Waiting For Your Garden

Gardens have a way of teaching patience. It doesn’t matter where they are located, their size, or what you are growing. They are still a lesson in that virtue. My granny was a very gifted gardener. I’ve seen her grow lush plants, bushes and trees from frail cuttings. Even now, when I reflect upon her gardening skills, I am amazed. She made it look so easy. Our lives are gardens, too; remember? Chronic illness, in any form, has the same uncanny ability to teach patience. It’s a lesson that is often learned the hard way. And the waiting, for lack of a better description, can feel hellish. 

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        “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” — Romans 12:12 NIV

If you have a Chronic illness, or you know someone who does, then you recognize this garden’s path all too well. You have followed it, with scared and sometimes reluctant steps. The waiting seems to never end. From the initial diagnosis, through the necessary tests, the difficult symptoms and devilish setbacks … you are constantly waiting … for results … for less pain … for more energy … waiting for doctors … for medications … for more mobility … for a good day … maybe, a good week … and waiting … and waiting. Living with a Chronic illness demands tenacity and optimism. But, above all, it requires an abundance of patience — with your body, your illness and the world around you. It isn’t easy. I know. But it is feasible.

For the most part, many people misunderstand patience. When you exercise patience, you aren’t giving up. Nor does it imply that you don’t care. We’re talking about your health, or that of a loved one. Of course, you care. Patience is a quiet power that nourishes the mind, body and soul. It has the ability to make you stronger — healthier. Now, for a moment, consider the alternative.

When you try to juggle life and a Chronic illness without patience, you become frustrated. Angry. This hurts you and those around you. It hampers your abilities. As life begins to spiral out of control, you are overwhelmed. Then, anxiety joins the mix. In some cases, depression follows. You don’t need more health problems. Yet, that’s what you have. Your health, physically and emotionally, has become even more fragile than it was before.

By using patience, you have an advantage. Patience allows you to manage stress more effectively.  You are happier — more at peace with yourself and your life. It provides better mental health. It strengthens and nourishes your relationships, too. And your support system is a very priceless thing. Patience allows you to achieve your goals, no matter how long it may take. It enables you to overcome the inevitable setbacks. You are living — even thriving — under difficult circumstances. How? Because patience has increased your coping skills. And that is an important part of managing any Chronic disease.

Granted, not all of us are patient by nature. But there are things that you can do to cultivate patience:

  1. When life isn’t going as planned, i.e. a flare in your disease, don’t blame yourself or others. Don’t allow negative emotions to take root. Stay calm. Keep your perspective, i.e. setbacks happen even when you do everything your doctor has advised. Chronic diseases often evolve and change happens.
  2. To reduce your pain, do not allow your thoughts to magnify the situation. Does it hurt? Yes. But remind yourself that uncomfortable pain doesn’t equate to unbearable pain. Acknowledge the difference. You can and will get through this. 
  3. Listen to your body. Don’t allow pain, swelling, or whatever symptom, to prevail. Don’t ignore the obvious. You know what is the norm with your body and your disease. When things are worsening, call your doctor and address it.
  4. Never underestimate a self pep-talk. This is no pity-party. Think about what you are dealing with, your options, your feelings, etc. Acknowledge your victories — even the small ones. Embrace what you can do. You might even bounce a few ideas, off of someone in your support system. You will feel better. Then, catch your breath. Focus on your goal. 

Every garden has its trials and triumphs. Yet, despite the obstacles, life blooms. It may take a little longer than we expected. The waiting is inconvenient, at the least. But it’s part of the journey. Life continues — yours and mine. Each day, even the difficult ones, are a blessing. So, thank God for them. Cherish their beauty. Grow in your wisdom. And sow more patience.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/psychiatry-psychology/coping-with-chronic-medical-illness/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/four_reasons_to_cultivate_patience

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201209/the-power-patience

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-zesty-self/201109/four-steps-developing-patience

Photo by Finn Hackshaw for Unsplash

 

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We Are Our Brother’s Keeper

Mental Health America is a non-profit that is dedicated to the needs of those with Mental illness and their families. While you may have not heard of them, the organization was founded in 1909. For over 65 years, they have turned the month of May into a time of awareness. With over 200 affiliates in 41 states, MHA is a hardworking national as well as grassroots advocacy. And the need is real.

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Unlike other Chronic illnesses, Mental illness is more difficult to diagnose. There is no simple blood-test, or x-ray. But strides have been made in the process, with the help of modern neuroimaging and genetics. Scientists today are working to uncover the biological keys of mental disorders. And the more that we learn … the more we can help patients to lead better lives. Healthier ones.

If you or a loved one has a Chronic illness, this should be something to applaud and pray for. No matter the initial diagnosis, i.e. Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Heart Disease, Cancer, etc., many chronically ill patients [at one time or another] will also be diagnosed with Depression and/or Anxiety. Setbacks can take a toll — physically, emotionally & mentally. Such forms of Mental illness can often be like that uninvited house-guest and much more troubling. Overcoming one becomes a separate struggle in itself — a difficult complication. Often times, an overwhelming one. 

Chronically Mentally Ill is a medical (and legal) term for a patient who has been diagnosed with a major mental disorder by a licensed physician, i.e. Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, etc. Their illness has led to at least one hospitalization. It impairs their ability to work, their relationships, their thinking and their mood. 

The prevalence of Mental illness in American society isn’t a myth. It isn’t an issue that we can afford to avoid. From the Christian perspective, we are our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9, NIV). God challenges us to think of others and not just ourselves. For those less devout, consider the numbers involved. Approximately, 1 in 5 adults struggle with a form of Mental illness. That’s over 48M people. And 1 in 25 adults, roughly 9M, live with a serious Mental illness. Over 20% of our youth experience a severe Mental disorder, at some point in their lives. 

From the social standpoint, 26% of America’s homeless are living on the streets with a serious Mental illness. About 46% live with a severe Mental illness or substance use disorder. If they are lucky, they are able to find refuge in a shelter. If that shelter has an on-site clinic, they can get the medical attention that they need. But, often times, these individuals receive little help — becoming recipients of sporadic, revolving-door healthcare. Just over 50% of America’s children, ages 8-15, received mental health services last year. Did you know that half of all Chronic Mental illness presents itself by the age of 14? Three-fourths will show symptoms, by age 24. And, unfortunately, long delays can exist in treatment. This isn’t uncommon, no matter the socioeconomic factors involved. Years, sometimes decades, can pass from the time symptoms first appear until medical treatment is actually received.

As a result, Mental illness costs America over $190B in lost earnings each year. Approximately 37% of students with a Mental health condition, who are being served by Special Education will drop-out (ages 14-21). Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death. More than 90% of children who die from suicide suffer from a form of Mental illness. It’s also estimated that we are losing 18-22 military veterans every day to suicide. Most mentally ill patients are not violent. That noted, 3-5% of all violence — including those where firearms are used — can be attributed to serious mental illness. These facts cannot be ignored. The loss … the pain … endured by patients and families is really immeasurable. The loss to our society goes without saying. These patients/families need our  support. We are facing a crisis that, left unattended, will surely worsen. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It isn’t the time to look the other way, or pretend that the facts do not exist. It isn’t the time to try and convince yourself that this “problem” doesn’t concern you. We are all in this journey called life, together. Now is the time to embrace the statistics … look in the mirror … and ask, “How can I make a difference?”

 

Reference Links:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/about-us

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/roots.aspx

https://definitions.uslegal.com/c/chronically-mentally-ill/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/chronic-mental-illnesses

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/FactSheets/Bipolar-Disorder-FS.pdf

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218235/

https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers

http://www.amhca.org/blogs/joel-miller/2017/10/03/gun-violence-and-mental-illnessmyths-and-evidence-based-facts

* Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

 

 

A Quiet Place …

Before Christ fed the 5,000 — a miracle detailed in all four of the Gospels — he sought rest for himself and his disciples. He did so without reservation. He didn’t scold anyone. Nor was he embarrassed. Christ embraced the idea of resting.

Why then do patients with Chronic illnesses hate to rest? Their reasons are as varied as the individuals themselves. But often times they include feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, stubbornness, etc. Society still has its stigmas. We live with them, daily. If you or a loved one has a Chronic illness, you may be all too aware of these stigmas. You may even fear being negatively labeled as a result of one. Yet, modern medicine tells us that rest is vital to managing Chronic diseases. Forgive my bluntness but … you can rest now, or you can regret it later. The choice is yours.

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  “… Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”                                         –Mark 6:31 (NIV)

Work and fatigue are not a good mix. We all know that. Yet, most jobs seem to demand more of us every year. Longer hours. Greater stress. Deadlines. Responsibilities. It adds up. And it can take its toll.

The decision to disclose a Chronic illness to your employer, or co-workers, is a very personal one. Some may be comfortable with doing so. Others may not. Whichever path you choose is up to you. But you do need to educate yourself on the fine points of The Family Leave Act. It may come in handy, one day.

If your employer has 50+ employees, and you have been working there for at least 12 months, this law applies to you. Although it isn’t paid leave, it provides the opportunity to rest and recuperate. If you have vacation time, sick time, or personal time, etc., saved up with your employer, you can use it along with your FMLA. In the imperfect world of Chronic disease, this provides a chance to take a much needed pause in the daily grind. It gives a caregiver the time that he or she needs with a loved one. Oftentimes, a small boost is all that is required to regain control of your illness.

Severe pain is also a way of life, for many chronically ill patients. When the pain worsens at night, sleep becomes disrupted. A few of the medications used to treat these diseases are also known to cause sleep problems. If that isn’t overwhelming enough, some patients may struggle with Anxiety or Depression as well. This too makes sleep/rest difficult. If you are having any of these issues, please talk to your doctor. Usually, if the pain can be controlled, you will be able to achieve adequate rest. Consider trying these tips:

  • Limit your daily consumption of caffeine & alcohol
  • Sleep in a dark room
  • Keep noise down
  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature
  • Try a p.m. snack of foods known to induce sleep, i.e. walnuts, almonds, cheese & crackers, chamomile tea, passionfruit tea, or cherry juice

If you are still having sleep difficulties, your doctor may prescribe a medication that can help. When a medication is used, it is best to do so for a limited amount of time (2 weeks or less) to avoid dependency. 

Rest isn’t too much to ask. It’s a necessity for our bodies. So, be kind to yourself. Realize your limitations. Accept that you aren’t invincible. It’s okay. A nap isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a chance to power-up. What may look like an indulgence to some is really a way to maintain control of your Chronic illness. So, use it wisely. Rest plays a vital role in making the most of every day. Denial does not. 

Your work schedule and/or workload may have to be examined, at some point. A leave may become necessary. This isn’t unusual, either. Setbacks happen. Approximately 133M Americans live with a form of Chronic illness. Millions are juggling more than one. Most remain within the workforce. You are not alone. Remember that.

No one is expecting any of us to perform a miracle. But we are still expecting a lot. Let’s be honest, we have goals — you, me and everyone like us. We have plans … dreams … bucket lists, etc. We want to be productive. Successful. Involved. Yes, we have a Chronic illness/es. And we manage it. We want to make the most out of living. Perhaps, the best way to achieve these things is by following Christ’s example? Rest. And it starts with a quiet place …

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-straw-gold/201704/when-our-chronically-ill-bodies-say-rest-why-dont-we

https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-chronic-illness

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/managing-long-term-illness-and-chronic-conditions

https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2016-11-21/coping-with-the-regret-that-surrounds-a-chronic-illness

* Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It Is Well With My Soul

If you have a Chronic illness, then you have experienced that Twilight Zone moment when your diagnosis was first given. A part of you is hearing what the doctor is saying. The other part is almost in shock — engulfed with disbelief. This is the start of an emotional, physical and often times spiritual rollercoaster. One that none of us asked to ride on. One that seems hopelessly out of our control. Or is it? I have heard the diagnosis of a Chronic illness, more than once. Multiples are not unusual. Millions of patients can attest to that. And I have asked, “Why me?” But I have also asked, “Why not me?” One of the most important things that any patient of a Chronic illness can do is embrace it. Those words are easier said than done. I know. Still, they beg the question: Have you accepted your diagnosis?

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A Chronic illness is not the same as being terminally ill. Yet, there are five stages of grief involved: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The life you had is gone. This is your new normal. Many of the things that you once did are lost to an affliction that you didn’t ask for. And, if you are like most patients, you don’t feel that you deserve. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t seem fair. Why is this happening? You lament about what you could have done differently. Some seem to have done everything right and still they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness. It’s confusing, irritating and overwhelming. While you are trying to cope with medications, treatment, side-effects, lifestyle changes, symptoms and emotions … you may also be wrestling with your spiritual beliefs.

Faith is easy to have, when life is good. It becomes a different ballgame, in difficult times. Some people question their faith, when life gets hard. They may even become angry with God — confused by the turmoil that has engulfed their comfort zone. Often times, adults drift away from church and faith. There isn’t a specific reason. It just happens. The diagnosis of a Chronic illness can bring them back. They now need the assurance, hope and peace that faith provided. Those things they shrugged aside — took for granted. For others, who have never had a religious belief system, difficulty can actually lead them to faith. It’s a very personal walk, down an often lonely path. If you are struggling with your faith, you may be asking, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And that’s a good question. We don’t always understand why, at the moment we are going through an ordeal. It may take months — even years — to know. But one day, we will understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Personally, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. To get us where He needs us, God uses every tool. He doesn’t create our suffering, but he allows good to flourish from it. He knows that in these difficult moments, we are gaining insight … serving as examples … literally inspiring others. Good emerges. In Romans 8:28, we are told, “… God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

If you take a few moments to look through the Holy Bible, you’ll note that affliction and suffering are ever present. In fact, there are at least 14 words in Hebrew and Greek that translate to “affliction”. Think about that. Suffering is part of this earthly world. It always has been. None of us are immune. Chronic illnesses, i.e. Alcoholism, Mental illness, Atrophy, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Obesity, Glaucoma/Blindness, etc., were present in biblical times. What you are experiencing isn’t new. Such afflictions have been around for centuries.

Today, thanks to modern medicine, we have options that make living with Chronic illness much easier. Even modern society has changed — becoming more accepting of those who suffer from these diseases. Yes, there are still problems to be addressed. Awareness continues to be a need. The more people understand, the better off that we become as a society. Healthier living. Preventative measures. Learning has its rewards. We cannot control human nature. There will, unfortunately, always be individuals who are bigoted, who discriminate, who bully, who judge, etc. But we can pray for them. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

If you have a Chronic illness, work towards accepting it. Stay optimistic. Take the necessary steps — changes —  to manage your health. It will provide much needed stability to your life. Learn to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate what you can do. Maintain a clear perspective — set a few goals. Avoid additional stress. Count your blessings. Your life has changed before. Think about it. Perhaps, it was when you went off to college? Or when you entered military service? Or marriage? This isn’t the end of the world. This is a new journey. So embrace it, as I have. It isn’t the path that I would have chosen. And you probably feel the same. But it is well with my soul.

Have a Blessed Easter.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html

http://www.jennifermartinpsych.com/yourcolorlooksgoodblog/2013/09/the-five-stages-of-grief-for-chronic.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-affliction.html

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/diseases-bible

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

*Photo by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

The Healing Power of A Pet

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Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful they are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All heathful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. And many seniors live with chronic illnesses that cause a lot of discomfort.

When we are bonding with a pet, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/healing-power-pets

https://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2015/12/cancer-and-the-healing-power-of-pets

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/from-cancercare/animal-assisted-therapy-enhances-cancer-care/article/372518/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

* Photo by the author

Clarity In The Garden …

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There are few things that represent clarity better than water. Whether you are admiring a waterfall, a fountain, a koi pond, or the massive ocean, there is something clear … almost pristine … about it. You might even wonder how it can look that way … beautiful, refreshing, sustaining.

God gave nature ecosystems to filtrate its water. If you own a garden pond or fountain, you probably have a filtration system operating to maintain it — freeing the water of muck and algae. He also gave our bodies a good filtration system to eliminate cellular wastes and fluids. That system comes in the form of a pair of organs known as kidneys. But when Chronic Kidney Disease strikes, it can make that filtration very difficult.

CKD, or Chronic Kidney Failure as it is also known, is the gradual loss of kidney functioning. When it reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of wastes and fluid build-up in the body. Progression of CKD can lead to End-Stage Kidney Failure which requires regular dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life.

Chronic Kidney Disease has a variety of symptoms that may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep Problems
  • Changes In Urination
  • Decreased Mental Sharpness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Swelling in the feet & ankles
  • Itchy Skin
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Hypertension

Since many of these symptoms can be associated with other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing them. A diagnosis usually involves examining family history; the medications a patient may be taking; blood tests; urine tests; Imaging tests; and possibly a kidney biopsy. If Chronic Kidney Disease is present, treatment is based upon the stage that the CKD is in.

Since CKD is a Chronic illness, it’s not leaving. So a patient’s response becomes very pivotal to how the disease progresses. There was life before CKD and now there must be life with it. Lifestyle modifications have shown significant improvement in many CKD patients. Through diet alone, one study showed that patients with CKD reduced their risk of death by 68%! Cigarette smoking, exercise and body mass also play a role. Those CKD patients who do not smoke show a slower progression of the disease. They also have a reduced risk of heart attacks and death. Regular exercise was also associated with a reduced risk of death.

The DASH diet has been approved by many health organizations including the National Kidney Foundation. If you have been diagnosed with CKD and need to lose some weight, it is an excellent option. Studies have already shown that the DASH diet helps to decrease hypertension; lowers a patient’s risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer; as well as reducing the formation of kidney stones. If you have any questions, discuss it with your doctor or contact the National Kidney Foundation.

The DASH diet is simple. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. The diet encourages less salt/sodium intake. And it limits sugars/sweets. This isn’t a crash diet, or a fad diet. This is about eating healthier and living better as a result.

Exercise can play a positive role, in the lives of CKD patients. Yet, some choose to avoid it. Hopefully, if you’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, you will talk to your doctor about exercise options that can keep you on the move. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase oxygen consumption, in some patients. There is also evidence that aerobics can improve hypertension, lipid profiles and overall mental health. If you just can’t visualize yourself in an aerobics class, then consider another low-impact option. There are many low-impact exercises that provide beneficial results: Golf, Swimming, Water Aerobics, Walking, Elliptical machines, Kayaking, Hiking, Yoga, etc. The important thing is that you find one that you like and get moving.

Life with Chronic Kidney Disease isn’t easy, but it is possible. What matters most is the kind of gardener that you are. Think about that, for a moment. If you ever seen an unkept garden, you know that it is steadily taken over, i.e. weeds, pests, etc. There is no control. A conscientious gardener stays vigilant … takes the actions that need to be taken, maintains a level of control. As a result, they have a beautiful garden. Our lives are gardens, too. How we live … thrive … and enjoy life … depends upon the kind of garden that we choose to keep!

                         “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengthens Me.”

 — Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354521

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/stages-of-chronic-kidney-disease-topic-overview

https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Dash_Diet

https://www.kidney.org/news/lifestyle-modifications-improve-ckd-patient-outcomes

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15974634

* Photo by Jeffrey Workman on Unsplash

 

Choose Joy …

It’s funny how little things can emotionally move you. When I was very young, my mother took me on a trip to the local garden center. She said that a Dutch girl (such as myself) needed to start appreciating Dutch flowers. We picked out various bulbs — Tulip, Crocus and Hyacinth. Then, we went home to plant them. It was my first real hands-on experience, with gardening — filled with ancestry, excitement, dirt, anticipation, and beautiful results. In the decades long since, I’ve always had and admired Dutch flowers. Whenever I see them in bloom, no matter where it is, I have to pause to just look at them. And I always smile. It gives me joy.

Recently, I was doing some updates around the house. I wasn’t really looking for a wall plaque, but it found me. It was simple, in design — a bit rustic — painted with wildflowers and butterflies. Yet, its message leaped out at me: “Let it go … Choose joy”. Like those Dutch flowers, it made me smile. It literally uplifted me, if only for a few moments. Need I say, I bought the plaque? And I hung it where it can be seen, first thing, every day. I did this as a reminder to myself to choose joy — to live as happily as I can. And to let go of the negative.

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Faith teaches us that joy is an emotion and a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). That it is a matter of habit and virtue. And that it can be commanded. I’ve never professed to being a Divinity major. My walk in faith is purely based on my experiences in life. But in my humble opinion, God didn’t place us on Earth to be miserable. Scripture teaches us that “A joyful heart is good medicine …” (Proverbs 17:22). Remarkably, there are actually scientific studies to support this.

When we are happy, or joyful, our hearts are healthier. Our stress is lessened. Aches and pains diminish. Our immune systems grow stronger. And our lives are lengthened. Think about that, for a moment.

Psychology teaches us that happiness and joy aren’t exactly the same. Happiness is a vague emotion. It means different things to different people. And that it’s temporary, in duration. Yet, all agree that it is positive. Joy is also positive — possibly more powerful. But Joy, they contend, is like a belief. It is with us, for the long haul. Even when life becomes difficult, joy can find a way to comfort and uplift us.

There are ways to feel more joy and happiness, in your daily life:

  •  Choose to smile. You can make a conscious decision, each day, to have a good day.
  • Try Prayer or Meditation. It soothes the mind and soul. Relieves stress. Comforts.
  • Practice Positive Thinking. Acknowledge the simple things that bring you joy.
  • Be Grateful. Often times, joy/happiness is increased by recognizing the people & things that we already have.
  • Be More Active. Random acts of kindness don’t require Olympic training. Yet, they are fulfilling and inspiring. Try volunteering for a cause you believe in. You will feel joy, as a result of your involvement.

Society often times bombards us with negative things. But each of us has the power to choose. We don’t have to accept every negative that surrounds us. We can learn to let go and choose joy!

 

Reference links:

https://faith.yale.edu/joy/virtues

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_ways_happiness_is_good_for_your_health

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/happiness-stress-heart-disease/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/03/why-does-happiness-matter

https://healthpsychology.org/is-there-a-relationship-between-happiness-and-joy/

https://ideapod.com/psychologist-explains-best-way-change-thinking-negative-positive/

* Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.