If Advent is the season of hope, and optimistic attitudes make people happier… it follows that Advent should be a happy time.
However, happiness doesn’t just happen, nor can it be forced (‘You will enjoy this party!’ never works). But happiness can be encouraged and facilitated. This is the claim of positive psychology and there is a pile of research to support it.
So – what happens when you put the thinking of positive psychology and the season of Advent side by side?
Here’s an idea:
In Advent make a conscious effort to use words that have more of an upside than a downside. Words that will help you see that there is more to be glad about and hopeful for than you have been noticing recently. Words that can help you look ‘out’ rather than ‘in’.
This is the challenge:
Between now and December 25th do all that you can to avoid the words in the first list, and all that you can to use the words in the second list.
10 Words to AVOID
- No time
- Too many
10 Words to USE
- Some time
The lists are matched and you may be able to substitute one for the other on some occasions. Other times you will need to hunt more widely for alternatives to those in the ‘avoid’ list.
If you don’t like these lists, make up your own. The point is to find your way towards a vocabulary which is hopeful and grateful rather than pessimistic and disappointed.
If this sounds a bit cheesy to you, then think again. This is not about ignoring real sadness and hardship or failing to be stirred to action when things go wrong. This is an opportunity to reawaken the ‘pleasantly surprised’ perspective you used to take, and to rekindle the spiritual determination not to be downhearted simply because things are not quite as you would like.
My hunch and hope is that this exercise will clarify your passions. I am expecting it to lead to an upturn in both hopefulness and happiness, and that it will also lead to you feeling the pain of indignant compassion more sharply when you see that others have been treated unjustly. That’s the sting in the tail, and in Christian spirituality it is the price of true happiness.
Let me know.
Meanwhile, watch your words – and have a Happy Advent.