Find Your Joy

Relationships counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders says at any point in our lives, we can find happiness.

Relationships counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders says at any point in our lives, we can find happiness.

Loneliness is not a unique condition for singles; in fact, there is nowhere lonelier than inside an unhappy relationship.

Loneliness is a state of mind and there are various types. There's what I call 'cosmic loneliness' which has to do with realising that we are each, ultimately, on a separate journey. This can cause us to feel isolated from others at different times.

Then there's the loneliness we might call 'situational' - it's been caused by a specific event like a break-up or a geographical move.

The garden variety form of loneliness is the most dangerous because it can easily become a habit. It chips away at your self confidence and can make you very unhappy, even depressed, over time.

Take charge of your life and your emotions so that you can stop feeling 'lonely'.

Here are some practical tips:

Loneliness is only a bad thing if you think it is.Don't rely on others; develop your own interests.Keep in mind that everyone is lonely at some time, even the rich and famous.Keep busy with things you love to do.Don't pretend to be busy just to save your pride as this might cause you to miss out on a genuine opportunity/invitation.Reach out to others with friendships and suggest activities/outings.Enjoy being you; don't compare yourself with others.Happiness is a condition, not a goal.

Christmas can be one of the loneliest times in the year as it brings out all our expectations of happiness and yet our deepest insecurities. Whatever we think we lack becomes focused and we have more time on our hands over the holidays to dwell on dark thoughts and self pity. Yet it can be a lovely time, full of love and joy. If you find yourself alone and you don't have family to spend the day with, why not volunteer at a shelter or welfare centre, serving meals to the homeless, for example? Do you have a skill or talent? Then take it to your local hospital and cheer up those stuck in a sick bed. It's the old adage of helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

When you are feeling alone, especially after a break-up, you need time to grieve and honour the process of healing. So, take your time, get to know yourself again, make plans and then go out again when you're ready.

Be proud to be single. Enjoy the time in between relationships or if you haven't had a serious partner yet. Whether single or not, you will sometimes feel lonely. Let this be okay and don't let it be a problem. Make things happen and renew your enthusiasm for life.

I find that there are themes in problems as there are in other areas of life. In this new century and a new millenium, relationships are changing, transforming, in fact, and they will never again be the way they were in our parents' and grandparents' day. Will we lose a lot? Yes, but there will be benefits, hopefully more equality between the sexes, more personal responsibility for happiness and much, much more honesty. These themes will keep recurring.

Honour the child that still resides in each of us. By all means be 'grown-up' in your duties and responsibilities but don't get weighed down by life's demands. Keep it light, laugh, find humour in even serious things and when the days are dark, the more vigilant we must be in finding the light.

Here are some ways of looking at what joy is:

Joy is an energy so we need to exercise it in the same way as we exercise our brains and bodies. If you can't feel your inner joy, it doesn't mean you don't have any; it just means you haven't learnt to access it - a familiar notion in the computer age. Access it in the same way as you would data from your PC - go into the system and retrieve what you know is there. Sit in silence, feel your inner peace, laugh, dance, play with children and animals - they will show you by example - walk near the ocean, do simple things that are fun like playing games and telling jokes, talking with friends and doing some gardening.

There are no excuses because the only person you'll be cheating is yourself if you don't try. What are some common blocks? The most common one is fear. We are afraid to be wrong, to risk and fail, to reach out and find nothing there. Letting go of fear is the first step to rediscovering your inner child. Other things that need elimination are control, self doubt and cynicism.

We can't get happiness from anywhere other than from within ourselves. Imagine a deep spring of joy inside you - do you want a dry well, a trickle or a gusher? It's your choice. No, don't tell me about your horrible father or your first romance that disillusioned you, your lack of money or the fact that your best friend died. Those things have nothing to do with joy or the lack of it. They only make us unhappy in the short term. It is the nature of life to continue, to move forward.

At any point in your life, no matter what experiences you've been through, you can find and feel that inner happiness.