It has been exactly six months, when this article is posted, since we celebrated Christmas. Shaking my head at how quickly time passes by, I was thinking about how much as happened since Christmas, smiling at the fun and memories, beginning to think about gift buying [I like to get an early start on it when I can], and humming Christmas hymns. One of my favorites is “Joy To The World”.
You know how one thought can take us to another, then ten or fifteen more, in just sixty seconds? That was me – this morning – as I thought about being half-way through the year already. My thoughts quickly came back to “Joy To The World”, and the subject of joy stuck in my heart. So today I want to jot a few reminders for capturing the sweetness of life, digging to find it at times when it seems hidden, and spreading it around. Life is too short! And there is too much fun to be had if we are working to keep it as joyful as we can. Stay with me here…. I have remembered, dug up, and been given a few good reminders that are real and easy!
1. Be the wearer of a smile. It is contagious by nature. It will astound those who would rather see us angry. And it will brighten our day and multiply the joy for ourselves and others.
2. Spin the thoughts back to positive ones when they turn negative. [And that happens really often, especially some days, doesn’t it?!] Deciding to actively manage our thoughts may allow us to avoid many bothersome ones.
3. Instead of reacting to a slow server or clerk, taking a deep breath and enjoying the time to visit on the phone or watch the clouds in the sky can shift the whole experience for us.
4. Say something nice to a stranger. Comment on the nice weather, hold the door open and share a greeting, find something positive to say. It feels good to share a bit of joy this way.
5. Use laughter as the powerful tool it is. The writer e.e. cummings once wrote, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” While I don’t agree that it is the most wasted, I do agree that with a healthy dose of laughter, any day is a better one and a happier one.
6. Sing. We can sing to ourselves, we can sing to the walls, in the car, to the birds, or hum along as we walk down the halls at school or in the nearby mall. Who cares if we get a few strange looks? Happy music is a great way of sharing joy. I think of the hymn that includes the great counsel to “Scatter sunshine all along the way…” and believe it is a great tool.
7. Speaking of music. Dieter Bonhoeffer once wrote, “Music…will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” Music is a wonderful way of gathering and sharing joy! It infers that we choose carefully the music, of course, charting a path of “up” and “light” in order to feel that fountain of joy. But hey, I love to “rock out” every now and again to one of my favorite radio hits.
8. Act silly. Not obnoxious. Just silly. If we are not afraid to laugh at ourselves, we can let in more joy. This is hard for those of us who are more reserved and shy, I realize. Those of us who have to be ‘in the mood’ – I get that, too. For those of us who can go for it with gusto most of the time – you can perhaps teach and assist those who have a tougher time “going there”. I do know it makes for more fun, more smiles, and more joy!
9. Give something away. I read of a person who buys inexpensive umbrellas, and on a rainy day will choose a busy corner, pick a person who looks like they could really use it [the umbrella and the uplift], and gives them the umbrella. Just gives it as a little gift. Tell them that this is your way of sharing a little bit of joy. What a fun and creative idea!
10. Be a doer. When someone needs five cents in order to pay for their drink, their gas, or their burger, we can be the one to hand the few pennies to the cashier. It is not a big deal, but it shows kindliness and good will. It spreads joy.
On a few occasions, I have paid for a stranger’s gas. It floored them and made me feel wonderful inside. I may need to do that more often, when I am able. Sometimes we forget how good those feelings are.
11. Focus on righteousness. There really is no happiness in wickedness. The world’s morality, acceptable boundaries, and behaviors by many around us may be dark, ugly, or so very far away from the path of peace and happiness that comes from doing what is right. Regardless, we have our agency. We can do whatever it takes- with the Savior’s loving help- to steer our course in the way of peace and goodness. There is incalculable joy therein.
Elder Richard G. Scott has spoken clearly and beautifully about how we may choose a better quality life, with these words:
“You have a choice. You can wring your hands and be consumed with concern for the future or choose to use the counsel the Lord has given to live with peace and happiness in a world awash with evil….. We cannot dry up the mounting river of evil influences, for they result from the exercise of moral agency divinely granted by our Father. But we can and must, with clarity, warn of the consequences of getting close to its enticing, destructive current.
Now on the brighter side. Despite pockets of evil, the world overall is majestically beautiful, filled with good and sincere people. God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness.” (“How to Live Well Amid Increasing Evil”, Ensign magazine, May 2004).
Spread it Around
If we can feel free enough to share our smiles, our pennies, or our positive thoughts, can we also work at better sharing the eternal Plan of Happiness? Again, for some it is much easier than others. But sometimes our simple example of finding joy for ourselves becomes the guiding light for those who watch us- whether or not we know we are being watched.
Mark Twain once said that, concerning joy, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Oh, the wisdom in those words! The more we share it, the more it seems to multiply. The better we become at creating it, the more there is to enjoy.
In a world full of complexities and contamination, joy may be pushed to the side, in favor of “political correctness”, getting to the bottom line, digging through the tough stuff that life is made of, getting bills paid, or dealing with illness, separation, and so many other tests and trials.
But it is there. I know it is. When at times I have felt doubled over with pain or weak from the blows of mortality, the peace comes quietly and sweetly when I remember “JOY”.
When I clothe myself in it and wear it with gratitude, the perspective improves. And when I share it — spread it around – it makes everything better. In little ways, using simple tools, we can “improve each shining moment” Go For It. There is joy to be spread around. Let’s do it!