Less pain, more joy.

Detaching from what causes you pain and attaching to what brings you joy sounds incredibly straightforward and almost absurd to write about, yet for most people it’s amazingly difficult.

First of all, one must do a fairly fearless inventory to discern what actually brings you joy in the first place and what causes pain. This may also sound obvious, but it isn’t. How often do you stay in situations that are unsatisfying at best and hurtful at worst? You don’t dwell there because you’re a masochist, you keep going back to those people or situations because they are familiar.

A good way to begin a self inquiry process is to think about a day in your life.

How are you typically spending it?
With whom are you engaging?
Are you enjoying this experience?
Is it something you do frequently?
If you’re not enjoying it, what’s keeping you there?
Is there something you might prefer to do?
Are you afraid if you don’t do it you will be alone, and that scares the pants off you?

After you have discovered those answers, examine what’s keeping you in situations that don’t bring you joy.

Is it fear of change?

Fear of the unknown?

Are you worried people will reject you if you don’t do what they want?

Does it feel too daunting to start setting boundaries and putting yourself first?

Are you afraid you’ll feel guilty if you disappoint people? (If so, please read the piece: Dare To Disappoint…)

Is it fear of being alone? I mention that one twice because it is a major concern for a vast majority of people. It’s human to have trouble setting boundaries and simply go along to get along, even if you end up feeling unsatisfied, regretful or resentful.

As you can see, it’s not so easy to choose joy. It takes guts. You have to be willing to face your demons. Those demons might come in the form of what Albert Ellis used to call “love slobbism,” the notion that we must be loved or approved of by every significant person in our life, and if we’re not it’s horrible, terrible and awful, and we can’t stand it. That leads to poor boundary setting with other people and putting oneself at the bottom of the list. Clearly not a way to increase your joy.

Fear of being alone is a very real issue for most people as it’s a skill not well taught in our society. The good news is, just like any other muscle, you can strengthen it. In time, with some practice, you might actually find you love your own company. If you don’t, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. We have therapy for that.

Probing one’s deepest self, whether it’s your desires, what really brings you joy, or what brings you grief, is only as useful as the changes you make with that knowledge. If you simply have the insight and don’t take it to the next level, acting on that awareness, it’s just an intellectual exercise.

Change is always scary. You don’t know what’s at the end of the road. But not changing can feel like a slow death.

Luckily, change doesn’t have to happen overnight. It can happen in the smallest increments you can handle. In feng shui, there’s a practice that involves moving 27 things in your house. You can simply move a book from one spot to another on the same table, it doesn’t have to be anything major. The act of moving 27 things shifts the energy of your space as well as your perception of it and allows other changes to follow. Similarly, doing one thing differently, like meditating (using the free Insight Timer app for even five minutes a day) can show you how capable you are of change.  In addition, you get the message that change doesn’t have to be scary or extreme to be enlightening and exciting. And, what’s more exciting than seeing your own potential?

It takes courage to choose joy, especially when that joy involves change, and it almost always does.

Choose you! Choose joy! Nobody knows why we humans are here. Why not maximize your pleasure? I’m not suggesting you do it at the expense of anyone else’s, but there are myriad ways to enhance your enjoyment of life.

Get to know yourself.

Act on that knowledge.


Be curious and try new things.

Pay attention to any time you seem happy, peaceful or content.

Keep a joy journal. Simply write down, or just list, things that reliably bring you joy. Over days and weeks you will notice a pattern: it’s the same things over and over. Maybe it’s being with people, or taking more time for solitary pleasure. Maybe it’s learning something new. It could be a physical activity. For some, it might be exploring your spirituality or volunteering for a worthy cause.

If you put a little time into this you will discover what truly brings you happiness. Then you can do those things more frequently.

Waking up to who you are and what you want is not only good for you, it’s good for everyone else on earth. How does that work? The happier you are the more joy you spread. In addition, you can be congruent and authentic which is a fantastic example for others to follow. It gives them a cosmic permission slip to be their true self.

If happiness is love, then finding out what you really love and acting on it will bring you happiness. It could be connecting with a group, deeply knowing another person, immersing yourself in nature, devoting yourself to a cause, a pet, or anything else. Victor Frankel, in his famous book: Man’s Search For Meaning, believed finding meaning in life, whatever way you possibly can, brings true joy.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.