness and contentment tend to be linked to so many outside factors that we have lost the ability to tune in to our own innate sense of joy and peace. The media bombard us with news stories and images of violence and hatred. Our friends and colleagues talk about their financial woes or the divorce they’re going through. Our family members or acquaintances are stricken with cancer or heart disease. Our days are filled with so much negative energy that we hope for the best but expect the worst.
In addition to the outer messages we receive, we have our own inner thoughts to contend with. Most of us have had our share of painful or traumatic experiences which, when not processed or dealt with in a healthy way, can leave us with significant emotional scars. We come to identify ourselves with our stories of abuse or feelings of low self-esteem, and start to view the world through the filter of past experiences, becoming defensive toward others and believing that every new person we encounter has the potential to inflict more harm on us. Our every thought and action become infused with our fears, which drive us to cut ourselves off from others in a misguided attempt to avoid further painful interactions.
Our pain then becomes interwoven into the very fabric of our existence and affects every aspect of our lives. We learn to relate to others from this place of suffering and put up defensive walls to protect ourselves from the possibility of being hurt again, rather than remaining open and curious to the world around us.
So how can we reconnect with our inner joyous nature in a world filled with pain and suffering? The following are tools and ideas that can guide us back to a happier and more joyous life:
- Become more thankful for all that you have in your life. We often take for granted the gifts that are available to us every day, such as our incredible bodies, our homes, our families and friends, and the beauty of nature that surrounds us. Taking a moment each day to give thanks for all of the blessings in our lives can bring us into more conscious attunement with the truly abundant world we live in.
- Reconnect with nature. Try to spend some time, at least once a week, in nature. Depending on where you live, you might go for a hike in the woods, stroll along the beach, start a vegetable or flower garden, or just take a walk around your neighborhood. Enjoy a moment with a loved one gazing at the stars or appreciating a beautiful sunset. This time communing with nature can nourish our souls in ways that watching television or texting friends can never do.
- Care for your body. Our bodies, minds, and spirits are deeply interconnected, so nourishing all of them is essential. Eat plenty of healthy, organic produce whenever possible, and avoid adding refined sugars and processed foods to your diet. Also, try to exercise several times a week to increase your stamina and sense of well-being. Your body will respond by feeling healthier and more energized, and your face will shine with a healthy glow.
- Start a meditation practice. Even taking just 10 minutes a day to turn our gaze inward can bring more spaciousness to our day and teach us to become more calm and centered. The more we practice, the greater our ability to handle the stress of our day-to-day lives and to accept and realize the ultimate transitory and ever-changing nature of our beings.
- Practice forgiveness. We can never become truly joyful if we are holding onto grudges for past wrongdoings. The resentment we feel ultimately hurts ourselves much more than the person who caused us harm. Even more importantly, we need to forgive ourselves for any past transgressions and learn from them the lessons we were intended to learn in order to move beyond them. Constantly beating ourselves up for something we did in the past will not change what happened, but it will affect our ability to be happy and to truly love and accept ourselves now.
- Take up some kind of creative endeavor. Sign up for an art class, write a poem, design a new outfit, build a piece of furniture, or make a healthy new smoothie or muffin recipe. Get your creative juices flowing and have fun with whatever project you take on.
If you have tried some or all of these suggestions and are still stuck, you may want to consult with an empathic psychotherapist who can help you to work through some of your past issues and reconnect with the peace and joy that lie deep within each of us. Through changing our perception of the world, learning to forgive ourselves and others, and aligning ourselves with our own true nature, we can start to create more joy in our lives and radiate it outward to those around us.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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