As a general rule, I don’t take life too seriously. I am very much at home with the absurd and the foolish. Tell me I don’t act my age and I’ll wear it as a badge of honor. As my wife likes to say, I have never fully grown up. Of course, I don’t think she means it as a compliment.
It’s tough to live with Peter Pan, especially when he’s 58. However, for all my lightness, I can just as quickly turn serious, and before I know it, I have the whole world on my shoulders.
All 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms of it.
That’s a lot of weight for a guy who can’t lift the light end of a dresser.
I suspect I’m not the only wannabe Atlas who thinks he can carry the world and all its problems on his back. We’re a serious planet, and we have the furrowed brows to prove it, as well as the six o’clock news to remind us that there is much to be serious about. And not just rogue nations, terrorist attacks, or violence on our streets, but all those extra stones we put in our pockets the older we get, like whether we will have enough money for the future, or what will happen if we become seriously ill, or if we have no one to take care of us. What if we lose someone we love? If we’re left alone?
Ice cream, anybody?
Yes, it’s a lot of weight and worry to carry on our backs, certainly enough to make you want to crawl back into bed. And while this seriousness can strike at any age, we become more susceptible to it the older we get. And while it makes sense to treat the challenges of life with the serious tone they deserve, we can’t allow the seriousness of life to turn us into serious people.
And no one is naive here. We all know how dark and heavy the world can be. Terrorists are busy at work. Drunks do drive. Cancer cells will grow. And there will always be the next hurricane or crash in the stock market. And it’s very well possible that you or I might be one bad cough away from an illness that will lead us to living in a van down by the river. Just the same, we must resist the temptation to let that seriousness turn us into something we’re not.
We need to fight the seriousness of life and reclaim our joy. And to help you on your way, here are 7 joy worthy tips.
Turn off the news
CNN, New York Times, FOX, BBC, your Uncle Louie. Give them all the week off, or at least a couple of days once in awhile. You don’t need to be up-to-date all the time. You aren’t less of a person. Nobody will judge you. The pearly gates will still open.
Avoid the bearer of bad news
We all know that guy who can’t wait to be the first to tell you that the stock market crashed, or that Mary Tyler Moore died, or how many people are getting shingles these days. And the good ones will be convincing, coming at you with charts and photos. Don’t be tempted. Turn the flashlight on their vampire eyes and run. They’ll suck the joy right out of your veins. You know who they are, right?
Seek out positive people
My wife and I had this friend who died happily at 89 years. She will be remembered for many good things. The greatest perhaps is her uncanny ability to make you feel special. Anytime you did something out of the ordinary, she’d say, “A win for you, Bill, is a win for all of us.” Such wise and beautiful words, on so many levels. As joy-seekers, make it your mission to find individuals who encourage you and want you to succeed. People who walk into your life with flowers and stories of hope, inspiration, and insight.
Don’t make mountains out of molehills
While nobody can turn an itch into a rash, or a sniffle into pneumonia like I can, let’s be honest, I’m not alone. Many of us become overly serious simply because we allow our imaginations to get the best of us. We “worst-case scenario” ourselves into anxiety. Life is tough enough on its own. We must resist the knee-jerk temptation to blow the small and inconsequential struggles we face out of proportion. And while we’re at it, let’s see how many truly serious things we can start to downplay—not ignore—but reframe into something positive. Reframing our challenging experiences is the hidden door to finding the joy we never imagined.
See joy in the present moment
Living in the present moment is the only thing that will bring you lasting joy. The present moment is the real you—your breath, your center, your immortality, which is why every prophet and saint from the beginning of time has written about its power and mystery. Engage in activities that allow you to experience this present moment awareness. Deep breathing exercises work, as will meditation, yoga, gardening, reading, swimming, running; a walk in the woods, a bike ride at the beach. Nature helps, so does humor, volunteering, gratitude, compassion, and doing virtually anything that brings you joy.
Extra bumps of joy (pick at least 2)
- Take time to whistle, hum, and skip. Sing in the shower. More cowbell.
- Honor your body, even as it fails you (especially as it fails you).
- Don’t be so stingy with your compliments.
- Laugh at yourself (and your seriousness). Some of it really is funny.
- Go out of your way to surprise someone. Delight and amuse.
- Help something grow. Flowers in the garden. Chia Pets. Your own pot farm.
- Say I Love You as often as you say Thank You.
Seek meaning and growth
The sooner we realize that there is a greater purpose in the world, even the darker parts, the sooner we can let go of the seriousness of life and go out for ice cream. This requires a brave and artistic touch—one that involves using pain and struggle as a doorway to find meaning and personal growth.
It won’t make you suddenly feel like doing naked cartwheels on the grass, or make your road any less challenging, but it will strengthen you with a resolve that comes from knowing that your struggles can lead to an even deeper form of joy—the kind of joy that comes from understanding who you are and why you’re here on earth.
Regardless of how the world around you reacts or what others will have you believe, it is possible to live in a serious and scary world and still know joy. It is possible to feel pain and heartache and still know joy. Unlike fleeting happiness, which comes and goes with the events in our lives, joy is always present. It lives inside each of us—a lightness of being that is waiting to be revealed, expressed, and shared.
So, find your joy. Put a little buzz into your life.
You’ll make the world a better place.