Where does joy come from?



My client looked at me and asked, "Where does joy come from?"
This is a question that I think many people wonder about. 

Joy comes from our sense of gratitude and appreciation. 

Joy happens when we pause and notice, really notice something we appreciate. 

To fully appreciate something or someone we need to hold it in our gaze, listen with full attention, and pause to feel it. Absorb and take in whatever it is you are appreciating. 

It can be the smell of the ocean, the water on my feet, the color of the roses. As I drove up the street a bright yellow goldfinch flew by. This morning it was the last of my earl grey tea, the soft grey color of the clouds, the message from my daughter, the warmth of the sweater on my skin. Joy comes from noticing what is right in front of you.


For some people, this is a way of being. You can make it your way of being. Pause from whatever you are doing, every hour or more, and notice something you appreciate. The more you pay attention to what you appreciate, the more you will feel joy.

Some people practice by keeping a gratitude journal. Stopping to write down and hold in your thoughts something you appreciate. This is the art of holding the gratitude in your mind, lingering on the appreciation. It is not the writing or drawing that creates the joy, it is the lingering in the appreciation. This is where joy comes from.

Can you do this without journaling?  Yes. You can do it by pausing and noticing.

What if you don't feel anything? 
It may take time for you to feel, fully feel your own appreciation of something. Be patient with yourself.  Begin by appreciating with your sight, hearing, smell, and touch whatever it is you are feeling grateful for.  Smiling can help get you closer to joy while you appreciate. Neuroscientists have found that smiling sets off a neural response in your brain that will make you feel happier. You will feel joy in time. 

What You Can Say and Do for Someone who is Depressed

The things we say and do and can make a difference when someone is depressed. Here are some things that help. 

It takes patience, courage, and practice.

The first thing to do: 
It's not easy to find a good therapist or the right fit. You can help someone by getting recommendations of a good therapist. When you help find a recommendation, you are a lifeline. Ask your friends for recommendations. Check with your healthcare provider, naturopath, acupuncturist, or massage therapist. They will usually know someone.  

You can even help set up the first appointment or stand with them when they make the first phone call. 
It takes courage to go to that first appointment.
Note when their appointment is and bring some care.
Call them, check in and ask how the appointment went. Ask if they made another appointment. 

It is important to ask if your loved one is feeling suicidal. Ask. Get immediate help if they say yes. Stay with them. Do not leave them alone.

Lend them your faith:
People who are depressed can get exhausted by the fight and as we know, they may give up. Bring lots of faith. The faith that they will recover, remind them of the better days. Loan them your faith when they run out of it. Tell them they will heal.

Support the meds:
Never ever say, "meds don't work". Medication is sometimes essential. Be affirming and support people to take the medication. The medication can help them stabilize. Medication alone is not enough. If someone says they have stopped taking all their meds, be concerned. Remind them if you saw the medication helping. Be understanding that medication has side effects. 

Show up often:
Join them in doing the life affirming things that help people recover. Show up. Be a good friend. Hang out with them and get them to take a walk, go out in nature. Do meditation together. Go for a massage. Take a yoga class together. Be the soft shoulder.


Bring your strength:

Never be tired of their fight. It can be exhausting for them and exhausting to everyone supporting them, including you. In fact, there will be times when it is too much for you. Try not to withdraw. Try to bring others onto the team to support and care and help so you can take breaks.

We have all heard of people who were getting help, taking meds, had loving people around and still took their lives. It takes more than meds, more than therapy, it takes a whole lot to break through with someone to find a life worth living. 

Support Changes:
Often they need to make changes in their life to make it better. Try not to be reactive and think they are making a big mistake. It takes so much courage to take the steps to make the changes. Be supportive of them taking those steps. 

For those who have lost a loved one to suicide,  the burden of "what could we have done differently" weighs so heavy. Your love and understanding will be needed.  They did everything they could. 

If You Know Someone Who Resists Getting Help, Bruce Springsteen's Book Could Make A Difference

Yes, I am a crazy big Bruce Springsteen fan and have been since 1978. The memoir Born to Run is not really a trip through musical fandom wonderland. As a psychotherapist, I love this memoir and I highly recommend it because Bruce Springsteen is a HUGE advocate of seeking and using mental health support.
As I turned the pages, he explains how his father's undiagnosed schizophrenia affected him growing up. He also explains how his father's illness affected his mom and sister. I was deeply moved by his compassion for his mom and his dad as he figures out how ill his father is. he details the difficult road to getting help for his father.
Bruce could have stopped there, but he didn't. He courageously also describes his own harrowing experiences with depression, the life saving difference medication made, and his fierce lifelong commitment to stay in therapy.
I love this memoir because he honestly describes the road not of self-destruction and drugs, but instead, what it takes to get help and stay surrounded by good mental health support. I believe this book will save someone. If you know someone who has been resistant to getting help or given up on getting help, Bruce shines the light on how important it is to not try to face depression alone.