There is no doubt that the world is pretty weird place at the moment. We are all having to adjust to a lot of change, very suddenly. Whether that is uncertainty at work, living and working cheek-by-jowl with our families, home-schooling children or simply the worry about what is yet to happen, almost no-one’s life has gone unchanged by this COVID-19 pandemic.
With so much on our minds, it’s understandable that many of us are struggling daily to maintain a positive mood, or even to find one in the first place. On one hand, social media has been a big help in connecting us with our families and friends when we can’t physically be together. But unfortunately, seeing people’s perfectly curated Instagram lives when we ourselves are feeling pretty rubbish does nothing to help. Quite the opposite.
So how can we happy in among all of the noise? Well, despite what some positive thinking advocates may claim, it’s not possible to feel happy all of the time. Everyone has bad days. Happiness itself is a fleeting feeling, born of a moment and then gone again just as quickly. Striving for constant happiness, as some do, is like chasing a rainbow.
What we need to seek is joy. Joy is different. Joyfulness is an outlook, a lifestyle and something that we can experience, whatever our circumstances.
Whereas happiness is momentary, joy is enduring.
Joyfulness is an attitude to life that we can cultivate – one which needs constant attention until it becomes habitual, but something we can work on nevertheless. Those far more qualified that I am have found this to be true. People who have been through the most difficult circumstances and yet have found that a joyful life is perfectly possible. Just read the works of The Apostle Paul, Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela or The Dalai Lama. All knew what it was to live in adversity, indeed without it they would not have been shaped into the people they became. But all of them also experienced deep joy, despite what was happening around them.
So how do we have a joyful life?
One simple solution – be grateful.
Be thankful for all of the blessings that you have in your life, no matter how small. Even in the most dire circumstances, there will be something to express gratitude for. Have you eaten today? Do you have fresh clean water in your tap? That is more than some in this world are blessed with. These days I’m grateful for the NHS, reliable supply lines to the shops and the thousands of small acts of kindness which people are doing for one another every day. Gratitude doesn’t have to be hard, just start with the little things and work your way up.
The important thing though is to make gratitude a daily habit. When you take time out of every day to be thankful, it stops being something that you have to remind yourself to do and becomes a part of who you are. That’s when you begin to experience the joyful life and to understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote about a “…peace which surpasses all understanding.”
Personally I write the things that I’m thankful for each day in my journal. Others make albums of photographs, works of art, or simply pray about or meditate on them.
So my question to you is this: even among these unusual and uncertain times, what are you most grateful for? And having thought about that, how will you express it?