It was New Year’s Eve and I was driving to my friend’s house. The phone rang and it was my local BBC radio station asking if they could phone later that afternoon and get my comments on a story they were following.
“Sure”, I replied, knowing that my friend wouldn’t mind having a broadcast from her living room.
The story was that everyone who is 31 is miserable. That’s according to Bridie Jabour, a 31 year old journalist, who wrote this article in the Guardian newspaper:
The millennials at 31: welcome to the age of misery | Bridie Jabour
I usually avoid assigning characteristics to entire groups of people. I think it is odd to say all millennials and…
In the interview we chatted about the usual battle between the millennials and the boomers. Life is more uncertain for the millennials. Living standards are dropping, job prospects are not what they were and secure housing is unaffordable. They are not having such a good time as the generations that went before them.
Then Roberto, the host of the Drivetime show said, “Here’s a revolutionary idea. I’m fed up all this talk of the age of misery. Let’s create the age of joy. I’m going to get T-shirts printed with that on it.”
“Sounds great,” I replied as the interview concluded. “Print one for me too.”
I hung up the phone and thought, how wonderfully bloody brilliant.
Let’s create the age of joy.
But it’s not easy to feel joy if the future feels bleak and uncertain. Like hope, the prevailing view of joy is that it is something that exists externally. If things are good then we can feel happy but if the outlook is gloomy, it is natural to feel miserable.
I’ve been practising Buddhism for over 30 years and we are encouraged to believe that hope is not external, but something that can be internally generated. I think joy is the same.
We need to generate joy for ourselves. No, it isn’t always easy. And it’s not about being pollyanna about everything.
Generating joy is about finding the small human moments in the every day. It’s about smiling at the person in front of you, whether that is on the train, when you buy your morning coffee or when you arrive at work.
Take a minute to chat to someone you usually ignore. Listen to people. What are they telling you about their life? Is there a word of encouragement you could offer if they are struggling? Words can nourish our spirit just like food can nourish our bodies.
Creating an age of joy means having a bigger heart which can embrace more people. It means looking for opportunities, even in difficult circumstances, to create value.
Happiness, like misery, rubs off on other people. Just as it only takes one angry, miserable person to create a stressful culture in the workplace, it also only takes one cheerful person to begin to lift the mood.
Yes, it takes fortitude and effort. A daily prayer or meditation practice can help with this. It is so easy to be emotionally controlled by our circumstances and much harder to be in charge of our emotions no matter what is going on.
But it is so rewarding to reach this point. Imagine a world where everyone was striving to be their best selves. Many of the world’s problems would start to dissipate.
The Lotus flower has long been a symbol of Buddhism. It is a beautiful flower which flourishes by sinking its roots deep into a muddy, murky pond. Difficult circumstances forge great human beings. 80 years ago the world was facing an existential crisis and ordinary people achieved extraordinary things. We can do the same now.
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. We can’t rely on the government or business or influential people to make the world a better place. We have to do it.
Let’s empower ourselves. Let’s find the positives among all the negativity.
Let’s create the age of joy.
Cali Bird loves to give gentle, encouraging advice about getting going with your creative project.
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