George E. Vaillant, a psychoanalyst and research psychiatrist at Harvard, directed a 30-year study on adult development. According to Vaillant, joy, love, compassion, happiness, and delight “help us to broaden and build. They widen our tolerance, expand our moral compass and enhance our creativity,” as well as help bind us to others. Vaillant’s experiments document that while negative emotions like shame, guilt, anger, and hate narrow our attention, positive emotions, especially joy, make thought patterns far more flexible, creative, integrative, and effective.
On the flip side, when you dwell on negative feelings, you damage your physical and spiritual well-being. Negative emotions cause stress on your body – and you’re less pleasant to be around so they can have a huge effect on relationships.
You can’t stop negative things from happening, but you can change how you choose to react to them. Tough times are part of your story. They’re challenges. They’re not fun, but if you learn something from them, you turn them into a positive.
If that’s hard for you, help is available. In the past, most people only went to a psychiatrist if they were dealing with negative emotions and feelings. Today, psychiatrists can help you when you’re feeling blue. And with a new emphasis on positive psychology, they can help you find ways to experience joy again.
This week, what if you brought a bit of joy to each of your five senses?
- Eyes. What do you love to look at? Paintings? Books? Fresh flowers? Views outside? Or maybe you can change the look of something in your house?
- Ears. What music have you not listened to in a long time? Or how about some live music! Maybe you like the sound of water flowing. Or the sound of kids laughing?
- Nose. What delicious smells can you find or make this week. Baking? Going outside?
- Taste. What foods make you joyous? What drinks? Or maybe your mouth wants to sing this week!
- Touch. What clothes do you love the feel of? Scarves? How about the feeling of the sun on your face? Or a hot bath? Or something deliciously cool?
We’re not here on the Earth for long. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend more of it being joyous?
I’m sending you seeds of joy from sunrise on the farm. Namaste! And safe travels.
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