Healing and recovery are about cultivating joy. After all, joy is what we want to realize in our lives. Joy 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; a wasteland of depression and hopelessness. Lack of joy can leave people feeling that there is no purpose to live for; that there is no way out. They feel trapped. There is a way out. We can cultivate and reclaim the joy that is our 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 not to 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; to practice generosity and compassion rather than self-centeredness. We need to devote ourselves to loving rather than to consuming or acquiring.

It is our interconnectedness with each other that sustains us. We can cultivate joy by tending to our relationships. In addition to taking good care of ourselves, we should take good care of those around us as well. We should give. We should do things for others for no reason or expectation of anything in return. As we put love out, love will come back to us. This will kindle joy in us.

We can nurture joy by practicing stillness through spiritual practices, such as centering prayer, meditation or yoga. 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 keep it fresh. We can practice stillness not only through spiritual practice, but by practicing stillness in the midst of the motion of our lives. We need to be still while still moving. This opens us 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. We can cultivate joy by balancing work, love and play. We should make time for doing something fun every day for no other reason than to have fun. We should do things that are engaging, such as a hobby, rather than something that is passive, such as watching television.

No one heals or recovers alone. We should ask for help if we need it; we should turn to professionals and those who love us. We show strength by letting others help.

We tend the gift of life; we cultivate the joy that grows out of that gift, taking good care of it by living life thoughtfully, intentionally and skillfully so that we might savor the many pleasures of life. Then we show gratitude for our many blessings. This in turn fuels our joy.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. McGee is currently the Chief Medical Officer of The Haven, a psychiatric treatment facility located in the Central Coast of California that specializes in the treatment of addictions.

Dr. McGee graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Biology with distinction. Dr. McGee received his M.D. from Stanford University School of medicne and completed his residency in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, including a Chief Residency in Inpatient psychiatry. He has directed several treatment programs, participated in government-funded outcomes research and has published in the areas of spirituality, clinical treatment, performance management, care management and health information technology.

Dr. McGee is Board Certified in General Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, and Psychosomatic Medicine. He has extensive experience in addictions treatment and general adult psychiatry.

Dr. McGee is the author of “The Joy of Recovery: A Comprehensive Guide to Healing from Addiction.”

Dr. McGee has a private practice in San Luis Obispo, where he practices a combination of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology. His approach is ecelctic. He includes psychospiritual interventions to compliment biological, psychodynamic, interpersonal, and cognitive-behavioral interventions.

Can't wait to release the suffering and start creating more joy in your life? Go to www.drmichaelmcgee.com and download your free copy of "20 Ways to Realize Joy in Your Life" now!