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Bucket of Joy

Jackie was joyless. Nothing she did, nothing others said, nothing in life was making her happy. She tried to fill her day with shopping, watching movies, and exercising. She tried everything and to no avail! She was so discouraged. The more she thought about being joyless, the more joyless she became. A catch-22! It was as if a dark storm cloud was following her everywhere she went. She ruminated over and over in her mind about her lack of happiness and focused on all the things she knew were confirmed in her life situation, which brought her despair. Her car needed some repair, and she was sporting a pretty sizeable spare tire around her waist from snacking. Her best friend just found the love of her life and doesn't call much anymore. Jackie had so much negativity to dwell on. The more she thought, the deeper in despair she spiraled. 

According to Marcus Warner from DWI, there is a specific area in our frontal right brain* containing neurons that are responsible for experiencing relational joy. He refers to this area as a "joy bucket." In order to maintain this joy, we need to keep "filling up this bucket". Whenever we face problems or are feeling down, we can access this "joy bucket" to help us feel better.

I would love to share a few nuggets of truth with Jackie if she could inquire. First, negative thinking will zap out any chance of finding joy. Seeing your half-empty glass is a surefire way to empty it even more. It keeps you tuned into life, always focusing on the negative, and trust me, if you look for the negative, you WILL find it. Secondly, it lowers your capacity to face difficulties. Joy energizes a person to tackle issues and recognize solutions. Problem-solving time decreases as you find solutions quicker while energy and wherewithal increase, helping you through those times.

What are some practical steps Jackie could take to find that joy? I'll share just a few:

  1. Practice gratitude daily. Each day, she could look for all the things for which she could be grateful. Every day, we could never recognize things unless we stopped to focus on them for even just a few short minutes. It could be the beauty of nature around her. There are birds, the sun, and maybe a flower peaking through the soil. She could visit a plant shop or even a garden to soak in the beauty she has not seen. Thankful for provisions such as owning a car and having a place to sleep. The list can be extended.

  2. Reminisce about the situations in the past that brought her joy. It could be a trip she took or a friend she grew up with. Looking at photos certainly can help. Today, with our most valued photos right on our phones, it's very doable.

  3. Anticipate future experiences. As you plan, stop to remember why you're planning it and what you're expecting to experience. It could be a vacation with family, a long-awaited opportunity to learn a new skill or a cooking class.

  4. Listen to or sing uplighting music. It could be a love song or a happy ending to a situation. 

If you, like Jackie, need a little boost to improve your spirit and fill up your joy bucket, check out these suggestions and find your joy again. 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

Philippians 4:8-9 NIV

Dr. Anita J Arrunategui/"The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled People by Marcus Warner & Chris Coursey/Pro Canvas *Allan N. Schore, “Attachment and the Regulation of the Right Brain,”

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