Therapists are in the mental health profession, so naturally we discuss emotions constantly. In this post, I want to focus particularly on the emotion of joy. Joy has been on my mind a lot lately, given that we recently celebrated Christmas and have entered a brand-new year. Recently my focus on joy has been faith-driven, rather than thinking of joy as an acquired state of happiness. Let me explain. It is often difficult to maintain a state of happiness and grace the whole day. Happiness deterrents include traffic, screaming children, bills to be paid, deadlines at work, and the constant struggles of living as a Catholic in today’s culture. You would think that these would rob us of our joy. However, joy isn’t necessarily influenced by the constant state of flux in our lives. Christ offers us joy, just as He has from the beginning of human’s existence. In John, Chapter 15, Jesus tells the parable of the vine and the branches. He explains “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). He offers us the truth, and therefore gives us joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).
As a counselor, even after the holidays, I find this time of year especially draining on people. There are people struggling with family feuds and difficult personalities. Some have lost loved ones and have experienced their first Christmas/New Year without their beloved. Some still struggle with depression and anxiety even though decorations for the next holiday are cheery. Some still experience sickness and death. My point is that life circumstances haven’t halted just because we have had Christmas. Therefore, when the hectic nature of the season/post-season tries to rob myself and others of joy, I try to focus mine and my clients’ attention to the joy that Christ gives us by entering this world as a fellow human being. I find this provides tremendous hope.
How do we focus our attention on joy? A few suggestions: look in the Bible’s glossary for the word “joy” and look up the related Scripture passages. Reflect on them, and hold them close to your heart when encountering hardship. Read Norman Peale’s, The Power of Positive Thinking, for concrete and applicable ways to focus on the joyous aspects of life, rather than the tribulations. Remember to pause for brief moments throughout your day to focus on the joy that Christ’s birth provides. Center your life around prayer, and before you go to sleep each night, write in a gratitude journal the things that brought you joy that day. Also, I encourage you to read Jeff Spadafora’s, The Joy Model, for some additional suggestions on obtaining joy.