FOR THE LOVE OF RELATIONSHIPS – Coping with Uncertainty 

What we are witnessing in the country is an upside-down world. Common sense is not so common. Many of us are fearful, stressed, frustrated, and worried about our families, friends, finances, futures, colleagues, and communities given the crime, corruption, violence, uncertainty, inhumanity, and the rising costs of everything.

Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness is not an emotion that is in plentiful supply right now. Attempting to turn a frown upside down, rather than questioning if you are happy, the question can be reframed asking, “Am I pursuing happiness?”

What does it mean to pursue happiness? Many social scientists opine that the word we use for happiness should be replaced with the word, joy. What is the difference between happiness and joy? Joy and happiness are both emotions that convey feelings of contentment or satisfaction.  J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye, once wrote, “The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.”

A joyful spirit is characterized by hope, gratitude, a positive attitude, a smile, an appreciation for our humanity, serving others, and positive social connections regardless of circumstances. When we are happy or more importantly, joyful, our relationships are healthier, we smile more, we are more productive in the workplace, students are more engaged and have increased academic success, there is less violence and crime, less child abuse, less substance use, less isolation, and thoughts of suicide and increased mental health. Our bodies respond to joy with more energy, less fatigue, a feeling of well-being, and a sense of purpose. 

When we are joyful, especially in the midst of chaos, fear, or uncertainty, we affect others in positive ways.  Researchers conclude that when we are happy, the people we are connected to tend to be happier. The Happy Students Happy Classmates Study found that happiness is a contagion indicating that the well-being of a student partly depends on the well-being of their classmates.  This is because our brains are attuned to the emotions of others. This is the reason we sometimes comment that someone’s laugh is contagious, and we laugh too.

If we want to increase our well-being and serve others well, emoting joy in the middle of all we are going through might be a wonderful way to lift our spirits and be the contagion that elevates and edifies the p eople around us. Express positive feelings, listen to uplifting music, go for a nature walk, meditate, live in gratitude, do one thing to make the world a better place, smile, savor a healthy meal, relish how much your pet loves you, and share that with others. Enrich your relationships by asking for what you need, creating boundaries for those who might be toxic, thinking about your legacy, and celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and life’s milestones.

We need to be intentional about pursuing happiness and joy during these troubled and uncertain times and be around and supported by positive, hopeful people. This is a unique way to cope with the uncertainty around us. joneen@narme.org