Life overflows with good things, but its darker side is ever-present. We all carry our own burdens, our own wounds, and our own struggles. We walk a tightrope, balancing reality and hope. So, how do we keep our footing?
One strategy is to ignore everything unpleasant. We can encourage others to focus on the positive—to ignore their pain. After all, wouldn’t life be so much better if everyone around us were positive? But this approach doesn’t address the truth or bring healing. Ignorance is a self-protective veneer we apply to our private, inner world.
We have a few responses to the inevitable brokenness we encounter: we can add to the negativity, withdraw, or choose to add positivity and create a virtuous cycle of joy.
“When you give joy to other people, you get more joy in return. You should give a good thought to happiness that you can give out.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Here are three simple yet powerful ways to spread joy every day:
A warm smile is contagious, so it is a critical way to influence the moods of others. And, perhaps surprisingly, the decision to smile, whether we feel happy or not, may improve our state of mind by triggering a neurological response. If smiling by willpower alone isn’t your cup of tea, try one of these techniques to put yourself in a good mood:
Go outside: Make direct contact with nature. Remove your shoes and walk on the green grass. Go to the beach and feel the sand between your toes. Doing this improves my mood.
Go for a walk: Moderate outdoor activity releases endorphins. A day goes better when it begins with a walk.
Break up the monotony: Spend some time alone in your favorite place. It allows you space to think and refreshes your soul.
Just smile: When all else fails, choose to smile. You won’t regret it.
Say a Kind Word
Being nice is good, but being kind is transformative. Reacting with kindness to those we disagree with can change the world. Instead of pointing out disagreements, we can affirm the good we see in others and emphasize commonalities.
Tolerance is not the lack of disagreement. It’s the ability to disagree with respect, keeping the humanity and dignity of others in mind. Let’s affirm the good in others, especially when their beliefs or actions are offensive to us.
Both truth and love are vital, and neither is much good without the other.
The artist looks at what exists and sees what could be. She uses her will to create something beautiful from whatever life brings. The elements of creativity are not only paint and canvas but also the hard knocks of life.
So, whatever life brings, remember to smile, say a kind word, and create beauty. Such a life is worth living, regardless of the circumstances.
“The distinction between the artist and the man who is not an artist thus lies in the fact that the artist is living in ‘the way of grace,’ so far as his vocation is concerned. He is not necessarily an artist in handling his personal life, but (since life is the material of his work) he has at least got thus far, that he is using life to make something new. Because of this, the pains and sorrows of this troublesome world can never, for him, be wholly meaningless and useless, as they are to the man who dumbly endures them …”
Sayers, Dorothy L. 1987. The Mind of the Maker. New York: HarperOne. ↩︎
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