Spring has sprung here in the Bay Area, and more and more I consider acts of joy and beauty to be medicine - a necessary ingredient for emotional health and resiliency during a turbulent (and fingers-crossed, revolutionary) time in history.
Often when I bring up this notion of chasing the joy to my clients they look at me suspiciously. Most of my clients, actually all of my client are high-achieving, growth-oriented and socially-aware. They give their all to work or school, are involved in social change initiatives, and community organizations, as well as creative projects. They are making things happen or would like to be.
So who has time to chase the joy? And more so, isn't it selfish when there's so much work to do in the world?
These are important questions, and to be clear, I am not suggesting that we only focus on the positive. From my perspective, that would be unrealistic ... and unhealthy. Rather, I'm suggesting we hold both the shadow and the light, and that by taking the time to savor and enjoy the richness and beauty in our lives we actually fuel our capacity to take action, heal ourselves, and the world around us.
Often in session with my clients I hold space for laughter and gratitude to arise, as much as I do for exploring the sadness and worry that is also part of the human experience.
Interventions that focus on the positive or pleasurable can be found in a number of evidence-based counseling approaches including Positive Psychology, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as Post-Modern approaches which in part propose that reality shifts depending on where we focus our attention.
The joy and the beauty can be found in big events or small rituals from mid-afternoon naps, time with loved ones, a solo trip to a museum, or anything else that feels meaningful and nourishing. It can be something you've always enjoyed or something new and unexpected.
As an example, last fall during the Kavanaugh hearings I found myself feeling overwhelmed with grief and rage - an experience shared by so many at that time. Meanwhile, I also found myself having comforting dreams wherein honey bees played a central role. Because these dreams felt especially potent for me, I ended up exploring the symbolism and felt inspired to begin a ritual of drinking milk and honey when feeling overwhelmed by the news. At that time, it was every evening. I focused on taking in the sweet, while holding space and staying present for all that was going on in the world.
Regardless of what you choose to try, the key is to savor it - to give your mind, body and spirit the opportunity to experience pleasure and restoration on a deeper level. In service of healing, we have the opportunity to cultivate joy and beauty - what a concept.
Till Next Time,