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Microjoys — How small pieces of happiness offer you a path forward

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While most days are OK, real life is messy. There is loss. There is trauma. There is grief. There is sadness. And yes, there are sometimes sunshine and rainbows. So how do you bridge the gap between grief and sunshine? How do you find comfort when you’re feeling so profoundly uncomfortable? How do you embrace joy amidst grief?

That’s the real trick to living a happy life…finding microjoys that take you from point A to point Z, like stepping stones across a river.

What is a microjoy? It’s the smell of a wood fire on a cold winter morning. It’s hearing a child laugh on a crowded playground. It’s seeing a tiny flower growing up through a crack in a sidewalk. It’s the feeling of cool rain on the back of your neck at the end of a hot summer day. It’s the delicious zing you get when you bite into a crisp, tangy apple. It’s all the perfectly imperfect little moments that pass by in a blink that most people don’t notice or appreciate or remember, but that really make a difference in your life if you just take the time to tune in and say, “Wow.”

Is a stranger holding the door open for you going to change your life? Nope. Is a warm evening breeze going to dispel your grief? Unlikely. Is a cat’s purr going to kick depression to the curb? Not a bit. But the sheer act of taking note of these little splinters of beauty and kindness and simplicity to be found in this world is an act of defiance. It is you shaking your fist at the storm clouds and saying, “I may be beaten up, but I am not down for the count. I know there is goodness in people. I believe that happiness is real. And I am strong enough to weather this storm.” For it is when we are under crisis that we have the most to gain by embracing microjoys. They have the power to energize us, to encourage us, to bring us hope. Recognizing the existence of microjoys reminds us that we are resilient. It’s not easy to will ourselves to feel less angry and more grateful. But feelings follow from the way we look at the world, and if we can string together small moments of acceptance and wonder and quiet, we can bridge the gap from the way things are to the way we think they should be.

The power of microjoys is in their fleeting smallness. They should remind you that when you view life in its entirety, everything is really just a temporary circumstance. So, when disaster strikes, as it inevitably will, feel all of it. Shed your tears, rail at the injustice, and howl at the moon. But also push yourself to take a deep breath and see the beauty in the first frost of winter, hear the rhythmic heartbeat of a cricket’s song at dusk, and taste the salt on your fingertips as you walk out of the ocean. It’s all a matter of perspective. Keep tucking away as many small microjoys as you can find. While you may feel powerless to control your own destiny in times of uncertainty, what you can control is consciously cultivating an eye for the joy amidst the sorrow.

To be clear, when you’re in crisis, no one is telling you to buck up, count your blessings, and get over yourself. Embracing an “attitude of gratitude” will not change the core truth of a dark moment. Recognizing a microjoy is simply giving yourself a lifeline to hold on for just a little bit longer. You’ll make it through this minefield. You’ll come out the other side a little worse for the wear but nonetheless whole. Microjoys certainly aren’t a panacea for every ill of mankind. But they are a way to cope with whatever the world throws at you with grace.

The power of microjoys is being thankful for something that everyone else has overlooked. It’s like going through life on a scavenger hunt for the hidden beauty all around you. Keep your heart open and let the microjoys to be found put a band-aid on your heart when it is broken. Hang in there.

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