I remembered this song from “The Sound of Music” today, thinking of what’s been lifting my spirits lately. Though it’s not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, I have been getting into the habit of doing small things that make me feel good. I have temporarily put my great ambitions of ongoing happiness aside and have traded them for a multitude of instants of joy. French philosopher Frédéric Lenoir has elaborated on this phenomenon in his book “The Power of Joy”. In it, he writes: “Joy is an affirmation of life. This manifestation of our vital power is our way of touching the force of existence, of tasting it.”
Over the last month or so, I have been listening to hilarious, smart and insightful stand-up comedians on Youtube. Laughing at situations that sometimes remind me of my own everyday struggles has turned out to be quite liberating. As is listening to comedians’ perspectives on the intolerable injustice and perversity that exists in the world today – and is on the rise again in many places. They make the unbearable bearable and show us there is another way to tackle complex issues.
I have also been listening exclusively to music that makes me feel good and to radio shows that elevate my mind. I’ve even been listening to the sound of my own voice, singing for and by myself, just as I used to do many years ago. I watch films that help me reconnect with my dreams. I cook meals with rich flavours. I make sure I see my friends and family, so long as our interactions have meaning or gaiety. And I have systematically been distancing myself from people who do me harm or situations that are likely to bring me pain or discomfort.
All of these are currently my favourite things. Still, as the demands of life make it impossible to remove all unpleasant situations, I deal with these as best I can. But, as Julie Andrews sings: “When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favourite things and then I don’t feel so bad.” I would just remove the “simply” from this sentence, as none of this is simple.
Though negative thoughts still pop up in my head like viruses on a computer, it does seem that, like any diet or workout, the accumulation of moments of joy or laughter has a truly uplifting, therapeutic effect if you’re consistent with this habit over a longer period of time. I don’t know whether this will continue to work, but as I’ve witnessed with my daughter’s development from the time she was a baby, the repetition of something will make it stick. Whether it’s positive or negative.
So it is safe to say that, if the negative messages and experiences I have had for some time have gotten me down, the repetition of positive experiences and messages I have been exposing myself to should continue to lift me up. Consistency and regularity being the two decisive factors. And those are tough to keep up in the long run, when doing something for our own good. As odd as it is, the fact remains that we find it easier to repeat or believe negative messages about ourselves than positive ones. Nonetheless, deep down we all know that we owe it to ourselves to try and make our daily routine one that is good for us. So, let’s take it from the top, with Fräulein Maria and the Von Trapp kids: « Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… »
(Title taken from the song “My favourite things” by O. Hammerstein & R. Rodgers)