why we must cultivate joy even amidst difficult times

When we’re bombarded with tragic stories and bad news, it’s natural to get overwhelmed, discouraged, stressed, or even depressed. But going in the negative spiral and allowing ourselves to get engulfed in darkness and despair doesn’t do us any good. It neither helps us nor our loved ones, people in our social circle and in a broader context, our world. Instead, it’s much better and fruitful to pay attention to kindness, compassion, tranquility, and contribution. 

We can’t run away from suffering, it’s something that is woven into the fabric of our human existence. And it’s best that we get used to it and learn how to deal with it effectively. As the author and Buddhist practitioner Jack Kornfield says, “There is inevitably suffering in every human life, and nothing insulates us from this—no amount of money, success, fame, or accomplishment. But it’s possible to cultivate and develop a sense of well-being, joy, deep happiness, and worth, even amidst the difficulties of life. I’ve been in the poorest refugee camps and seen people move with more dignity, connection to others, and love than in circumstances of tremendous wealth and prosperity.” 

When there’s ongoing injustice and inequality in the world, it might feel wrong and selfish to focus on our own happiness. And because we can’t do much about it right at this very second, we end up feeling guilty, ashamed and overwhelmed or start thinking that we don’t deserve a slice of happiness in our own lives. 

In the poem “A Brief for the Defense,” Jack Gilbert writes, “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the devil.”

Of course, we can’t wave a magic wand and fix all of this at once. But we can take tiny, consistent steps to make a difference in the world. We can change the world one day at a time, one action at a time. And as we do this, we must ensure that we do this from a joyful, righteous and purposeful heart, not out of guilt, anger or despair. 

Let your joy be your gift to the world and to humanity. Wherever you go, be a beacon of love, hope, well-being, and happiness that uplifts each and everyone who you come in contact with.