Be intentional about what you feed your mind. Don’t bypass the joy you feel out of foreboding or the fear of how long it will last. Embrace 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 Brittney Moses.
Brittney Moses is a mental health advocate encouraging the integration of faith, culture, and wellness. A mom and a Los Angeles native, Brittney walks the walk, holding to a faith-informed approach to mental health that is deeply steeped in personal experience and compassion for those she serves. From serving in churches over the past decade, formerly founding an international youth non-profit ministry and as a NAMI-certified support group facilitator and Crisis Textline counselor, Brittney has encountered a wide variety of mental health crises over the years, allowing her to distill theory into practical methodology.
Her holistic, evidence-based approach to mental health has been featured by publications such as Relevant, Yahoo News, Voyage LA, NY Weekly, The Chicago Journal, and Huffington Post. While continuing her studies in psychology at UCLA and research assisting at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Behavior in the CAPPS Lab, Brittney aspires to encourage those who are quietly wrestling in the shadows by bringing mental health issues into the light and making them accessible and relatable aspects of the national conversation.
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?
Thank you so much for having me! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, in a household where my family encouraged my creativity and trying new things. I did competitive figure skating for a while, played softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and eventually found a love for theater and acting. Looking back, I’m super grateful my parents and grandparents supported me in trying so many different activities because I think it really shaped my view today of diving into new things and discovering your potential no matter where it leads.
Growing up, my parents were also very involved in the church community. Years later, this would pave the way for me to get involved in my local church and start my journey addressing mental health challenges in the community.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Looking back, every single person who invited me to walk alongside them during some of the most trying times in their life is what inspired me to get more involved in the mental health field. In my early twenties, I found myself as a single mom rebuilding my life while also recovering from severe anxiety and mild depression. Around that time, I was very involved in my church, supporting others battling mental health issues and through my youth and young adult non-profit.
These experiences made me curious to understand more about the dynamics and factors that play into a person’s mental health and the available resources to provide practical solutions. This curiosity led me to go back to school at UCLA, where I graduated with a degree in psychology while research assisting at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Behavior. Aside from academics, I’ve invested most of my time creating conversations through online content, presentations, and speaking publicly about having a holistic approach to mental health.
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?
My mother has absolutely been a major foundation and source of support for me to this day. While trying to rebuild my life as a young single mom, working and going to school, my mom not only helped care for my son like her own but always gave positive encouragement behind anything that I’ve been determined to do.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Recently, I had the opportunity to partner with UHSM to host our first integrated faith, mental health, and wellness virtual conference. We had some amazing speakers and artists like Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child, Jamie Grace and Morgan Harper Nichols, Anne Beiler and many more.
We called it the RESET summit and it was designed to give people a safe space to “reset” from the past year and learn more about all of the dynamics of taking care of their mind, body and soul from clinicians, experts, and thought leaders with practical steps forward.
Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The three characteristics I believe have been a part of my growth and showing up today likely have to do with curiosity, risk-taking, and being people-oriented.
My curiosity led me back to school and into community work to learn more about psychology and mental health, to remain learning-oriented every step of the way. I’m always curious about how to improve on what I’m learning and how we can better resolve the common problems of those around us.
When it comes to risk-taking, I’ve learned that you don’t truly know what you’re capable of until you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Sometimes that honestly looks like doing things afraid or imperfectly and being willing to learn from the experience anyway.
Lastly, being people-oriented is central to everything for me. It’s about putting myself in someone else’s shoes considering their experience and meeting them where they are. Whether that be when I’ve facilitated a support group, created content relating to the common trials or just responding to my online community- having a relatable and approachable mentality has played a big role in the connections I’ve been able to make.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
I could mention being a graduate of psychology at UCLA and my studies in emotions, but I believe my most valuable resource is my lived experience. I know what it’s like not to feel joy at all, but I also know what it’s like to move forward and see some of the most joyous days of my life with practical healing and recovery.
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?
It’s very possible that we’re too consumed with finding joy in all the wrong places due to cultural capitalism. We live in a society of so many options that may be leaving us with a void. We believe the more we have the happier we’ll be. Whether it be more status, finances, material items or influence, we set ourselves up for a moving target.
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?
A misconception I think we have is this idea that joy is something we should feel all time. Not only does this lead us to feel shame when we’re not happy, but it’s not realistic. Life is mixed with trying times, neutral times, and deeply joyful times. It’s more about how we adapt and cope with these changes that help sustain us in the long run.
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?
I think one of the mistakes I’ve made and have seen others make when trying to find happiness, is trying to find it in isolation. There’s a big cultural push on doing what makes you happy and working on your mental health in solitude, which is necessary, but there’s also so much research that shows how social support plays a big role in our overall well-being. It’s making sure we have spaces where we’re also being supported, prioritizing healthy relationships, and doing the things we love with the people we love. There’s a lot to show for the benefit of having community.
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?”
- Find your safe people who keep you grounded.
- Surrender the things that are out of your control.
- Be intentional about what you feed your mind.
- Don’t bypass the joy you feel out of foreboding or the fear of how long it will last. Embrace it!
- Reject burn-out culture by making time for the activities and people who bring you joy.
What can concern friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
I think we sometimes expect that we have to know exactly what to do and say in order to support someone but that’s just not true. Being a safe space and open presence it’s a great start.
We can even think of someone feeling mentally “sick” in the same way we would care for someone who’s physically sick. For example, asking questions like “how are you feeling”, “what can I get for you?”, “would you like me to drive you to the doctor/therapist?”.
It’s also okay to be the friend or loved one that says, “I noticed you haven’t been eating a lot lately or you seem a bit down lately. More than usual. Is everything okay? How long have you been feeling this way?”
Then listening without assumption and being patient. Depression isn’t something people just snap out of. If it was that easy, no one would be depressed. There are many causes of depression that aren’t self-created so it’s bigger than being self-undone. Don’t pressure them to recover overnight. Be ready to take on a patient mentality because recovery is a process. It’s a process that requires developing new healthy coping mechanisms and rethinking the way you’ve thought for a long time.
Lastly, I encourage educating ourselves. Depression does not discriminate against gender, race, age or religion. It’s happening all around us and many of us either aren’t aware that it’s happening or don’t know what to do when we’ve encountered it. You are bound to encounter depression with someone you know in your lifetime. So, if you want to be helpful learn more about the signs to look out for and the various resources you can turn to whether that be at church, in the community or via lifeline.
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.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be one of empathy and emotional intelligence.
If the core values of our society are to treat others the way we’d like to be treated and educate starting at a young age the importance of understanding and regulating emotions with ourselves and those around us — this would create a better world, one, we’d all want to experience.
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?
I would love to have a private breakfast conversation with Dr. Nadine Burke- Harris. She’s someone who cares deeply about the impact of trauma and mental health challenge on children into adulthood, and I admire her work there. She also comes off to me as someone who works hard with integrity and passion for others. These are qualities that mean a lot to me.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’d love to connect with your readers on all thing’s social media!
YouTube: Brittney Moses
And we have conversations at the intersection of faith, mental health and wellness on the Faith & Mental Wellness Podcast at iTunes, Spotify, Amazon & iHeartRadio
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!