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How To Cultivate Joy

Discussion in 'Journals' started by JustGeorge, Mar 2, 2021.

  1. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    For the last couple months, I was in a real funk. I seldom delve into true depression, but I was there for awhile. Logically, I could understand why; it was the dark months in frigid cold during a worldwide pandemic. That's depressing. But it's lifted now. I don't feel so bad anymore... I understood at the time it was temporary, and it was.

    But doing some reading during the time, it seems that, even though I'm feeling better, I've probably carried the majority of the symptoms of depression for years now. Confused me a bit; honestly, I feel fine. I'd always kind of attributed it to being in a place totally unsuitable for me(and that probably has taken a very real toll). But I kind of had to ponder if something else is going on here...

    For as long as I can remember, I've suppressed just about every emotion I could. I learned it young; my parents weren't abusive, but if I was too 'happy', they questioned if I was on drugs or not(more my father than my mother, really). So I learned to hold that in...

    I learned to hold in anything that could be perceived as weak, really. The man I spent a good chunk of early adulthood saw to that... He was abusive, mostly mentally, but occasionally physically. When it first started, I would get angry, or cry, but after awhile, I wouldn't let him break me anymore. I remember staring at him once as he'd punch me in the side of the head, counting each time he'd hit me calmly, nonchalantly. Go ahead. Hit me again. You can't hurt me. It did work... he stopped and went away. But it was during those years I think I learned to suppress any emotions most people would reach out for help for.

    And then came parenting. While suppression wasn't important with my first son, it became absolutely necessary with the second. With his behavioral issues, much of what he does is reaction seeking. I learned early, as did the schools he attended, that if you could not respond, or respond very casually, the negative behavior stopped. "Oh, you dumped your plate on the floor? Excellent. The dogs will love this." Once he didn't get the big loud reaction he desired, he stops. I have, (as did his preschool teachers) gotten this down to an art.

    The only trouble is... with all this suppression, I don't know how to not suppress, and quite frankly, emotions make me uncomfortable. Even good ones. But I am recognizing this is a problem. My energy levels and willpower are low, and everything feels like work. Even stuff I like to do. I'm stagnating, but it isn't from lack of opportunity, its from an inability to connect to the things going on around me in a meaningful way. I try, and I go through the motions, but I believe until I learn how to show and to really allow myself to feel happiness(because, honestly, I'm pretty content most of the time), I'm going to struggle to do the things I want to do.

    I feel like I'm 14 again, trying to hide the great day I had at school so Dad doesn't accuse me of being on drugs...

    How does one learn to cultivate joy?

    (For the record, I am seeing and working with a therapist.)
     
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  2. janesix

    janesix Active Member

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    You can't. It happens or it doesn't. Just appreciate and be thankful for those special times when joy is present.
     
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  3. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Tough question. One of my Guru's oft-quoted quotes is "Life is meant to be lived ... joyously."

    I believe that in areas of consciousness that we can get into, that we don't believe that quote, that we think we're SUPPOSED to be miserable. Certainly that's not helpful in battling depression. One of the first steps would to actually believe that life is meant to be lived joyously.

    I do believe there are positive things you can do. I'll recommend the story on 'Vasana Daha Tantra' from 'Life Skills for Hindu Teens' as a starting point.

    Best wishes, and I do hope there is a long and joyous life awaiting you.

    Edited to add ... Another quote that's helped me ... from the Tirukkural I think.
    "One of life's greatest follies is to believe that the temporal is permanent."
     
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  4. Vee

    Vee Well-Known Member
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    Glad you're seeing a professional. That will help you more than anyone else ever could. Friends like giving advice, but many times we're not equipped to provide with what a person with depression needs. I've been trying to help a friend who's been struggling with depression for years and it's a big challenge.

    How does one learn to cultivate joy? Great question.

    For me, there are three aspects to consider:

    1 - Physical - I find that if I'm healthy and feel good with my body, I tend to be happier in general. So, good food habits, no smoking, some exercise and enough sleep are a must.
    2 - Emotional - Over the years I learned that I can't change people, but I can be on my own if that's my best choice. If someone contributes in a positive way to my life, I'm happy to spend time with them, but if they're emotionally toxic and make me feel like dirt, I'll cut them off completely. The same way physical toxins pollute your body and make you sick, emotional toxins pollute your mind and make you sick.
    3 - Spiritual - This one gets overlooked a lot but I find it very important. For me, the fact that I have a belief in something greater than myself and a hope for the future really helps me through the hard times.

    Having said that, if you're going through a hard time and you feel like screaming, do it. You shouldn't pretend to be happy if you're not. If sometimes you're sad, that's okay too. You're human.
     
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  5. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    I think this is the curious thing for me... I feel reasonably happy with life... but I can't show it! Any emotion at all has to be pushed down... even the positive ones. And because I'm constantly suppressing these 'up' emotions, it makes me physically act 'down', if that makes sense. Because I'm constantly trying to subdue energy, things like exercising or positive habits become difficult. There are some days I want to read, but feel too drained to open my book(I've seen a doctor, I'm healthy).

    I think realizing that life is meant to be lived joyously has been a turning point, and is probably why I'm opening up to talk about it. I've gotten down on myself for "why can't you just do this or that, you dumb old George!", and then I stopped to think... "Hey, why can't I do that?" Rather than being angry with myself over traits I can quite clearly see where they developed, I'm trying to focus on amending them. I can be mad that I have zilch for vital energy...or I can investigate why, and work on that(and it seems its come down to suppression, for me).

    I think its actually harder for me to show happiness than anything else. I have a hell of a poker face(shame I don't gamble).

    I'll check out that story, thank you.
     
  6. Vee

    Vee Well-Known Member
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    That's actually good news. Maybe you could try to be more open about your positive feelings. Don't be afraid to smile and laugh more. Do a little bit more of that every day until it becomes a habit. It will probably take time because you've been suppressing your feelings all your life, but I think it can be done little by little.
     
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  7. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    Go for a walk.
    Make a little bit of time for a favoured hobby.
    Even if it’s just once a week.
    Create some “me” time and find a good book or show or movie that you enjoy. Discuss it with people.
    Practice thinking positively. About yourself especially.
    Cultivating joy looks different for different people.
    Of course if you’re experiencing depression then it is best to follow the advice of medical professionals.
     
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  8. Left Coast

    Left Coast Happy Spring!
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    I think joy and gratitude are linked. I find that my mood improves markedly when I think about the many ways in which I am so fortunate in my life. Even the simplest things we might take for granted: a bed, a chair to sit on, food to eat. Joy is deeper than just a mood, for sure, but I think the practice starts there. Joy, that deeper, more abiding level of happiness or "positive" feelings, I think emerges naturally over time as we cultivate it with small, simple things.
     
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  9. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    It will take awhile, to be sure. I tried to be mindful of this today... and it might be a little overwhelming with people right now(they have various responses), but cats are fairly non judgmental... maybe that will be a place to start.

    I am so happy to be walking again, even though my toddler's little legs can't go far yet. I think that was when the depression broke, was when the temperatures rose. For most of February, we had daily highs that were ranging between -5 F to 5 F.... too friggen cold to move. In the evening, it was unbearable to go outside at all...

    I think RF has helped in the discussion department. I don't have many people available in everyday life, and its been nice to talk about interesting things here with folks. Thanks, RF friends!


    You're right...at the end of the day, its the little things we overlook that often make it worth living. As I work on being present, I have been trying to pay attention to the numerous wonderful things around me. I'm finding the two are linked... the more present I feel, the more gratitude that comes.
     
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  10. aketo

    aketo Active Member

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    Try to spend time around people who are full of joy and excitement, and who expect the same from you. Perhaps do something you both would love.
    If you feel like you're lacking something it could help you bring out a more fun side of yourself.
    It will take time. I speak from personal experience and everyone is different so I can't say exactly.
    Hope you find joy soon :)

    Edit: I did go through something similar, but not to your degree. So I understand partly. I suppressed emotions on account of being bullied for years. Now most of them are numbed down. Anger I don't feel at all only annoyance. But I see it as a sign of originality, growing up and being who I am. I still try to feel more, though. Subconsciously.
     
    #10 aketo, Mar 2, 2021
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
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  11. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    That's hard! No matter the relationship(family, friend, partner), people often depend on me to be calm and reasonable. The kids can be fun, though. They think I'm weird(they're probably right).

    You're right, though. The company you keep really can make a difference...
     
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  12. Geoff-Allen

    Geoff-Allen Resident megalomaniac

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    Worst things to say to someone who is depressed -

    Click here for the very well mind site - it is excellent in my humble little opinion!

    Wishing you all the very best!
     
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  13. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    I don't rightly know but like you I used to suppress my feelings. That was a long time ago as I was helped immeasurably by homeopathic medicine. Had I not received that help when I needed it, when I was still fairly young, in my mid-30s, I hate to think where I would be today because I was headed for a train wreck with all the psychotropic drugs I had been taking. I also went to a lot of counseling for about 15 years and attended various 12 step programs for about eight years.

    I do not seek joy, I just appreciate the small things and am happy to not be depressed, after all I have endured in my life The only thing that knocks me off my horse anymore is the illness or death of a cat, but I have been able to deal with that a lot better in recent times.
     
    #13 Trailblazer, Mar 3, 2021
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
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  14. Pilgrim Soldier

    Pilgrim Soldier Active Member

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    I went through a similar experience of depression, i had never suffered depression in the past so it was a new experience and I had no idea how to deal with it.

    Mt Doctor prescribed antidepressant medication, which I used for around 3 months. I stopped using the medication after I googled the name of the medication and found a long list of side effects attached to it.

    I ended up consulting an independent counsellor, 'He was not on the AMA register" so he wasn't a certified practitioner but he actually provided the best and most effective therapy. I'm glad to say that depression will never again be a debilitating condition for me.

    The practitioner explained that depression is a good and natural thing, he said depression is the symptom of a spiritual ailment, which needs to be attended to. He likened to all the other aches and pains we experience when something is wrong with our health.

    the only difference between depression and a physical illness is depression can't be diagnosed using conventional methods such as X Ray, Biopsy or Blood Tests. I was advised that my spiritual condition needed to be treated by spiritual means.

    We've heard the expression, "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger". This is very true for everyone who overcomes depression. In my case the practitioner lead me to the Lord, who strengthened me so I was able to see it through. I've since learned to trust in the Lord in all things, so now I just follow Him and He deals with all the worry and stress.
     
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  15. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

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    Nothing can bring greater joy than the nuzzling of one's face into the soft furry tummy of a cat. The only caveat is that one should probably not attempt to do this if said cat is likely to respond by ripping your face off. In which case, cultivating joy in the simple awareness of our living (and smiling) is probably the safer option.
     
  16. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    I can relate to that, actually. I used to suffer from frequent anxiety attacks, almost on a daily basis(and sometimes multiple times a day). It wasn't counselling that helped, or medicine(which I tried on and off, but as you noted, often carried side effects making it not worth it), but turning to spiritual measures which stopped it.

    Or, if they're a stinky kitty... Swatty would probably be the most fun to tummy nuzzle(he's a big long haired puffball), but he has a habit of laying in just about anything... and sometimes smells strange because of it. I notice ex ferals aren't fussy about these things... I was chopping cabbage one day, and left the kitchen for a moment. Came back, and there he was. Sprawled out in the cabbage...
     
  17. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

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    That's not right. :D
     
  18. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    Swatty does a lot of things that aren't quite right... but we love him anyways.

    One of the most beautiful, and eccentric, cat I've ever met.
     
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  19. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

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    I need photographic evidence. :)
     
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  20. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Well-Known Member
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    I'll complain to the camera crew(husband or resident teenager).

    Thankfully, you can't smell him through a picture...
     
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