Let’s face it: despite what Advent is supposed to be—a season of reflection and preparation—it’s still quite easy to get caught up in the wider culture’s expression of Christmas (not Advent), which can include frenetic shopping and calendars filled up with parties, meetings, and (shocking I know) church events.
It’s fair to say that, as much as we wish we were centered and at peace during this season, we often experience anxiety, frustration, and sadness.
As a bit of a spiritual discipline, I started re-reading The Book of Joy, which is a remarkable book that documents a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, where they explore, well, the topic of joy. As someone who struggles with being joyful, I find the book simultaneously challenging and immensely helpful. Not only does author Douglas Abrams record the dialogue between these two spiritual leaders, he also talks about the psychology of joy, and also how to take steps towards experiencing more joy in life.
Abrams refers to the work of psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, who suggests that we have a lot more control over our experience of happiness (or joy) than we’d like to believe. Three factors (or, maybe we could say, ”disciplines”) have a tangible affect on our happiness. They are, “our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.”
I might say it this way:
This Advent, if you’d like to make some progress in experiencing happiness and/or joy, maybe practice three things:
- Practice framing your situation in positive terms;
- Practice gratitude (write them down!); and
- Practice kindness and generosity.
I’m reminded that there’s so much about the season (read: life) that I cannot control. But I can control my response to it.
Not easy, but simple.