By Lisa McGarva – educator, yoga therapist, counsellor and volunteer at the Rainbow Hub in Brighton
It was January 30, 2020 when the World Health Organisation made the declaration which changed the world. There has been a weight of heaviness which requires space to respectfully acknowledge a journey of hardship, and for many, grief. When you have been carrying a heavy weight around for such a long time it begins to feel normal. Sometimes we may even forget to put the heavy load down and have a break.
Perhaps it is now the time to put the load down, and experiment what it feels like to welcome spaces of joy into your life again. Remember how it feels to be joyful, how it feels to be happy, content and at peace. When we feel this way, our lens of how we see the world is one of optimism and of hope. But how do we welcome it into our lives when things can feel uncertain and bleak?
When life is difficult, and things feel dark, you can still find pockets of joy amidst the darkness and uncertainty. The pockets of joy can look like pockets of time, physical spaces or experiences in your life to feel the pleasure of simply being alive. Being open to it enables you to have experiences of joy and awe which accumulatively begins to change your brain.
When we are open to joy by giving ourselves permission to experience it, and can completely immerse ourselves in it through engaging our senses, we can be more mindful and present. By inviting such regular moments into our lives, slowly we begin to change our neural pathways in our brains which help us to feel less anxious and stressed. We begin to programme our brains to be more responsive to joy learning to be present and mindful.
In what you experience, take a moment to consider engaging your senses. What scents you can smell, the taste in your mouth, the sounds that you can hear, what you see and the sensations on your skin. Full immersion of the senses is the key for practising mindfulness.
Spending some time either outside in nature, or going within, are pathways to the feeling of connection with yourself or something bigger than you. You can tap into the feeling of awe which soothes, gives you strength and resilience. These are the things that can help sustain us in dark times.
During wintery, wet Brighton days my mind goes to inviting experiences such as the exhilaration of getting some vitamin sea- swimming at the waterfront during winter, breathing the cool, fresh scent of the trees and sea by taking a walk on the Downs, feeling my muscles soften and relax on my yoga mat, taking in the beauty of a golden sunrise or simply holding a warm cup of tea in the sunshine. Each are beautiful moments to welcome joy into my life that, while are perhaps simplistic, have a massive impact on my mental and physical health.
Can you imagine what the experiences of your senses would be as you engaged in these things? What are some ways that you can introduce healthy moments of joy into your life? Can you see yourself sharing these joyful moments with others?
Plan for the regular practice of joy. It is a practice.
Lisa McGarva, presently engaged in postgraduate studies of Clinical Sexology to be a sexual and relationship therapist, runs an online private practice as an educator, yoga therapist and counsellor where sessions are available by appointment. Lisa calls a few different continents home, but when in Brighton you can find her volunteering at the Rainbow Hub in Brighton.