I’m writing this in the summer of 2020—the summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer of demonstrations and riots, the summer of skyrocketing murder rates and crime in America’s major cities.
It’s a crazy time. Are things going to get better? Get worse? We don’t know—and because we don’t know, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by fear and negativity. But you don’t have to be.
Here are 10 ways you can find joy now and always:
1. Limit your consumption of hard news and political commentary. It’s important to stay informed, but you don’t need overload. Choose two trustworthy news sources—one for local and one for national news—and limit the time you spend reading or watching them. By the way, social media platforms are not trustworthy news sources.
2. Restrict your consumption of social media. We used to say the problem with Facebook was that it showed everyone at their improbable best or most insipid (who cares what you had for lunch?). Now it shows everyone squabbling over politics, attacking friends and strangers alike, and it gets seriously ugly. Don’t do that to yourself. Keep up with your friends, but shut out the negativity.
3. Make your discussions actual discussions. Don’t argue with people who don’t want to hear your point of view, who just want to browbeat you into accepting theirs. Avoid the hot button topics that there’s no reason to talk about. For example, I don’t discuss wearing face coverings. I know smart, informed people who think we should wear them and smart, informed people who think we shouldn’t. I’ve listened to them and reached my own conclusions. There’s no need for further discussion—especially one that’s likely to get heated.
4. Consume plenty of helpful information. Keep your brain busy. Read, watch, and listen to plenty of how-to material, like this article. Take a class. Learn a new skill. Take advantage of the abundance of on-demand learning resources we have at our disposal.
5. Read and watch positive fiction. Read good novels. Watch quality television shows and movies. Exercise your imagination by allowing writers and filmmakers to show you times and places that you’ll never see in the real world. And here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion: My novel, Choices, is contemporary fiction with a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s an uplifting story that will leave you feeling good.
6. Read the Bible. Mark Goldstein, my friend and resource for my book Work as Worship: How Your Labor Becomes Your Legacy, has been reading the Bible through, cover to cover, every three months for years. He says he learns something new each time. You don’t have to be that ambitious; read a few chapters a day and take comfort in its amazing message.
7. Form or join discussion groups that focus on the positive. Meet online or in-person on a regular schedule. Be as structured—or not—as you like. The most important rule is that the conversation be positive and constructive.
8. Go to God in prayer every day. While you’re there, turn your worries and fears over to Him. Ask Him to lift the burdens from your heart, to show you His will, and guide you so you can follow it. There is nothing that gives us more comfort and joy than a conversation with God.
9. Just as you pray, actively worship every day. When we worship, we show reverence and adoration for God. We do it in formal worship services and in how we live our daily lives. This is especially important for pastors and ministry leaders. Don’t get so caught up in the work part of church that you forget to worship. Make everything you do—work, play, relaxation—a form of worship.
10. Trust God. God’s got you. Trust Him.