Joy Immersion Explained

Joy Immersion is a concept that was born of fire. Its gestation was decades long as I suffered through a relentless and debilitating depression. Suffice it to say that the ideas were a result of many years of pain and fear.

It was when I finally and utterly tired of the pain and fear that I became open to the necessary course of action to overcome them. As soon as I was even a little bit open, the Universe (God) placed pebbles of information in my path that would lead me from my despair. I followed these pebbles – at first reluctantly, and then with vigor – and came out of the darkness that was my life.

The solution to my problem of depression had eluded some of the most highly educated doctors in the United States. The changes I made that ultimately brought me into a life worth living were simple and easy. I only had to do them.

That was all on instinct at the time, and I had no set program. I just began doing things that made me feel a little bit better, and then added onto that until the improvements became measurable. Then one morning, I noticed that I didn't wake up with a feeling of dread at facing a new day. After more practice, I started meeting new days with enthusiasm. It was all so gradual that I can't put my finger on the exact moment that I really began to recover. All I know is that I went from actively praying for an early death to having a real appreciation and love for my life.

Then someone I loved deeply got sick.

It was during this time that the Project crystalized for me. Having read some of the writings of Janice Walton-Hadlock, I made a connection between adrenaline and dopamine usage, primarily in Parkinson's patients, but then again, in all of us. This theory matched perfectly with what I knew was already working for me, and the Joy Immersion Project was created.

So, what is it?

The Joy Immersion Project is a compilation of exercises, essays, and assignments designed to fascilitate the discovery, attainment, deepening, and appreciation of the joy in one's life. It is based upon the theory that those of us who are sick or depressed – indeed, anyone who is not already filled with joy and general tranquility – are currently living our lives immersed in fear and negativity. Further, that fear and negativity acts to keep us sick, unhappy, and depressed, regardless of other measures we take to feel better. I believe that is why medication often doesn't work, especially in regards to depression.

The society that I live in – America – is absolutely innundated with negativity and fear. This is most especially true of our media. It is now so prevalent that it's become the norm. In fact, it wasn't until I started really inspecting what I was allowing into my brain that I realized just how immersed I was.

We have 24 hour newscasts. That means that, whether there is something new to report or not, these news channels are required by commerce to find things that they believe will titilate our senses. Ironically, these "news items" are very rarely feel-good stories. Most often, they are gruesome, violent, morbid, and graphic. Have you ever wondered what possible good it does you to hear the details of a terrible, senseless murder in a community not your own? Have you ever wondered how it enriches your life to see close-ups of grieving people audaciously asked by reporters how they feel at the loss of a loved one? Have you ever considered how watching a horrific scene replayed a hundred (or more!) times in a day might affecting your mind and your body? I can promise you one thing: It's not good.

Then there is prime-time television, popular books and even music. So much of it caters to our fears and morbid fascination. You can't even watch network television today without commercials depicting very graphic images of this week's "victim".

I've become so sensitive to it that even writing about it here has a negative affect on my mind. But that's not the problem. The problem is that, in general, we as a society have become desensitized to these things. We watch (or read or listen to) stories about the ugliest aspects of humanity – often on a daily basis – that we don't feel anything anymore.

I believe we do feel it. In the deepest regions of our minds, souls, and bodies, we feel every bit of the pain. Even as we munch popcorn at that horror film with big grins on our faces, I believe these things have a negative affect on our mental, emotional, and physical health.

But it's not just the media. In fact, that is but a fraction of the problem. Often, it is our own minds that are our worst enemies. Due to past hurts and disappointments, we have become conditioned to believe that it is in our best interest to foresee every negative possibility. We have come to believe that being jaded and defensive is our best bet to surviving in this world. We have become afraid of expressing love or wonder. Anything that might be perceived as weakness or stupidity – like compassion, empathy, being fun-loving, or "easily entertained" – has become taboo. For some of us, even simple laughter or smiles can bring about anxiety.

We tend to think that our negative thinking is protecting us, but in fact, it is harming us more than any outside influence ever could. Just look at the statistics in this country alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 17 million American adults will be stricken with depression each year. That's almost one out of every five human beings living in this country. Every year! It's more than cancer, coronary heart disease, or even AIDS.

I know from direct experience that depression is made worse by negative thinking. Yes, I have a chemical imbalance that causes my brain to believe it should be sad or hurt or scared during inappropriate times. But of all the things I tried – medication, hospitalization, talk therapy, hypnosis, ECT, and more – the one thing that made the biggest difference was changing the way I think.

If we spend our lives immersed in fear and hatred, and then feel bad, it makes sense that we can reverse that effect by immersing ourselves in love and joy.

That's what the Joy Immersion Project is all about. It's about setting positive, life-affirming goals (that are important to you) and following the exercises to reach them. When I sat down and outlined what that meant, I came up with a very long list. From that point, I devised assignments and exercises that target different things on that list. The idea being that we can significantly and substantially change our lives for the better by drenching ourselves in love and joy while simultaneously starving ourselves of fear and negativity for a while.

As I've said before, I do not purport this to be a cure-all for anything. I myself still have some symptoms of clinical depression at times. So, if you are somehow thinking that all you have to do is "get happy", you're missing the point. There's much more to it.

If, however, you are willing to do some work and really give this a shot, I'll bet my bottom dollar that you will feel better for it.

One thing is for certain: You have nothing to lose by trying. All I ask is that if you decide to give it a shot, do it full speed ahead. Don't just dip your big toe into the water and decide it's too cold a day to swim. Dive in. Get wet. And see how good it feels to swim.

In Joy,