One of the toughest challenges for those that have experienced a lot of abuse, trauma or struggles in their life is finding joy and happiness. We become so accustomed to the struggle, that this is all we know. The absence of joy results in feeling depressed, sad, angry and unhappy. With this lack of genuine joy in our life, we seek to feel good in other ways, whether it be excessive use of; drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping or any one of the many escapes there are today. The challenge for us is to work on our personal issues and unhealthy beliefs that promote further pain, and to find small ways to experience joy.
In addition to the above reasons for experiencing a lack of joy, are major life events that introduce a very sad time in our life, such as; death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, loss of a pet, or any major loss. I have experienced all of the above, plus more. These times are characterized by a series of strong emotions as noted below (for more information on this chart, see post – Holding On vs Letting Go). These times SUCK which is why it is our nature to want to react with a fight or flight response vs. working towards acceptance.
So how can we find any joy when we are in tears, angry, feeling that gut wrenching emptiness and loneliness most of the time? We try reaching out to others, some of whom can relate, but most who don’t want to be around this sadness and depression. It forces us into our shell of doom and gloom. For those fortunate to have a friend who has learned what it means to be empathetic and compassionate, we know how valuable this can be. This is one of the gifts we can offer others once we have accepted and moved beyond our grief and loss, we can now be there for others since we truly do understand. Sometimes we need to consider reaching out to a professional (e.g. counselor or therapist) who are typically trained to help and guide you in these situations.
So what can we do to find some joy and happiness in our life during these times. What I believe is critical is to redefine joy and happiness. We tend to define these as times that are characterized as experiencing elation, when we are feeling on top of the world. Of course we would all like to be experiencing this type of joy all the time, but this is not the case with life as we know it. If we set this as our expectation, than we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, joy and happiness during our difficult times translates to small steps to take care of ourselves, often pushing ourselves to do something to simply take a break from our pain. An example of this from a blogger who experiences depression can be found here.
This can be difficult to do since we often believe that we should be feeling grief, or that it is not appropriate to be experiencing joy or happiness in challenging times. It is also very difficult to feel any sense of joy when we are deep in our sadness and depression. This is where we have to dig deep and push ourselves. This is how we develop our courage and strength. Our sadness and depression wants us to mope and become stagnant. This is the very time to put one foot in front of the other and move.
During this past year I relied on my dog to get me out of the house and take a walk while going through a divorce. In every case, I felt better getting out. Other times I would go to a local park and walk their trails. Just seeing the birds and breathing the air felt better. There were many times that I wanted to run someplace when the bad feelings rose within me. Here is where I pushed myself to go on. It was not easy. And now I am without my most amazing puppy that I was volunteer raising, who has returned to the agency to become a seeing eye dog. Once again the sadness took hold, and I had to find other ways to get out. Right now I am sitting in a Starbucks just to get out of the house, and focusing on helping others through this post, smiling at others, all of which actually helps me.
I maintain a steady diet of videos, articles and mantras that remind me that this too shall pass and to put the trust in the greater part of life I discovered in my journey of self-discovery. I remind myself that I am human, and these times are a part of what life is all about. I know that I am more prone to these times based on my past. Enduring the pain for now, giving myself time to experience my sadness helps to deal with the current reality, while taking these baby steps to work towards acceptance and a new beginning.
Here are a couple of perspectives to consider. The first is an article on the site, Experience Life, titled, “7 Ways to Experience More Joy.” The one tip for me that helps is when I look for the good in others. When we are down, we wear glasses that see what we are feeling inside (negativity, sadness, anger, etc.). We can begin to transform this view by challenging ourselves to look for something different, what is good in others. A tip from the article…
For one week, take on the practice of looking for the good in everyone you come in contact with. See in each person the desire to be safe, accepted, happy and loved. Even if you know someone’s shortcomings, keep looking for the positive qualities — creativity, humor, a caring heart, intelligence — any and all positive qualities you might admire. Notice what effect this has on how you feel toward others and on your interactions with them. Notice the effect it has on your state of mind. And enjoy it.
Kyle Gray, author of Raise Your Vibration (link to video) is one of my favorite authors. He offers a video series based on his new book, “Raise Your Vibration.” Some comments he shares include…
When you are being kind to others, you are also being kind to yourself…Today’s exercise is smiling as much as you can…everywhere you go look for the simple blessing around you…turn your frown upside down!
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that it helps you to feel a little bit better and provides some hope and inspiration to keep going. If so, than you have made my day. Together we will all get there!