Joy and Hope are Vulnerable and Work Together to Change Your Brain

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I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Since I’ve stumbled onto the truth of what hope is (I have chosen to set goals, my tenacity gives me room to change and revise those goals because deep down I know I’m worthy of having something good happen to me), I’ve loved this verse more and more. It states that God is our source of hope, that we can be filled completely with joy and peace because we trust in him which enables us to find the Plan B. Understanding very well that trusting God also requires vulnerability, which is where the bravery comes in.

Do you ever find yourself keeping your hope for “safe things?” Do you see why you do that now?  You don’t really trust God so you don’t want to become vulnerable to God and risk that disappointment again.  Truth is hope is not nebulous and ethereal gifted to us from God. Hope is something we have a part of when we find our Plan B. Plan A is us hanging on to what we believe is “supposed to” happen and being crushed when things didn’t work out.  Plan B is having the tenacity to revise my “supposed to” because deep down I know I’m worthy of having something good happen to me.  Hope is a function of struggle—my struggle that I’m worthy to stumble through and overcome.

Now I notice how joy is also mixed into this verse. Joy requires vulnerability too. You are worthy to be experiencing this joy, this simple joy right now. You don’t need to sabotage the joy because you are worthy enough to have it.

In all my reading, I stumbled onto this (yes, another Brene’ quote as this is what I’ve been reading again):

“But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope.” –Dr. Brene’ Brown, Daring Greatly, p. 126

Get this. Leaning into joy cultivates our hope. I just revealed to you how you put your hope into “safe things.” When we believe hope is fleeting, we too often choose to not expose our vulnerability by hoping for something that seems “too big for us.” But when you can lean into the joys of your life, your world will seem brighter because you are recognizing that good things do happen to you. Thus how hope is cultivated. It’s a cycle—dependent on how you choose to live your life. God is the source of hope because he has hard-wired you to endure and make it through (Romans 5:3-5).

Sad or stressed may feel comfortable in its familiarity. Joy does not. It feels…vulnerable. But now you know that vulnerability is okay. That it is also a measure of your brave life. Which leads to hope. And resilience.

Resilience defined is the ability to return when you’ve been tested and pulled. We can either be broken into a million little pieces (as at times pain can make us feel that way, especially when Plan A blows up) or rigidly numb thus not growing and learning and transforming through the pain. Leaning into the joys of our life helps us build resiliency so when pain flattens us, we can get back up again, find the Plan B, and go on blessing this world.

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Practicing gratitude is the how to help us lean into joy. And practicing gratitude does change us. There are more studies on gratitude than just Dr. Brene’ Brown’s. Not being a science person, I copied-and-pasted these two studies for you:

In one study on gratitude, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another five recorded daily hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.

In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every day about things for which they were grateful. Not surprisingly, this daily practice led to greater increases in gratitude than did the weekly journaling in the first study. But the results showed another benefit: Participants in the gratitude group also reported offering others more emotional support or help with a personal problem, indicating that the gratitude exercise increased their goodwill towards others, or more technically, their “pro-social” motivation. Source.

From my googling there are really study after study that have the same results. There is something to this. Plus all of the fMRI braInscan research is also showing that gratitude actually changes our brain. A tiny example of this is the love chemicals, dopamine and oxytocin.  Not only do they contribute to positive feelings but both also shut down the ability to think negatively. There is something to this. You can lead your brain!

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Practicing gratitude can help us turn pain into a stepping stone. If we’re willing and able to look (requires vulnerability), we can find a reason to feel grateful even to the people who have harmed us. We can thank that boyfriend for being brave enough to end a relationship that wasn’t working. Or thank the boss for forcing us to try new challenges. Or __________________________ insert your situation here. Can you be brave enough to thank that pain for being something possibly good? Doesn’t this also sound like James 1:2, Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. Yes it does! This is more about what Romans 8:28 is about than all of the other times this verse is thrown around. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. This verse has been used to numb ourselves when life hurts blanketly stating that God knows what is going on and I’m okay with that (when really we are not). Romans 8:28 is a verse birthed out of gratitude because God does know what is going on and is working it all together for the good of me so how can I be transformed by this pain and bless this world.

Of course, there are lots of things happening in your life you can be grateful for that don’t involve pain. Lots of things. Recognize those things too. Do not be afraid to feel the innocent ordinary joys that happen in your life. Practice gratitude for those things too.

So practice gratitude! In whichever way works for you. Do this intentionally. Change your brain.  Be brave.

My granddaughter left this random note for her mom. Her brain is growing.

 

(Photo credit:  Pexels.com)

 

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