Last December when I sat with my team to plan our monthly educational themes for 2023, we had planned to focus on trauma this month. But in light of the recent events in the world and the unrest and pain we are all feeling, we have decided to change the theme from “Healing Trauma” to “Embodying Joy.” Not because trauma isn’t a worthy topic. It clearly is - in fact it’s more relevant than ever. But we felt that reframing the issue of healing trauma as embodying joy was more appropriate right now.
I know it might feel counterintuitive to think of embodying joy at such a time - but if we could all truly learn to see the glimmers in even the simplest things in life, the world might not be in such a difficult place. And I do know that itis possible to learn how to do this in even the most difficult seasons of life. So welcome to this month’s blog in which I hope you will discover the profound concept of embodying joy and learn how to embrace and radiate genuine happiness in your life.
In a way, trauma and joy are actually two sides of the same coin - and learning to embody joy can be one of the best ways to deal with trauma. The thing about trauma is it’s not about whatever traumatic event might have happened to us, but how our bodyreacted to that event. When we go through something traumatic or stressful, the conscious mind can only handle so much. Whatever your nervous system is not able to handle is then stored in the body to be dealt with later. I sometimes say “the body expresses what the mind suppresses.”
This is something I have often witnessed first hand when I’m doing bodywork sessions. Someone might have physical issues like pain in a specific area of their body. When we work on that area, particularly when we are doing deep work on the fascia, what we find is that the pain is actually a physical manifestation of a past trauma. And when that stored trauma can actually be released it often causes a major emotional release - not to mention a profound healing of the physical issue the person was experiencing in the first place.
The reality is that every one of us will experience trauma and stressful situations. But when we can choose to see these situations as challenges and learn to release stored trauma, we can turn that pain into purpose. Obviously the million dollar question is, how do we do this? I call it the practice of ‘emotional alchemy.’
Emotional alchemy is essentially the practice of releasing the heaviness and pain of trauma and creating the space for healing so that we can reclaim our joy. Because if trauma can be stored, imprinted and remembered in the body, then so can joy. So emotional alchemy is really all about finding ways to imprint joy into the body (and mind) so we can replace any residual trauma and heal ourselves - because when we heal ourselves, it creates a ripple effect that in turn helps us heal the world.
How can joy help us heal? By choosing joy, you can actually lower the levels of inflammation in your body, experience better health, and find greater happiness. You regain control over your emotions, directing your energy and attention where it truly matters. Activating joy helps you reconnect with the authentic, wise part of yourself that knows how to love. It allows you to feel like yourself and safe inside your skin, regardless of the traumas you've endured.
You might be thinking this sounds a bit “Pollyanna-ish”. But I believe that joy is actually our natural state. Have you noticed how small children are so full of joy? They live in their bodies and not in their heads. They jump, wiggle, laugh and dance their way through life. Life is a full body experience for little kids. Yet once we get to adulthood so many of us become so serious and joyless. Obviously adulthood brings with it responsibilities, work and experiences that aren’t always positive. But so often we get stuck in stress and over-thinking. It’s as if by the time we become adults,, the body has become secondary to the brain and life loses a lot of its joy.
But when we get out of our heads and into experiencing life through the sensations in our bodies, joy can spontaneously bubble up inside of us. This embodied joy feels like golden light bursting from the inside out. And with this joy comes an awareness and even a tenderness and sensitivity to all of the tension or pain that may inhabit our bodies - and this in turn can actually help us release that tension and pain and truly live in a joyous state.
And the best thing is that joy isn't just a fleeting emotion; it's a profound state of being. When we talk about embodying joy, we refer to a deep-rooted feeling that permeates our very essence. It's not about momentary happiness but about a consistent state of contentment and gratitude. It's the warmth that stays even when times are tough. It's a profound connection to oneself and the world around us.
Okay - enough theory. How do we actually practice this emotional alchemy and find the path to embodying joy? The key is finding ways to clear blockages and stuck trauma in the body and letting the body heal itself - and then replacing those blockages and ‘stuck’ emotions with sensations of joy. This can be something of a journey of self-discovery and everyone’s path can be different. But these are the some steps that have helped me massively - and that I have seen help literally hundreds of clients.
1. Practice Self-awareness and Presence
Take time and find space to listen to and understand your emotions, triggers andglimmers (glimmers are small moments that spark joy or peace, which can help cue our nervous system to feel safe or calm).Be present so that you can resist the triggers and listen to the glimmers. When you do this you develop the ability to feel more equanimous - even in the face of chaos.
2. Practice Gratitude
Count your blessings every day. I try and do this on waking and on going to sleep. This helps to shift your focus from lack to abundance and from stress to happiness. Journaling is another great tool. Write down 3 moments of joy each day and focus on those moments and how they made you feel.
3. Be the Change
It might sound cliche, but being the change you want to see is powerful. Engaging in small acts of kindness can create ripples of joy around you. And karma has a habit of sending these acts of kindness back at you.
4. Cultivate Authentic Connections
Invest in genuine relationships and spend time developing community. There’s a saying that we are the average of the 5 people we spend most of our time with - and so look for people who can lift you up. People who you can be completely honest and yourself with. People who will support you. They will serve as conduits for shared joy.
Myfree Aligned Life Collective was founded on the idea that we as individuals are only as strong as the community that lifts us up. I would so love for you to join me and the thousands of like-minded individuals that come together in this sacred space.
5. Speak your truth
As you learn self-awareness and the ability to feel gratitude, as you start to be the change and develop community, the next thing is to speak your truth with total honesty. This means tuning into your inner voice, and finding the confidence to share who you really are and what you truly think with those around you. When you find your joy, whether it be through art, words, or actions, it’s letting that joy shine big and bright.
This means moving away from abandoning yourself for the sake of others and learning how to be comfortable going against the flow of the current. When you surround yourself with people you are truly connected to, your authenticity will be welcomed.
6. Move your Body
Moving your body is one of the best ways to move through emotions and even trauma - especially if you’re doing movements specifically designed to help you do this. Things like body rolling and somatic movement are ideal and I’ve got you covered inside the Aligned Life Studio with many workouts created to help you move emotions through including My new Radical Resilience Fascia Flow, Sound Bath for Trauma Release, Feel to Heal Meditation and Yoga to Heal Trauma are all great sequences to start with.
Rebounding is not just one of the most efficient ways to get cardio in, but it is also just damn good fun. There’s nothing that makes me feel like a kid again like getting on my rebounder and bouncing. So embrace your inner 10 year old and feel the joy of bouncing - again I’ve got some great rebounder workouts in the Studio to try, including Jumping for Joy, High Vibes Bounce & Flow and Smudge & Bounce to Clear Negative Energy.
8. Engage in Physical Contact
Studies have shown that engaging in a 20 second hug can cause us to release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety. It's often called the “cuddle hormone,” and when it's released during these 20-second hugs it can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine. Not only are hugs good for your heart, they’re also a great way to replace trauma with joy.
My hope for you is that you can use some of these tools to choose and find joy in your own life. Embodying joy is more than a fleeting feeling; it's a way of life and a commitment to seeking and spreading happiness in its purest form. By understanding, embracing, and radiating this joy, we not only lead richer, more fulfilling lives but also contribute to healing the world, one joyful step at a time. So, turn up the music, dance, hug, move and celebrate the beauty of life with all its undulating experiences. After all, joy embodied is the golden light that bursts from within, radiating tenderness, warmth, and contentment to all those around us.
If you would like more guidance on harnessing the joy within you, please join me for my 30 Day Joy Embodied Program, where we put all of these practices into play together as a community.