Today, I want to talk about specific, concrete, simple actions you can take to find the joy that is already in your life without having to deny the things that are causing you to struggle, and without having to create joy out of thin air.
Because joy has saved me these past few months - and I’m not talking about the fluffy rainbows and unicorns type of joy (although that is awesome too, just not really me!).
I’m talking about a deeper and more raw, elemental joy that comes from really digging into your emotions and feeling them.
The election sent me deep into grief like I have never experienced before. I’m not saying it was the worst grief I have experienced - but it was different to more traditional grief, and I would say in an entirely different category. It was very personal and very painful, and I know there is more for me to explore there.
But what it did was it cracked me wide open.
As Brene Brown says in Rising Strong, I was face down on the arena floor, and I got curious about what put me there. She calls this the “rumble.”
“Rumbling with our story and owning our truth in order to write a new, more courageous ending transforms who are are and how we engage with the world.”
I call it “resilience through joy," where joy comes from being present and living life fully in all of its emotions, and the resilience that results gives us the ability to move forward even in the face of ongoing fear, uncertainty, and outrage.
And I keep saying this - they don’t get to take away our joy. Nobody does.
Joy is something that can come from within, but it’s not something you have to manufacture. For most of us, joy is innate, and ever present, if we can find ways to turn our mind towards it.
Try this simple exercise.
What is getting between you and joy right now?
Make a mental list. Or even better, write it out. Let it all out.
Ok now, what is bringing you joy these days?
Make a list. Pause on each item and picture it. Let yourself feel it, and feel your energy shift. Feel the weight lifted. Feel the lightness.
Nothing in your life has changed except for your perspective - your ability to see the joy that is already in your life.
I’m not saying don’t feel the bad stuff. The whole point is to feel the bad stuff. And to also feel the good stuff. Giving space to both. Giving voice to both. Speaking both. Listening to others express both.
And if that feels too intangible to you, and too much in your head, or if you want an easy way to shortcut the process of shifting your thoughts, photography is a powerful tool for connecting into that joy.
Photography makes this process concrete because it’s visceral and it makes tangible that which may be hard to describe in what, for most of us, is our usual medium of thoughts and words.
Photography gives us another language for tapping into our emotions, our values, our desires, our voice.
Photography gets us out of our heads and lets us create something that can talk back to us.
And it can work especially well if you literally make concrete, tangible things from your photos. I’ve been feeling so much better since I’ve surrounded myself physically with joy-filled photos of my kids.
Bear in mind that I’m not talking about photography as it is traditionally taught, with a focus on the creative and technical aspects, but photography as a tool for being present and knowing ourselves, rumbling with our story, and finding resilience through joy.
Here are some simple actions you can take:
- Write a list of everything that is bringing you joy right now.
- Look at your camera roll and see if you can find photos that reflect what is bringing you joy right now. You may even find things you can add to your list.
- Look for things that bring you joy. Use your camera to be present and feel it by photographing it. Don’t worry about how the photo looks.
- Make an album on your phone of these photos and look through them daily or whenever your spirits need a lift.
- Share your photos on social media so that you’re spreading the joy. If possible, print some and put them up on your fridge at home or your desk at work so that they are always in your peripheral vision.
If you’re interested in learning more about how photography can help you find resilience through joy, I’d like to invite you to join one of my Resilience Through Joy workshops, either online or locally here in Brooklyn, NY. These are small group workshops where you get to share and connect with other women as well as myself and know that you are not alone in your struggles as well as your joys.
Here is what some of the participants have been saying:
"I appreciated the tone of the workshop where I felt supported and not judged. I loved listening to the different stories - I learned a lot just from listening to everyone. We all had different concerns but it made me feel that I'm not alone.
I'm so thankful for being able to capture moments like these that would have been just fleeting ones without my camera. Thank you Alethea for showing me the way."
"I just needed to tell you how uplifting that was! Yet another drop in the sea of reminders that we are all in this together! Thank you! I can’t wait to soak this up!"
"The workshop was a very affirming and encouraging experience for the participants.There is something normalizing in hearing what others struggle with in motherhood, and there is inspiration in hearing the parenting dreams of other mothers. I walked away inspired as to how I can focus my heart and my family on a few themes by highlighting them in my photos -- connection / relationship, growing up / milestones, discovery / learning, and grace."
To find out more and sign up for one of the upcoming dates for this workshop, go to http://resiliencethroughjoy.com.
Or if you’d rather chat with me one-on-one, you can sign up for a free Photosanity consult where we’ll get on the phone and talk about your biggest challenges as well as what you most want as a parent. I’ll give you your very own customized strategy for finding joy and connection through photographing your kids, as well as three steps to put it into action.