Dear Dr. Norquist:
During this past weekend, I’ve realized that most of my workdays are not at all enjoyable and I no longer expect them to be so. I just get through the day – I endure it. I’ve forgotten that it is possible for each day to be enjoyable. I’ve been thinking of retirement as the enjoyable time to look forward to, and have been enduring the present. What a sad way to live. I never saw this so clearly until just recently. My question now is how can I make my days enjoyable?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Joy is the mark of a spirit-filled life. It is an energetic state expressed through exuberance and enthusiasm, hence “jumping for joy.” Think of the abandon with which children and animals, especially dogs, express this gleeful state. It makes you smile, doesn’t it? Adults who approach their lives with a sense of enjoyment have a sparkle in their eyes and a readiness to smile and experience humor. They are full of life.
It’s great that you recognize the need for enjoyment in your days! This is the essential first step. Let’s look at your life and see what needs changing. There are certain ingredients in a life that create the foundation for easy enjoyment. This includes a pain-free state, enough money, health and energy, skillful stress management, and a relaxed non-driven pace. These last two items are harder to come by in this part of the country. If this is the case for you, my suggestion is that you take a look at how you can slow your pace, and create more breathing space in your day. Make time for laughter!
Another essential element is managing worrisome thoughts. Recognize that these thoughts have no usefulness in your life. Worrying doesn’t fix any problems, and it dampens your spirit – thus shutting enjoyment out. If you can’t do anything to positively affect whatever you are worrying about, take a deep breath and either offer the worry up to God (if this fits with your beliefs), or envision yourself putting the worry into a “leak-proof” box.
Part of our upbringing includes training in hygiene, how to care for our physical health. Unfortunately, it is not part of our culture’s heritage to train its’ members in mental and emotional hygiene. Managing stress or worries, practicing proper breathing and relaxation, inviting spirit into our lives, and holding a positive attitude are essential aspects of good mental and emotional hygiene. Don’t let the demands and responsibilities of work run your life. As adults, we must consciously choose to manage our lives in a manner that provides for enjoyment. Enjoyment can always be close at hand, when the conditions and the attitude are right.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services