Healing and recovery are about cultivating joy. After all, it is joy which we want to realize in our lives.

It is joy that enables our purpose to savor life.

Many in the throes of addiction and other mental illnesses never experience joy. Life is dull, flat, painful, and dreary. It is a wasteland of depression and hopelessness. The lack of joy can leave people feeling there is no purpose to live for, no way out. They feel trapped.

There is a way out. You can cultivate and reclaim the joy that is your birthright.

How do we cultivate joy?

To begin, we must first heal. To heal, we must stop hurting ourselves. We need to live life more skillfully. We need to start taking very good care of ourselves.

We need to reduce our stress levels. Stress kills joy. Taking good care of ourselves includes plenty of sleep and rest. We need to exercise. We need to eat a healthy diet. We need to live with integrity so as to not increase our stress unnecessarily. We need to learn to say “No,” to taking on more than we can handle.

Balance and simplicity should be our mantra. Rather than trying to fill the emptiness by satisfying cravings for food, material goods, power, prestige, etc., we need to focus less on getting and more on giving. Practice generosity and compassion rather than self-centeredness. Devote yourself to loving rather than to consuming or acquiring.

It is our interconnectedness with each other that sustains us. Cultivate joy by tending to your relationships. In addition to taking good care of yourself, take good care of those around you as well. Give. Do things for others for no reason or expectation of anything in return. As you put love out, love will come back to you. This will kindle joy in you.

Nurture joy by practicing stillness through spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, or centering prayer. Taking time for stillness means taking time to stop and savor our bare experience. In stillness, we look and listen. When we look and listen, we see and hear. We then experience the freshness of the experience of being alive. We wipe away our daily habituation to the miraculous. Practicing stillness helps us to keep it fresh. Practice stillness not only through spiritual practice, but by practicing stillness in the midst of the motion of your life. Be still while still moving. This opens you to the joy of existence.

Play is important to healing and recovery. Without it, we do not realize joy. Play is the practice of joy. Cultivate joy by balancing work, love, and play. Make time for doing something fun every day for no other reason than to have fun. Do things that are engaging, such as a hobby, rather than something passive such as watching television.

Get help if you need it. Ask for help from professionals and those who love you. Show strength by letting others help. No one heals or recovers alone.

When you wake up tomorrow, say to yourself, “Thank you for another day of miraculous conscious existence!” Practice gratitude for your many blessings. This too will fuel your joy.

Life is a gift. Take good care of this gift by living life thoughtfully, intentionally, and skillfully so that you might savor the many joys of your life.

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