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  • Writer's pictureDr. Vin

Spark Joy

BACKGROUND: Marie Kondo is a house organizer riding a big wave of popularity since her reality show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” recently hit Netflix. I have brothers and sisters sending me before and after pictures of their house tidying feats ala the “Kon-mari” method. Each week Marie enters the home of a new family and invites them to sort clothes, then books, then miscellaneous items. If an item does not “spark joy”, you are supposed to thank it for its service and get rid of it. I have seen some homeowners on television who do this exercise easily and some have more trouble discerning what brings them joy. What can block your easy access to joy?

PROBLEM: What is going on when we are unhappy? There can be many reasons but depression or anxiety are two moods that can block happiness. I posted the following saying on my desk, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you feel peace, you are living in the present.” Sometimes we are pulled to the past, as when we have old traumas or injuries that are weighing on us. Dwelling on the past without moving or changing conditions or attitudes can drag us down into depression and dampen our joy. Some anticipatory anxiety is natural when we are oriented toward a future task or event. For example, my husband and are currently preparing our taxes for our accountant next week. With all the new tax rules, we carry some fear about what our tax bill will be.

Some people may carry chronic depression and/or anxiety. Some of those conditions may be hormonal, or due to temperament. However, chronic depression or anxiety is often related to developmental issues, meaning we grew up in an environment that caused or exacerbated our condition. How can we move from depression or anxiety, whether short-lived or chronic?

SOLUTION: Chronic conditions that have become part of our way of being in the world may need professional intervention, such as psychotherapy. Milder or temporary conditions may benefit from the philosophy stated above about living in the present. The popularity of the mindfulness movement in the west testifies to the value of practicing meditation in order to consciously return to the present moment, where peace lives. As we inhale the peacefulness of the moment, we invite joy. If joy is not forthcoming, the body will bring to the surface whatever feeling is present. That may be anger, fear or sadness. Once those feelings are accepted and allowed to just be but not dwell, they often move through. However, sometimes the feeling is so strong that the body demands we pay more attention and help the feeling move through with stronger expression. As examples, you may need to have a good cry when you feel hurt or sad, to growl to discharge anger, or to run to move through fear. Once those affects that were blocked are freed, there is more room for peace and joy in the moment – which I am going to need to catch up with my siblings and sort through all my piles of clothes, books and papers!


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