Spread a little Joy
I don’t even watch the news anymore. I used to be a political junkie with a communications degree. Now, I don’t watch the news because I feel like it’s only purpose is to ramp up fear and discontent. One thing I know for sure is that most of us are carrying enough fear and discontent just from our personal circumstances. I don’t need the news and talking heads to add to it. Maybe you’re horrified by that-- don’t I care about the world around me? Don’t I care that people are dying from corona-virus, don’t I care that the ice-caps are melting, and so on and so on. Endlessly. And I certainly do care about all of those things in the background of my world. But what I’ve come to realize is that all that worrying, about things that I can’t control, is totally exhausting. Watching people on tv fight with each other is exhausting. Watching the news tell me that the pandemic is only getting worse is exhausting. They all cause worry and disruption and ramp up fear. And ultimately, I believe that increasing worry, disruption, and fear in society is as harmful to our communities as coronavirus, climate change, and all the other issues people are screaming that they care so passionately about.
I’m wondering what would happen if all of us collectively cared more about our individual happiness and the happiness of our families. Would the big issues that we hear about on the news start to improve if individuals felt personally happy enough that their happiness improved the life of those around them? Happier mothers might be more patient with their children. Happier fathers would show wives more appreciation. Children under less stress would be kinder to their peers. I think it’s the Christmas idea of “spread a little joy.” It starts in our houses, and would certainly spread into our communities as we interacted with each other at the grocery store, at the gym, everywhere. It would be a great social experiment-- “spread a little joy” all year, not just in December.
Improving our individual happiness might be a tall order. I’m certainly not saying that we all become self-centered egomaniacs. I’m suggesting that we pay attention to how we feel on any given day. Do we stop and get a little joy from our dogs gazing up at us? Do we pause and watch the sunrise for a second as we pour our first cup of coffee? There’s tiny things all day long that can improve our mood and happiness. On the other end of the coin, there are things to avoid that I know will bring me down. So I choose to follow the old adage and not discuss politics with family, friends, and neighbors. What matters is not who they voted for but the quality of my relationship with them.
In the end, if I choose to not let myself get wrapped up and aggravated over things I can’t control, it improves the quality of my life, and ultimately, I hope, the people around me. If happiness is contagious, then imagine how it would expand exponentially if we all concentrated on ourselves first. I don’t know of any studies off the top of my head measuring the long-term effects of fear and worry on a population as a whole. However, I know there are many studying the long term effects of worry, fear, and negative attitude on individuals. It increases rates of addiction, depression, anxiety, and obesity, just to name a few.
When I started Family Transitions my goal was to lessen the trauma of divorce on families. Lessening this trauma will hopefully increase their quality of life, making them happier despite challenging circumstances. In this climate of fear and anger that we’re living in, I hope more than ever the help that I can offer to families in distress will trickle down to help my community as a whole.