A couple of months back I read an amazing book, Take Back Your Life by Tami Stacklehouse. I love to read books by my peers, and by peers I mean others who are living with what I’m living with, who have found ways to overcome their pain and fatigue and keep living. Tami is one of those, she is a survivor. She’s seen the worst Fibromyalgia has to offer, and now she’s on the other side. The changes for her did not come easy, they don’t come easy to any of us, but they can be made.
One of the things in her book that really struck a chord with me was the idea of creating a Joy List.
Start a list– in your phone, in a notebook, or on your computer– of all of the things that make you smile, bring you joy, and feed your soul. These can be really simple things or big things.”
She says to include everything on this list, even the things that you can’t enjoy right now because of your illness. A few things that come to mind for me….
- creating art
- petting one of my cats (especially the white one because she never lets me pet her)
- sitting in the sun
- reading a good book (especially one that I miss when it’s over)
- good music
- getting a massage
- spending time with a friend that makes me smile
- a warm bath before bedtime
Make a Joy List of the things that make saying no and going to bed on time worth it.! @FibroCoach Click To Tweet
[The things on your joy list] are the things that make everything else, like saying no and going to bed on time, worth doing.” – Tami Stacklehouse
But, just having a joy list isn’t enough. We’ve got to make those things on our joy list a priority. Obviously, there are some items we can’t do because of our illness. I still can’t paint or make art because it causes shoulder pain. Step 2 is focusing on the why and what of the items that bring you joy. So, I can look at creating art and say that it makes me happy because I’m creating something, it makes me happy to be creative. I enjoy the process of seeing something that was only inside my head come out on a canvas.
Tami says to look at each item on your list this way and figure out what it is about that item that brings you joy, focusing only on the positive aspects of the activity.
In Step 3 we have to identify the barriers that are keeping us from the thing that brings us joy. So, for my art example I can say that shoulder pain is keeping me from engaging in this activity. She says to look at this as if you were an outside observer, don’t focus on things like “I don’t have time,” but rather on your feelings about what is getting in the way of the activity. So you might instead say “I don’t feel that I have the time…”
She says to not try to solve the problem at this stage, but to just focus on your feelings about the activity and the resistance you feel towards engaging in the activity. Another example for me is sitting outside in the sun. It feels so good to just lay in the hammock, but I am resistant to doing it because I feel like it’s a waste of time, that I should be working instead of just enjoying the sun.
Now that we know why we are resisting something that brings us joy, we have to look at what we can do about it. What adaptations can I make to allow me to enjoy that item? I can create artwork occasionally but only in small doses. I have to remember to pace myself. I also need to make sure I’m not having to reach for things, which means keeping my pieces small. As far as sitting outside, I can take my laptop with me and enjoy the sun while I work. Or, I can give myself breaks during the day to just go sit outside.
This last step is about self-care. About focusing on what we want to be and setting goals accordingly. Our focus here should be on “be” goals, not on things we want to do, but rather what we’d like to be. How can we improve ourselves? How can we take care of ourselves?
Your goals for each week should also incorporate items from your Joy List. This will help you remember why life is worth living, and what it is that you’re fighting for.” – Tami StacklehouseYour joy list is about remembering why life is worth living and what you are fighting for. @FibroCoach Click To Tweet
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our illness, to get focused on what we can’t do and in the process we forget what brings us joy. We forget how to smile. I feel like lately I’ve been really difficult to amuse, and I don’t like that. I want to be the kind of person who smiles easily, who laughs fully, who enjoys every moment. I think the joy list can help me do just that by staying focused on the things that do make me happy.