It’s been a tough slog.
I recently listened to an interview w Dr Judith Joseph MD, psychiatrist and researcher, and her words made me pause and have resonated (in a good way) in my mind since.
She was talking about anhedonia—anywho? Yep, (the inability to find moments of joy) and, as a psychiatrist she’s seeing an epidemic in both youth and adults alike. You know, that meh, blah…nothing is necessarily wrong but you feel “off”? Life’s colors are a little gray?
Without a doubt, I am an optimist. In general. Like you, I have my moments. But, for many years, I didn’t allow my darker moments. Until, one day when I was stretched quite thin, someone did see my reality and her words I will never forget. “I was wondering if the other shoe would ever drop?! Nothing seems to ever get to you! Always Miss Sunshine!”
That was a life-changing moment for me. I realized in that second how deeply I hid my vulnerabilities. That was the beginning of a lifetime path towards awareness, truth and presence and I am forever grateful to her for her honest words.
Today, I think it’s more important than ever for us to allow our own and each other’s vulnerabilities. We have been through the wringer. Individually and collectively. Regardless of our prior stories, 2020 had us living through a pandemic not knowing if we were safe, so many more uncertainties added to whichever ones we were already dealing with. Small business owners, or large corporations, we had to learn how to “pivot”. Parents had to learn to work with children underfoot and kids had to try to read emotions through face masks…and so much more. We had to deal with civil unrest, unsettling and disturbing politics that bled into our personal relationships and wars. Worldwide, across all nations, genders and ages we dealt with a level of consistent trauma— we were unsafe, safe, unsafe, safe…never really regaining our footing. And many of us are still walking navigating ground.
But, we keep slogging along. If we haven’t already seen the other shoe drop, it will drop harder the longer we wait to process.
Oftentimes we fear allowing ourselves to feel. But a feeling is only a vibration we feel in our bodies for a finite time—some neuroscientists say the lifespan of a feeling is 90 seconds. Once that physical sensation leaves us we can process it and the thoughts that created it—but only if we allow it. Studies are showing addictions to self soothing behaviors soared over the last four years as we continued to push through and attempt to not feel. So when do we take that time? Because processing and feeling is the path we need to get back to our joy—the ability to savor the moments and be present in our own lives.
If you are finding it challenging to find joy in the moments of your day—you are not alone. Dr Joseph shares a quiz she uses to determine the level of anhedonia we might be experiencing. She attributes much of this epidemic of “meh, blah, anhedonia” to us not processing and continuing to push through the turmoil of the last 4 years. Which is highly contributing to us feeling yuck, empty or numb, remaining in survival mode and just pushing through and “ just getting it done”.
Some of the questions she has us ask ourselves are:
Do you often make “delayed future happiness statements”? Such as “when ______ happens I will be happy” or “when I get this I will feel better”.
Do you find it hard to enjoy resting or taking breaks because you feel restless and empty when you’re not busy?
Do you rarely take time to savor meals?
Do you rarely enjoy reading for leisure?
Is it hard for you to enjoy vacation and/or holidays?
She also asks whether we wake up refreshed from naps or whether we are engaged when watching TV or movies. And then notice how many we agree to…you can take the full quiz on her website.
In short…we must take the time to reflect, to allow ourselves to feel what we feel, to process and question so that we can come through to the other side. Where we can feel the joy in the moments. To reclaim that part of ourselves that gets lost when we tune out. Life isn’t just a “happy, happy, Joy, Joy” event for any of us! We all have great days and really bad days where things spiral that are out of our control…that is the nature of the world we live in. But, when we can have the clarity to acknowledge, feel, process, go through it and not try to go around it—we come out the other side and there are some wonderful, Joyful moments in our day!
So, take the quiz or even just notice your answers to the partial questions I shared from Dr Joseph above. Do many of them resonate?
We are not machines that just keep on keeping on. We are Souls, we have bodies. Both need to be cultivated, tended to.
What is Good for the Soul today? Will we prioritize that dedicated time to our well-Being?
Maybe some morning quiet, breathing meditation, prayer and connection, just Being and allowing ourselves to Feel, sorting out the thoughts that led to those feelings and question their basis?
Does it serve us to continue thinking those thoughts or is there another way to reframe and move forward?
What habits am I using to self soothe that actually backfire? How do I feel when I see my thoughts written down…can I let what doesn’t serve me go?
Will my future self look back and say “thanks” for who I choose to be today?
Sometimes we reach out to help and sometimes we reach out for help…either way, we are all in this together so choose well. We are better together.
We’ve got this.