The Joy of Healing??
Today I was thinking about joy…how to get more of it, how to make it last and how to spread it around. You know, the big questions. Anyway, in my pondering, I realized that one of the keys to creating joy is space. Basically, you need to make space for joy in your heart and mind in order for it to manifest. If your mind is constantly clogged with worry and negative thoughts and if your heart is filled with hate and resentment, then joy just can’t take root. I know, easier said than done, but worth considering. You just have to move some of that old stuff out to let some of the good stuff in. Working with an experienced behavioral health professional can help you to make that space. Another key to manifesting joy is belief. You must believe that joy is not only possible for you, but that you deserve a joyful existence. You will never be able to sustain what you do not think you deserve. You can get a little taste of what you seek, but eventually that will sour and fade if it feels too foreign and undeserved. Faith that your best days are yet to come is crucial to invite joy into your heart and life. I understand that some days are dark and faith feels far from our grasp, but you must entertain the possibility that this too shall pass. And a third important concept surrounding joy is practice. This is fairly elementary, but if you seek joy, then you need to spend some time every day doing activities that you enjoy. I can honestly say that, despite its simplicity, this had been the hardest concept for me to grasp. In my past, I worked at a job I did not enjoy (I won’t go so far as to say a job I hated but, well, ok, hated) and I did not make time in my life for family, friends or relaxation. I would walk around all day wondering why I felt so “flat”; certainly not thriving and, if I am honest, merely just existing. It finally occurred to me that if I had only 24 hours each day, and I spent the majority of those hours doing things I didn’t like, then joy would forever elude me. How could I build happiness from a constant diet of tedium, pain and sadness? In order to shift my life to joy, I needed to spend some of those 24 hours doing enjoyable activities. And luckily, that was all it took; just adding some hours talking on the phone with my family, or socializing with friends, or walking out in nature or even just drinking hot tea and reading a good book with my crazy cat on my lap. Consistently adding these few hours each day made all the difference, and life started to feel much brighter.
And then, right in the middle of pondering joy today…I realized that every idea I am trying to apply to joy can also be applied to healing. Stay with me. Let’s first look at space. In order for healing to take root, you must make space for it in the body. In naturopathic medicine, we refer to this as “creating the conditions for health”. You must create an environment in the body that invites health and healing. How can you make your body a fertile ground for health? Go back to basics: adequate, restful sleep, lots of fresh air and water, highly nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables and intentional movement. What you feed will grow. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true; if you give disease the conditions to take hold, it will likely move right in. Next, let’s look at belief. It is critical that you hold the belief that healing is possible for you. In my experience, when it comes to healing, the mind can be nearly as powerful as the actions. We have all heard of the power of placebo, when one believes an inert substance can have a therapeutic effect and then it actually does, but did you know there are also “nocebo” effects? A version of the “nocebo” effect occurs when a negative attitude towards a treatment or therapy causes it to be less effective than it would have been otherwise. Meaning, if you don’t think healing is possible, you are making it even more difficult to obtain. I am not saying that you can merely “think” yourself out of a disease, but I do believe you can “think” yourself into one. A great resource on the topic of the relationship between mind, brain, body and trauma is the book “The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease” by Robert Scaer. And, finally, let’s look at the concept of healing practice. Just like adding some joyful hours to my day creating a shift in my entire demeanor, adding some healthy activities has made a huge impact. I’ve learned that health isn’t about perfection. It’s really not. It’s about doing more “right things than wrong”, or more “good things than bad”, or however you like to think of it. Once I decided I wanted to be a “healthy” person (and please understand that is an actual decision that needs to be made, because there are both benefits and detriments to remaining in an unhealthy state, but that is an entirely separate discussion), anyway, once I decided I wanted to be a “healthy” person, I started closely observing “healthy” people. Luckily, healthy people are super-easy to find in naturopathic medical school! I noticed little things they did, like carry fresh water bottles with them all day and actually drink from them, or spend the time between classes taking a brisk walk outside, or snack on vegetables and lean protein instead of candy and soda, or start their day with green juice instead of a grande coffee/dairy concoction. Sure, they let their hair down every so often, but their core habits promoted health. So, I tried to mimic them in order to eventually share the health they possessed. And, I have to say, it actually worked. If you want what someone has, start doing what that someone does. I suppose this can be said for joy, health, finances, love, fitness and many more areas of life. Again, pretty elementary stuff, but powerful when done with consistency. (Welcome to naturopathic medicine 101)
So, those are my thoughts on joy and healing. Maybe joy is actually just healing for the spirit. Whatever their relationship, I know it is my mission in life to get more, keep more and spread more around. Maybe I can help you do the same?