Nov, 2018: I have to be honest. November is my least favorite month of the whole year. Why? Just look outside. The sky is cloudy, the trees are bare, and our colorful world of autumn has just turned brown, cold, and thanks to daylight savings, dark at 4:30pm. The dull, drab, and dreary just doesn’t bring much happiness or excitement to the soul.
However, this November, I have rediscovered joy. Let me explain.
It was last week on election day when of all days I unwrapped my brand-new CD from For King & Country. (Yes, I still buy CD’s much to the chagrin of my tech-savvy husband). If you have ever heard For King & Country, you have probably heard the song I am talking about, joy. If you haven’t heard it, it’s definitely worth a listen and look of the well-imagined and produced video on Youtube (and you will understand my letter a bit more).
For those of you who know me well, you know I cannot resist keeping up with the latest news, current events, and politics of the day. But if you are anything like me, you know how disappointing, distracting, and negative the world of news and politics is today. No matter your political perspective, there is a heavy burden resting over our country, and the more you pay attention to it, the more you feel that heaviness bringing you down to some extent. So this year, on election day, after voting early in the day, I made a very important decision. No matter the outcome of the election (which in any election is bound to be a mix of good and bad news, no matter your party), I had already decided to choose joy. To not let the outcome of an election ruin my day. To not let the negativity that is inseparable from the news cycle steal my joy, now that I had firmly established a joy-first approach to life.
The beauty of choosing joy is that it is an attitude that works for all of the hardships of life. Like when my five-year-old Addy came to me in tears after an eye doctor appointment last month. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that she had been wearing glasses for a full year already for a vision issue, this year Addy took the eye doctor’s words to heart, that something was wrong with her. The tears just kept coming each hour. I held her on my lap and asked her specifically why she was crying. Well, because you ruined my pretty glasses (we added some nail polish on one lens to help her eye focus straight ahead), AND I have something wrong with me! I empathized with her- yes, we ruined your pretty glasses, but you can get new ones once your eye improves. Plus, I can still see the beautiful, pink jeweled flowers on each side of your glasses frame! So, your glasses are not ruined- they are still beautiful, especially when set off by your beautiful smile! And you have something wrong with you? Well, join the club! You and each of your siblings have already had reflux as babies. Your sister had surgery for a hernia when she was not even two! You certainly are not the first person in our house to have something wrong with you, and this certainly won’t be the last experience in your lifetime. But how wonderful is it that we have a simple solution to try versus needing surgery? We should be very thankful for that! We have a choice in how we view the bad things that happen to us in life, because make no mistake, they are going to happen! We can be strong, remain positive, and overcome, or we can let it make us sad, negative, and defeat us. One attitude will help us, and the other will bury us in despair. It is a choice- do you choose joy or do you choose sadness?
For those of you who know my Addy, you already know her choice- she chose joy! It is a choice for each of the patients who I see everyday in the clinic. Every person who visits me has something wrong with them. And I am so thankful that each of them chooses to see the joy, the positivity of the situation. In medicine, we rely on this. It’s called the placebo effect. This effect is so strong, that it is 33% effective in conservative care like physical therapy, and 50% effective for the results of surgery. What does that mean? If you believe the treatment will work, you already have a 33% chance of it working, whether the treatment actually works or not. Same for surgery, except the rituals of surgery and rest and rehab afterward boost the placebo effect to 50%! As a clinician, I am very aware of the affect of the patient I am treating. If the patient believes that physical therapy can and will work, their odds of getting better are already 33% better than the patient who doesn’t. You can bet that one of the most important parts of my job as a doctor of physical therapy is to be sure I have that foundation of 33% effectiveness as the basis of every treatment plan through explanations, education, and encouragement for each patient at every visit. It would be foolish to ignore it!
So how about you? Has someone or something stolen your joy? Did you know that you are the only one with the power to steal it right back?! I encourage you today, whatever may be bringing you down, that you address it head on, with an attitude of joy and thankfulness. I have certainly learned that in the midst of the most desperate situations, when your life is on the line, your approach to your circumstances may just very well be the only thing in your control!
Today I encourage you to change your perspective, or maintain your perspective of joy, despite our brown surroundings, darkness that creeps in way too early, and problems new and old that weigh heavy on the soul. It takes some effort, determination, and for me, lots of positive songs, reading, and prayers to overcome the negativity found in the media around us. Sometimes too, it takes a solid break from that negative media and devices, negative groups of people, and negative projects from which we may just need to choose to walk away. Guard and protect your new-found joyful perspective, and you will find each day is that much more worth living, and you will recognize so many more things for which to be thankful as we approach the Thanksgiving season!