The Value of Joy - September 2019

For some reason, many people think that counseling or group therapy involves focusing on what is wrong in your life or your own perceived shortcomings. I can understand where this stereotype might come from. (It's not often someone says, "I feel amazing! I really should see someone." ) But part of our work as therapists is to guide you toward clarity in really feeling what makes life worth living for you. We love exploring what makes you smile, what you get lost in, when you feel the most alive. And these things can be so unique and sometimes seemingly ordinary. But they are powerful.

Someone just told me the other day that she feels most alive when she's riding her bike. Why does she spend upwards of 60 hours a week in an office or her car? Ya, ya, you gotta make a living. No way around that. But do you have to live so far from the job? Or work a job that demands so much? When this person stopped working so much and had more time to ride, she was palpably lighter and brighter. It's called joy. And it gets shuffled aside and put on a shelf and underrated in comparison to wealth, prestige, praise, etc etc. Poor little joy. Just humbly waiting for you to dust it off and let it gleam in the middle of the table. Where it belongs.

Joy can also be simple and ordinary. If you see it. I've recently started a new practice of identifying three very specific things I'm grateful for each day (recommended on the 10% Happier podcast.) Yesterday's were sand in my toes (normally something annoying), really good hot thick French fries, and my partner's profile. You don't need to change your whole life to feel these small joys. The "specific gratitude" practice trains your mind to notice little drops of goodness that are often overlooked.

My clients are sometimes surprised if I highlight and linger over moments of joy they describe. But when connected to their sense of purpose and meaning, it's often easier to sink in. Who doesn't like fantasizing about their dreams? IF they believe they're attainable. But if dreams are redefined as what makes YOU happy on a day to day basis, I have a hard time believing these things are NOT attainable. If that $50 per paycheck you set aside or the calculus class you're suffering through are toward an actual real end, then they're easier to follow through on. And, if you practice sinking into the readily available everyday moments, then you can be more joyful right now. That alone makes it easier to be hopeful, disciplined and perseverent.

Dust off the joy in your life right now, look and listen to what moves you, and make that a reality. You can.