Mental Health Monday: How-to Live with Joy
WELLNESS / 8 minutes of reading / May 7, 2021 From Abide:
It’s time for another Mental Health Monday with Brittney Moses. We’re teaming up with her all month long to bring more awareness to mental health. Brittney Moses is a Los Angeles-based writer and content creator – passionate about the intersection between faith, mental health, and wellness. Brittney’s popular blog advocates for wholehearted mental wellness for everyday living. Join Brittney, Abide, and UHSM in our 31-day Mental Wellness Challenge throughout the month of May. Click the button below to download the calendar and follow along with us! It’s not too late to join in on the fun.Join our 31-day Mental Wellness ChallengeDownload Calendar Now
We’re bringing you exclusive faith-based advice from Brittney every Monday – designed to help you put your mental health first and grow your faith. This week, we’re asking Brittney all about how to live with joy. Check out her responses below.
How do you define Joy?
When I think of joy it’s allowing yourself to be fully present to receive and believe in the good that exists in your life – no matter how big or small. Biblically we see that joy is a sense of fullness and it’s life-giving, it’s replenishing, joy is a form of praise, it fuels our strength, and is medicine for the soul (Psalm 16:11, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 71:23, Proverbs 17:22). Most of all it comes from the Lord. We can have joy because our hope is in God’s faithfulness rather than our ever-changing circumstances. And when we cut ourselves off from fully experiencing joy we rob ourselves of the same blessing that God delights in for our lives out of His abundant love for us. It doesn’t mean that life will be perfect. But when our joy comes from the Lord we can cling to the sovereign hope that supersedes our circumstances.
Why do you think sustainable joy is so hard to abide in? What are the enemies of joy that we need to be aware of?
Honestly, it can be hard to sustain our joy because we’re afraid of getting our hopes up for the things that may end up leaving us in pain or disappointment. It’s a protective defense mechanism to the point that we may bypass any sign of good in our lives at all. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable then we feel that the blows of life won’t be as bad when it comes because part of us predicted it.
Some feel guilty for feeling joy because they don’t think they deserve it or maybe have developed a theology centered on self-depreciation and this couldn’t be further from what God intended for us. It’s estimated that the word “joy” appears through scripture around 200 times, which reminds us that joy is an intended part of the human experience.
And the problem is that when you try to block out pain, sadness, and disappointment (natural happenstances of the human life) you also block out the other range of feelings like joy, love, connection, hope. Life is both and we have to trust that God is as faithful as He’s always been to walk with us through all of it.
Some things I think immediately rob our joy are overthinking, jumping to conclusions or assumptions, perfectionism, comparison, and really anything striving to control things beyond our doing. These things constantly keep our minds in the future or living from a deficit by focusing so much on others while disconnecting from ourselves and the potential in the present moment.
You share often on the alter-ego of joy—foreboding. Why do you think foreboding is something people often choose over joy and how can we stop the cycle? Is foreboding a form of self-sabotage?
I think we all have battled with a sense of foreboding in different seasons of our lives, or in the case of anxiety, it may feel like a way of life. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, so it’s hard to see or experience the fullness of good things when they are happening. So it can be self-sabotaging. But I think it’s also important to have grace for ourselves in realizing that when we continue these emotional cycles, even when they’re negative, the reason they exist is because they are serving us in some way. In the case of foreboding, it serves as a protective mechanism to be prepared at all times in case anything goes wrong. This is an understandable feeling when you’re been through a lot of unexpected hardship and pain that you want to avoid.
But then we have to step back and reflect, is this really serving my well-being overall? And is it realistic to build a wall of control around ourselves so thick in hopes that nothing unfortunate would ever happen to us? If it’s causing us to disconnect from ourselves, God, and others or sabotage relationships and good opportunities that could change our lives, then probably not.
Renewing our joy is a perspective we wake up and practice every day. It’s a choice we make to take a step back and intentionally shift our thoughts in the moments we’re tested the most. It’s when we stop taking everything onto ourselves and redirect our hope and trust in God to make the most out of the unknown. We realize it doesn’t come down to what we know but Who we know and trust He will give us the strength to adapt to life with continued hope no matter the waves because He is our anchor.
There is a common saying that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” What do you have to say to someone that is trying to get past the insecurity of comparison? How can we overcome this?
Comparison happens naturally, without thinking many times. If you’ve ever put down your phone feeling worse than you did when you first picked it up, then you’ve probably been there. Your thoughts toward yourself become more doubtful. You find yourself more frustrated. You begin to feel behind and discontent with your place in life. Feelings of admiration for this person become displaced envy. It’s all so implicit- a subtle takeover and arrest of your mind and spirit, stealing your contentment, your peace, and your sense of self.
The truth is, no one has the full responsibility to make you feel anything. Our perspectives are mainly held by us and our state of mind or personal projections. The issue is in here, not “out there”, where many times we overestimate others and underestimate ourselves.
In the world of social psychology, we understand that comparison is what we naturally do as humans to try and gauge how well we’re doing, maybe in our work, in our social circles, or just in life in general. The more ambiguous those markers are for us, the more we look to others to try and get a construct of what “success” may look like. The problem is, we culturally put so much importance on external factors rather than the internal factors that truly sustain us and speak to character and growth. We see this really play out through what we know as today’s social media highlight reels.
We’re more likely to compare ourselves to people who we feel are in the same or doing something similar to us. But some of the other common forms of comparison are upward comparison: these are typically the people who have gone before us and we have some sort of admiration for. Then there’s downward comparison, where we compare ourselves to those who may not be as far along as us or doing as well, and usually leads to temporary inflation of our ego. But neither one of these truly foster our authentic selves or make us feel too great about ourselves.
In contrast scripture calls us to mark out a path for ourselves, to keep our eyes forward and not swerve to the right or the left and to keep our feet from evil (Joshua 1:7, Proverbs 4:25-27). So God isn’t calling us to look upward, downward, right, or left. He calls us to look forward and to trust the plans that He has for us.
Comparison, while normal, is counterproductive. Instead, try asking yourself: “What is it that’s drawing me to this person? Is it their work ethic, their willingness to take risks, their boldness of conviction, their mastery of skill?” Then consider how these may simply be areas you want to improve in. And that’s okay. Many times, we’re actually seeing qualities in others that we want to grow in ourselves or we may admire the way they carry out their skill but it’s not for us; in which we have to embrace our individual differences. They have their areas of strength and you are growing in your own. Learn to separate the two.
How will you be fully present this week to receive and believe in the good in your life? Let us know in the comments. Remember to look for joy in God’s faithfulness, rather than our ever-changing circumstances.