February 28, 2023

Finding Joy When the Struggle is Real

Let’s be honest, life can be messy! In this episode, Jamie and Heather talk about how they respond to the hard parts of life (spoiler alert: they’re very different)and how they rebound back to joy.

Looking back on their lives, they see how their response to the hard parts of life have changed over the years and how they want to continue growing in the years to come.

Listen to the Episode:

We All Respond to Struggle Differently.

How do you respond to the hard things of life? Life is full of difficult situations, whether it’s having a hard conversation or dealing with a family emergency, crisis activates unique, sometimes surprising responses in you.

So, what influences the way you respond to difficulty? You’re family of origin, past experiences, personality, and even your community can play a big part in how you handle stressful life events.

Maybe you’re like Jamie: You’re good in a big crisis, but minor bumps in the road can take you under. Or maybe you’re like Heather, and you do what you can to avoid the difficult and painful. Regardless of which one you are, you likely build some sort of barrier to keep you from being hurt.

It’s essential to understand how you respond in crisis to learn to mature in your response.

Hope & grief: There’s a balance of feeling both.

It’s okay to feel both deep grief and sparks of joy at the same time. In fact, almost every situation in life requires feeling multiple emotions at once.

Unfortunately, our culture as a whole doesn’t know how to balance the tension of these emotions well. Life often feels like it comes too much at a time, and we never learn to truly process it all. Instead, we avoid both feelings or choose only to acknowledge one of the feelings.

Know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. There’s a lot of life to be lived right alongside the hard stuff, and there are ways to have joy through it all.

Three Ways To Build Your Capacity for Joy:

1. Build Your Resilience.

When it’s often easier to distract yourself and avoid pain, resilience pushes into the pain, allowing you to experience it momentarily.

Resilience is something that has to be built over time. Dr. Caroline Vaile Wright says, “We can grow from the challenges that we’ve encountered. When we’re faced with a new one, we can look back and remind ourselves of how we overcame those previous obstacles” (Healthline).

Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen if I actually have that conversation or address this issue? The more you push into the pain rather than avoiding it, the more resilience you’ll build.

2. Learn to Activate Your Brain’s Joy Center

If you want to face complex parts of yourself and your life, you need the ability to operate in joy. This isn’t some fluffy Christianese put-a-quote-on-your-wall kind of joy. The joy we’re talking about is wired into your biology. You were created to operate in joy.

The right orbital prefrontal cortex is often referred to as the “joy center” of the brain, and its development is essential for how you cope in times of stress. “When the joy center has been sufficiently developed, it regulates emotions, pain control, and immunity centers, and guides us to act like ourselves” (Living From The Heart Jesus Gave You).

Practice to Try: Gratitude

In their book The Other Half of Church, Jim Wilder and Michel Hendricks share an exercise that can increase your joy capacity.

First, create a list of ten memories (or as many as you can think of) that made you feel grateful and connected to God.

There are two important aspects to the memories you choose:

1. You are aware of the sensations in your body as you relive them.
2. You feel some sort of connection with God in the memory.

Then, take time to relive the first ten seconds of your memories.

This is a right-brain gratitude exercise. This is essential to growing in joy because  “building joy is a right-brain dominant exercise.” (Wilder and Hendricks).

If you feel your joy center isn’t significantly developed, take heart! Our joy growth and capacity are developed over time, mainly through social interaction. Therefore, your brain has the capacity to grow in joy for the rest of your life!

3. Find a Way to Laugh Every Day

In our last episode, Heather gave Jamie a prescription to laugh every day. Though she laughed it off as silly at first, Jamie actually found that intentionally choosing to laugh every day had a significant impact on her mood.

Maybe this seems like an impossible ask. Did you know you can actually pray to laugh more?

The Bible says laughter works like medicine: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).

In fact, this is even scientifically proven.  According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has both short-term and long-term benefits to your health and stress management.

Can we challenge you this week? Find a way to laugh every day. It may seem silly, but it’s a powerful way to find sparks of joy amid the hard and mundane.

No matter what you’re going through in this season of your life, you don’t have to do it alone. Can we pray for you?

Check out another episode on personal and spiritual growth:

Did We Change at All? | Life in Motion (Bonus)



Want to dive deeper into how your brain processes joy? Check out the book Jamie references in this episode: Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You

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