Nurturing Joy

Recently, I attended a continuing education course on traumatic brain injuries. We heard from several speakers at the hospital where I work, and one of them was a case manager. Something she said really struck me. She said that she has seen so many patients and their families feel almost guilty for laughing or being happy during such a sad and difficult time, and what she always reminds them is that this is exactly the time they need to encourage and nurture joy. How beautiful is that?

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Sometimes when I read the news or hear stories about what others are going through or even deal with my own personal struggles, I am tempted to despair. It seems that the default mode is discouragement, cynicism, fear. What if, instead, I sought to nurture joy? This is not at all to negate someone’s experience of hardship. Trust me- I am all about a good cry session, and I think we should acknowledge and feel our emotions instead of pretending they don’t exist. And yet- don’t we all have a little room to encourage joy in our lives and in the lives of others? Doesn’t it seem like these are the days when our world needs an extra dose of it?

There are so many practical ways to incorporate this in our day-to-day lives. I don’t think it needs to be through huge grand gestures, although those can certainly be fun. Simple things like bringing someone flowers, sending a thoughtful letter, or throwing a party just because are all ways that we can nurture joy in our lives and give ourselves permission to enjoy this crazy ride. (As seen in these photos, another way I love to encourage joy in my life: dancing!)

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It can be so easy to succumb to despair, but I like to think that we have a choice. Instead of sinking into the pit of discouragement in our times of difficulty, maybe we can choose to inject little moments of joy here and there. Joy can coexist with sadness, and not only that, I believe it can lift the veil of darkness and remind us of all that is good and true in the world.

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[All photos courtesy of Kimberly Coccagnia]

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