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“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. In fact, addiction research shows us that an intensely positive experience is as likely to cause relapse as an intensely painful experience.”

Brene Brown, Author and Researcher on Shame and Vulnerability

During this time of the year, whether in song, written or spoken words, we are all exhorted to be merry and joyful. Yet, many are not. In fact, high percentages are particularly depressed. This challenging holiday occurrence offers insight into what allows us to fully relax (or not) into a state of happiness, contentment and joy.

Here are 5 blocks that limit our ability to be happy:

We think something bad is happening when we aren’t

When our moods and feelings shift from positive to negative, which they often do, many assume this is bad or wrong. Then they resist, judge and tense against them. This contracting against sadness, anger or other unpleasant feelings closes us from the love and compassion available within and around us. Solution: Get present to what you feel and any resistance. Then open your heart and mind, choosing curiosity and compassion rather than trying to selectively numb, which numbs joy too.

We think outer circumstances determine our happiness

Most of us have not learned the freedom of personal responsibility, which is when we remember we are always at choice and have tremendous power. From that remembrance, we take time to consider our options and what we most desire from highest vision no matter what our circumstances. Observe how some people can be in the most wretched of circumstances but remain happy and a source of joy, while others have fame, wealth, and success, but are miserable. Solution: Rather than focus on what others are doing or your circumstances, focus on your use of your mind, power, choices, communication and autonomy. Give love, acceptance and approval to yourself and others, as these are the determinants of your joy.

We think others should be like us

Too often, we want others to not only be like us, but to be us. We set up a campaign to fix, heal, convert and change them so we can feel comfortable with them. This is a huge joy-killer not to mention, relationship destroyer. Solution: Stay in your own yard and work on you. Refrain from attempts to control, criticize and change others. Instead focus on building mutual respect, trust and understanding.

We think we must earn love, respect, and joy

And, we decide we are unworthy. First of all, we have been wrongly conditioned to think this thought. Love, respect and joy are free gifts and guilt and self-punishment are learned behaviors that can and should be unlearned. Solution: Open to receive love, respect and joy regardless of your behavior, choosing to breathe rather then contract, allowing rather then refusing, and practicing gratitude for the wonder of it.

We think sharing pain and seeking support is weakness

Thich Nat Hahn, a well-known Buddhist monk shares powerful mantras. Here’s one he says is the most challenging, “I suffer. Please help.” This is when you think another person or people are the cause of your unhappiness and you open to support. We have been taught that to open up and disclose our pain and confusion at that moment is weakness, so we judge others instead in an attempt to cope, then get stuck. Solution: Share what you are experiencing without an agenda to change the other person. Invite their understanding. Ask for their support. This is courage.

My purpose is to create a world in which people love their lives (and work). Consider taking one of my free exploratory assessments (under services at www.LifeWorkSystems.com) so we can begin a meaningful conversation in support of your life and work. Call me at 314.239.4727 or email me at judy@lifeworksystems.com. Oh, and I wish you the happiest of holidays!

As published nationally in The Women’s Journals December 2014