At a popular bookseller, the self-help aisle is currently filled with titles such as The Art of Happiness, Authentic Happiness and Stumbling on Happiness.
Next door, the “seasonal aisle” at our local drug store is currently in combo mode. On one side of the aisle is Halloween candy and decorations. On the other, Christmas. It feels like a commercialized walk through a Tim Burton movie.
As I was walking through the store, I noticed the lack of any buckled hats, feathers, or cornucopias filled with fall vegetables. Thanksgiving doesn’t sell, I guess.
As I was noticing all of this, I was reminded of a quote by Brené Brown. In her excellent book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she says, “it makes total sense to me why we’re a nation hungry for more joy: because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.”
Now…I don’t know what the drug stores and booksellers are like where you live. But I remember my own heart when I was a kid. I loved getting stuff. Halloween was awesome because I got candy. Christmas was awesome because I got gifts. I liked Thanksgiving, too. But it was…different.
Now that I’m a bit older, I think part of it has to do with the difference between happiness and joy. Both are great. But they are very different.
Happiness is an emotion. It’s wonderful, but it’s fleeting.
It’s a bowl full of miniature individually wrapped Nestle Crunch bars or a brand new xBox (or whatever else the kids are playing with these days) on Christmas morning.
Joy is different. It’s not an emotion. It’s a way of engaging with the world.
In Brown’s research, she found that joy is inextricably tied to gratitude. Gratitude is taking time to consciously stop and be thankful for what we have right now. It turns out, gratitude is a practice and it’s something we can work on getting better at. Like riding a bike or learning how to write in cursive.
If my local drugstore is any indicator, I’m guessing it would be pretty easy to skip straight from Halloween to Christmas. But I’m wondering…what would it look like to take some time to practice gratitude instead?
Maybe what we’re hungry for isn’t more chocolate or more presents. Maybe we’re hungry for more gratitude.
Eric McClerren, LAPC