Deeply Relish the Little Things: Going back to the idea that many seek happiness through consumption and end up feeling more empty. It’s because those things will never bring lasting joy. But what does bring lasting joy? Deeply relishing the little things. Remember during lockdown when we were told we couldn’t hug each other? That was the worst! So, you know what I do now? I hug people like I’m never gonna see them again, and I relish those hugs! What are the little things that bring you joy? Next time, don’t just enjoy it, savor it! Like, the next time you taste peanut butter (or whatever your favorite treat is. Peanut butter just happens to be my go-to-little-pleasure) close your eyes and savor it!
It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tamara Jefferies.
Tamara Jefferies, M.A., owner of Grow & Thrive Wellness is a Holistic Trauma Counselor, Transformational Coach, International Yoga Teacher, and Author who helps women heal trauma and transform their lives. In addition to her 1:1 Holistic Counseling/Transformational Coaching sessions, she also compassionately guides women in her Sister Sircles, online, Group Counseling program. Tamara is also the author of the groundbreaking Empowered Woman’s Guide to Healing Trauma E-Course — a comprehensive, holistic approach to trauma resolution delivering body-based, mindfulness tools to heal the mind, body, and spirit.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/f5d1ccb6330aa02dff2798276a912d6b
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Yes, of course! I’m the youngest of three siblings and the only girl. Our mom was a single mother who worked two jobs most of my childhood to support us. We grew up in Los Angeles but moved around a lot. One of the craziest facts about me is that by the time I reached 11th grade, I’d been to eleven different schools! So, I became adept at adaptation real quick!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My career as a Holistic Counselor & Transformational Coach came about as a consequence of my own healing journey, but I didn’t realize it at the time. See, the women I work with are mostly trauma survivors of either physical or sexual abuse or assault. Although I do work with women who are not trauma survivors as well, trauma recovery is my specialization as I, too, am a trauma survivor of CSA (childhood sexual abuse). At some point I realized that many of the women I knew where also survivors of either sexual assault or CSA. Seeing this is what inspired me to pursue the career path as a holistic counselor, because I wanted to be part of the solution to this outrage that touches so many women’s (and men’s) lives. I dedicated myself to learning as many healing modalities as I could with the intention of using them to help trauma survivors heal not realizing that these tools were also helping me in my own healing.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Oh, my goodness, yes! That would be my college sociology professor, Dr. Milton Brown. Dr. Brown was always so encouraging of all of us. But it was one day when I went to see him during his office hours that he was giving me guidance about my future and looked me in the eyes and said, “You can do whatever you want”. No one had ever said anything like that to me and with such confidence. He saw my potential and his belief in me helped me see it, too.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Sure, but let me preface this with, I believe in taking bold actions!
I decided to move to South America after two major life events happened: I had a near death experience and then a dear friend died in the same hospital where I almost died. In light of these events, I had a Carpe Diem moment and sold nearly all my possessions and moved to South America because living abroad was something I’d always wanted to do. But I didn’t have a plan. So I was making up everything as I went along. Fortune smiled on me time and again and I continued my work as a yoga teacher, bodyworker, and counselor first in Cuzco, Peru and then in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. It was an amazing experience! But incredibly stressful at times because of not having a plan. I wouldn’t recommend anybody do it!
Lesson learned: Take bold actions that are backed up by a plan! 😊
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m currently working on a proposal for the book I’ve wanted to write for a decade that culls all my tools and current research on working with trauma. I strongly feel that at the heart of healing trauma is healing the soul. When we heal trauma, we heal our souls and when we do that joy and aliveness return to the body, mind, and spirit. There are tons of books out there on healing trauma; so I think my book will help those who are interested in healing trauma at the soul level by working with the body and the psyche.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Adaptation, Perseverance, and Faith.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve all had to learn how to adapt to new circumstances, but this has always been true for my work. Whether it was shifting from a physical office space to an online practice or shifting my offerings to address the clientele in a new city (within a new country), or broadening my scope to better serve more people, being flexible enough to adapt to the changing work climate has been crucial. For instance, I taught myself to teach yoga in Spanish and then in Portuguese within weeks while living abroad. When your livelihood is at stake you can pick up any skill with a swiftness! I also broadened my focus from solely working with female trauma survivors to working with ex-pats who were having difficulty in a new culture. You must look for your opportunities in shifting circumstances.
Once I became clear on my purpose the most important thing has been to persevere through the setbacks, missteps, and periods of “feast or famine”. Actually, being purpose-driven feels like it comes with perseverance built into because there is nothing else I can see myself pursuing with this level of devotion. My purpose — to help women heal their lives — is the foundation of my life, so I can’t do anything but persevere.
And last, but not least, faith is the cornerstone upon which everything else rests. In my spiritual life, I have faith in God and in my ability to co-create my life with God. And in my work, I have faith in my abilities to help my clients achieve their goals and in their innate abilities to heal themselves. I begin each day in faith and end each day in gratitude for what my faith has brought me that day.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
I don’t think anyone can call themselves an authority on something they have not experienced themselves. And after healing through my own traumas and feeling joy restored to my body to a degree I couldn’t have before imagined, and after helping my clients and seeing them make contact with their joy, I feel comfortable saying I am an authority on joy and reclaiming joy.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?
I think the biggest problems that face our country’s levels of happiness have to do with the values of individualism, the whole “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” narrative, which is a fallacy because no one got where they are without help from someone else, and consumption as a foundation of our society. It leads to a lot of lonesome, disconnected people who value materiality over social bonds. There’s now ample proof that the happiest people are those with tight social networks well into old age. Our society is fixated on consuming and the problem with that is there is always something new to consume. It’s the itch that will never be fully scratched.
What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
Building on my last remark: lasting joy and happiness are not found in consuming more and more things. They are found in our connections with those we love. But more than that, joy and happiness are cultivated within ourselves first. If we cannot feel joyful on our own, then we won’t find it in others. Too often, people look outside themselves for happiness, but happiness is an inside job.
It’s easy to see examples of this all around us. I’ve known affluent people who could buy whatever their hearts desired but it didn’t change the fact that inside they were insecure, negative, and unhappy people. And I’ve known families who had little in terms of money, but their homes were filled with relatives and much joy and laughter.
In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
One of the things I’ve witnessed in spiritual communities of yoga practitioners and folks who identify as “light workers” is this tendency toward spiritual bypass. It’s a kind of toxic positivity, in which there is this belief that one can be so “enlightened” and so “Zen” that the troubles of the world just don’t affect them. I’ve found that to be deeply out of step with reality and a major case of avoidance and self-delusion. Some of us lose our way on the path of “seeker” and think happiness will be found in spending hours a day in meditation or going from one retreat or ashram to another. Meanwhile their relationships and finances are suffering.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)
Of course! I’m a big proponent of bringing more joy, pleasure, and ease to the mind, body, and spirit by doing the following:
1 . Listen to Your Body: In all times, but particularly in times like these, it’s crucial you listen to what your body needs. Rest when you need rest, don’t just power through it. Even if you only close your eyes for five minutes in that empty office at the end of the hall. Give yourself those five minutes.
When you feel emotionally out of sorts and you can’t put words to it, ask yourself, “If my body could move and speak for me right now, how would it move?” Give it a minute, take a breath, and follow the impulses of your body. You might need to shake, stretch, yawn, shout, jump up and down, or wiggle around. Recall the spontaneous, unbridled movements of little children. That’s how your body moved before it was forced to conform. So, listen to it and let it move however it wants to move. Some emotions are hard to put into words, but the body knows how to express them just the same. Afterward, notice how your mood has shifted. I generally end up laughing because my body likes to move in ridiculous ways!
2. Bring Pleasure into the Mundane: There are so many things we must do but what if we could bring more pleasure into those “must-dos”? For instance, paying bills. I don’t know anyone who enjoys paying bills, but it’s one of the things we must do. So, the last time I sat down at my kitchen table to pay bills, I put on my Frank Sinatra playlist on Pandora (please, don’t judge me 😊). The Rat Pack with some Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald thrown in there always makes me insanely happy. I mixed my favorite cocktail and sat down and paid bills. When I was done, I was in the best mood! So try making your “must-dos” more pleasurable. (Pro-tip: Throw a gratitude in there like, “I’m so grateful I’ve got money in the bank to pay my bills! Thank you!”)
3. Stay in Touch: It’s too easy to get all wrapped up in our own lives and lose connection with family and friends but we need our social connections right now more than ever. And reading someone’s updates on social media just doesn’t cut it! Call or video chat with those you love and keep feeding those bonds. In addition to just keeping up with friends, I’m part of a small women’s circle that meets once a month over Zoom. I can’t tell you how good it’s felt to know those women where there when and if I needed them. Not to mention the joy felt during each call in getting to be together even though we’re strewn all over the country.
4. Deeply Relish the Little Things: Going back to the idea that many seek happiness through consumption and end up feeling more empty. It’s because those things will never bring lasting joy. But what does bring lasting joy? Deeply relishing the little things. Remember during lockdown when we were told we couldn’t hug each other? That was the worst! So, you know what I do now? I hug people like I’m never gonna see them again, and I relish those hugs! What are the little things that bring you joy? Next time, don’t just enjoy it, savor it! Like, the next time you taste peanut butter (or whatever your favorite treat is. Peanut butter just happens to be my go-to-little-pleasure) close your eyes and savor it!
5. Surround Yourself with Beauty: I try to arrange my environment in such a way that anywhere my gaze falls, I see something beautiful or something that brings me joy. This could be fresh flowers, photos of my loved ones, or a painting. I go nuts over anything diminutive, so little glass perfume bottles are things that I like to see around my space. Whatever you find beautiful, that fills your heart with joy just to look at, keep those things near. Your home should be your sanctuary. Make it a place that delights all your senses and fills you with happiness.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
Just be there for them. Isolation only increases depression leaving the person to feel more hopeless. Depending on how deep the depression, some may not want to talk to anyone, or go out, or even shower. It’s important not to judge or offer advice of the “You-know-what-you-should-do”-sort. Many well-intentioned people will say things like, “You just need to get over it. Let it go. Get on with your life.” That does nothing but alienate a person even more.
Keep checking in and letting the person know you’re there for them, that you care about them, how important they are to you, and that you’ll be there whenever they need you. Help the person feel safe, seen, and loved.
When my counseling clients are going through especially dark periods, I up my contact between sessions with calls and text to make sure they know someone cares about their wellbeing and that they’re not alone.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My movement is to treat others with kindness and compassion. It’s such a simple thing, but it would change the world if we all treated each other with kindness and compassion. I would give anything if I could plant the idea in millions of minds that every single person you meet comes to you with their own wisdom, gifts, and talents they’ve accumulated throughout their lives, and they also come to you with their own struggles. So, treat each person with the respect that knowledge is due and show them kindness and compassion.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Oh, that’s an easy one, Yvonne Orji, comedian, co-star of Insecure, and the author of Bamboozled by Jesus. She’s brilliant and hilarious! And she’s the first person I’ve ever heard talk about God the way I talk about God, so I think she and I would have a great time over lunch!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can find me at https://growandthrivewellness.com and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube @growandthrivewellness.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!