Looking for Joy?

Find the place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. Joseph Campbell, American Professor of Literature

Do you ever wake up and wonder where the joy went? If you’ve recently experienced a severe loss, perhaps you’re frequently asking yourself this question. Although I’m naturally a joyful person, lately, as I continue to live my life at home, I often wonder where the joy went.  At these times, I pause, look inside and find where the joy is hiding. I trust that it’s still in there.

I believe that during challenging periods of our lives, it’s natural to experience dark days, literally and figuratively. Dark or not, I’m determined to remain grateful for everyday no matter what it brings knowing that eventually the joy will burn out the pain.

Affirmation: I am grateful for everyday.

Coaching question: What gives you joy? How do you handle days that are joy-less? 

Angry Feelings Getting You Down?

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him. Booker T. Washington, author, educator, advisor to Presidents

Do you have a kindling pile of angry feelings just waiting to be set off? I believe it’s safe to say most everyone’s kindling piles are at an all-time high right now. As our pile grows higher, it takes less and less for it to ignite into a huge conflagration. The first step to reducing our pile is to recognize and own up to our angry feelings. Here area a few other tips:

  1. Write down everything that’s on your kindling pile. Be specific. Name what is making you angry, who is making you angry, disturbing  circumstances that are out of your control, things that have been done to you, things you have done to others. 
  2. Now, switch gears and take a moment to recall when you recently reached out to another or someone reached out to you in a positive and loving way. Remind yourself how you felt in these moments.
  3. If step two brought you some peace, go back to your kindling list. Is there any action you can take this week that will mitigate something on your list? Perhaps writing a letter to your Congressman, de-friending someone who is posting lies, or having a heart-to-heart with a loved one.
  4. Take what is left on the pile and spread it out in an imaginary field of love. This isn’t accepting or excusing what is bad or wrong, it’s just recognizing that lasting change comes through love—love for ourselves, each other, our country, and our world. 

Affirmation: I accept and process my angry feelings.

Coaching question: What’s making you angry? What’s one step you will take this week to mitigate a piece of your anger? What are you grateful for? What’s love got to do with it?

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Embracing Gratitude On A Difficult Day

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, author

Today, Mother’s Day in the U.S., will be difficult for many women especially in the era of COVID-19 when families are apart. Even in normal times, Mother’s Day is frequently challenging for women who have lost their mothers, are estranged from their mothers, have no children but wish they did, and those who have lost a child. I’m thinking of you all. 

Today will be sad for me as well but gratitude will help me cope. I’m grateful for the friendly smile I inherited from my mom, I’m grateful for my wonderful family, I’m grateful for my good health and, even though it’s a day for mothers, I am grateful for having had an amazing dad.

Affirmation: Naming all that I’m grateful for has cheered me.

Coaching questions: What helps you feel grateful on a difficult day? What difference can you make in someone else’s day today?

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Gratitude Makes Sense

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, author

Did you know that positive thoughts create pathways in the brain? The more you feel gratitude, the easier it becomes. In addition, you’ll attract more for which to be grateful.

The motherless daughters I spoke with who found the path back to gratitude seemed to have also found a way to move forward in their lives. Expressing gratitude may sound like a cliche but being grateful for even the smallest thing will make a difference in your life. 

Affirmation: I am grateful.

Coaching questions/request: How do you show gratitude? When you were at a low point in your life, how did gratitude lift you up? Say thank you to God for His creation, to a person in your life for their love, or to yourself for noticing that you’re grateful. 

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

What Will Help You Increase Your Joy Quotient?

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. Thich Nhat Hanh, spiritual leader

A faith group I’m in, Girl Talk God Talk, is consciously searching for, acknowledging, sharing, and showing gratitude for the joy in their lives this year. We often take joy for granted or ignore it altogether when we are not conscious of its presence in our daily lives. On the other hand, joy can elude us as during certain seasons of our lives. 

Sometimes we must create joy, other times we need only recognize the joy in us. I think this is what Hanh meant when he wrote about joy. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Choose joy and/or let it choose you—then say, “Thank you.”

Affirmation: I choose joy.

Coaching questions: Is there joy in your life everyday? If not, what can you do to raise your joy quotient? What’s one thing you can do, say, or think that will bring you joy (and a smile to your face) today?

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Be Like AJ Jacobs

When trying to go to sleep, instead of counting sheep, try counting things you’re grateful for— in alphabetical order. AJ Jacobs, author

Thanksgiving, a national day of gratitude in the USA, is Thursday. However, I believe every day should be a day for giving thanks and AJ Jacobs, author of Thanks a Thousand, is just the guy to emulate. Jacobs’ book recounts his mission to thank every single person who played a part in making his morning coffee, over 1,000 people. His journey took him from his coffeeshop barista to the Colombian coffee farmer who grew the beans to the guy who designed the lid for his daily brew. Jacobs also thanked the lady from pest control who kept the bugs out of the coffee warehouse. He thought of everyone!

Scientific studies prove that demonstrating gratitude is good for our physical and mental health. Keeping a gratitude journal, for instance, helps patients in their recovery. We humans are naturally negative. Spreading gratitude is a way to make the world a better place. 

Affirmation: I’m grateful.

Coaching questions: Who have you personally thanked today? What difference does it make when someone thanks you? Think of someone who rarely receives appreciation and thank them.

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Photo by Richard Saunders on Unsplash

Remaining Hopeful In the Face of Tragedy

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest form of appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. President John F. Kennedy 

Tomorrow is the fifty-sixth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If you were an adult at that time, you undoubtedly remember the day very well. As a nation we felt not only sadness but hopelessness that this could happen in our country. Today, in the midst of impeachment hearings, we may be feeling hopeless once again. 

When our world looks bleak and we feel like we’re drowning in grief, pain, regret, or anger, sometimes we must rely on hope to get us through. Tightly hugging hope to our chest is a way to stay on top of what has/is happening in our world. 

Affirmation: I’m  hopeful.

Coaching questions: What do you need to be more hopeful about? Where do you find hope? To whom do you turn?

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

Beyond Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness is a form of freedom. Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese writer

How often do we say, “I forgot….the keys, the sweater, the birthday, a name, a phone number?”  For most of us of a certain age, some forgetfulness is routine. But what about those whose lives are slipping away, those who have passed up simple forgetfulness and are living in a foreign world, one without memories?

As I interviewed daughters for my book on mother loss, I found it particularly heartbreaking talking with those who are losing their mothers to Alzheimer’s disease. One woman said, “My mother is lost to me but not gone.” This mother had forgotten her daughter and everyone else important to her yet she was alive and may live for many more years. One daughter’s story exemplified Gibran’s quote. She said, “My mother used to have great anxiety and worry. As a result, she was often angry and depressed. Now, because of her dementia, she is free of worry and is experiencing joy.” Of course, this daughter knows her mother’s situation will worsen but, in the meantime, she is embracing the moment.

Perhaps you have lost or are losing your mother (or someone else you love) to this terrible disease. I can’t imagine what pain you’re experiencing but I can stand beside you and support you through it.

Affirmation: I’m grateful that my brain is alive and well.

Coaching questions: What does your ability to think, remember, reason mean to you? What can you do to support those who are affected by Alzheimer’s? 

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

How to Pull Through Even When You’ve Been Punched in the Face

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Mike Tyson, professional boxer

Even if you think you’re prepared for the worst, there are times when life throws you a curve ball that smacks you right in the face. Here are a few reminders to help you pull through when you’re at your lowest. 

  • Reach out for help. Sometimes it’s hard to admit just how hard life is right now but hiding from the world isn’t the answer. Talk to a friend, clergy, therapist, or coach. What do you have to lose?
  • Even small changes can make a difference. Set small goals so you can experience progress and gain momentum. This forward movement will give you a boost of confidence and optimism. Make your bed, go for a ten minute walk, schedule lunch with a friend (even if you don’t feel up to it).
  • Are you strong enough to be grateful when you’re at your lowest? Think of one thing you’re grateful for even while you’re in the “pit.” Gratitude shifts the focus.
  • Remember the setbacks/crisis/challenges you’ve overcome in the past. Pat yourself on the back for coming out strong. You’ve done it before and you can do it again!

Affirmation: I can make it through this!

Coaching questions: How have you overcome severe life challenges in the past? How can you use this experience to address what is happening now? What’s one step you’ll take today to move  forward? 

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Photo by Baylee Gramling on Unsplash

A Few Good Decisions Can Make a Big Difference

You only have to get things right a few times. Twelve investment decisions in my career have made all the difference. Warren Buffett, third richest person in the world

As I embrace my seventy-fifth year, I’m considering what past decisions help me sleep well and wake up smiling. Here are a few:

  1. I decided to do everything I can to stay mentally and physically healthy while living each day to the fullest knowing that, like everyone, my days are limited. I learned a long time ago that people DO die—including me.
  2. I decided I want to leave this Earth with no unfinished business. I choose to keep a clean slate with people I care about, make sure my financial life is in order, and have no unworn clothes in the closet with the tags on.
  3. I decided to be grateful for all that’s been given to me, including loved ones, rather than bitter, sad, or resentful about what’s been taken away. 
  4. I decided to claim the fact that Jesus died for my sins and, because I’ve asked Him, I am forgiven. This decision alone has kept me sane and joyful.
  5. I decided to surround myself with positive, trustworthy, caring people.
  6. I decided to stay active with friendships, creative endeavors, community activism, nature, and books.

Affirmation: A few decisions matter.

Coaching questions: What decisions have you made that make a difference in your life? Are there some others you need to make (it’s always a work in progress)? What’s holding you back? 

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Photo by Court Prather on Unsplash