Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged about life, work, school, relationships, our health, the future or other challenges we may be facing. It can be even more difficult when several problems pile up all at the same time. We may think “How much more can I take?” or “When will this be over?”
I’ve certainly heard many stories of hopelessness, despair, depression, anxiety, fear, shame, and heartbreak over the years in my work as a clinical psychologist. But at the same time, I’ve always tried to remind folks to reflect upon and be grateful for their personal strengths, talents, interests, friends, families and for other positive factors in their life.
When you’re struggling, or even when you aren’t, I think it’s so important to be observant and to look for the small moments of inspiration, hope, and joy that may present themselves to you when you least expect them. When you are able to notice and absorb such moments, they will often lessen your distress and bring you at least a few moments of contentment, peace, or even happiness.
Here are a few such moments I have encountered in the past few weeks that literally put a smile on my face, brought a tear to my eyes, or warmed my heart.
- Seeing a soon-to-be college graduate in full cap and gown posing for pictures on campus (several weeks before graduation, no less) in front of a beautiful backdrop of spring flowers and budding trees. She was smiling with glee as she struck several poses, some serious, some a little zany.
- Noticing the kindness and compassion of a veterinary technician who gingerly brought my heavily sedated and totally helpless dog back to me after undergoing x-rays and assessments to diagnose a torn ligament in my dog’s rear leg.
- Hearing the hopefulness and enthusiasm (laced with a bit of anxiety) of an excited college senior nearing graduation, but still unsure of her path in life. I was gratified to later receive a personal note that she felt “relieved and encouraged about [her] future” after our conversation about career options.
- Feeling the anguish of a mother who randomly entered my office and started describing her son’s serious mental illness and his difficulties in engaging in appropriate treatment. She was visibly relieved to learn of some additional treatment options and resources in the community to help her son.
- Appreciating the courage and determination of my wife, who despite having a broken foot, made it to California and back on our family vacation, despite weathering the difficulties and discomfort of getting around from place to place wearing a moon boot on a knee scooter.
- Reveling in the joy and celebration of mental health advocates who, after many years of effort, were able to obtain legislative approval of new measures to provide additonal treatment options for individuals who had previously been caught in the revolving door of inpatient psychiatric care and inability to follow through successfully with community services.
- Watching our 18-year-old daughter blossom into a lovely, bright, kind young woman, full of hopes and dreams for her future, yearning for independence and ready to conquer the world (which I think she will!).
- Having a sense of pride in the accomplishments of the many fine students I have helped train, who are now forging their own paths and making a difference as they teach, conduct research or provide clinical care to patients.
- Laughing uncontrollably to the point of tears while having dinner and sharing memories with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in over twenty years, and immediately feeling all of the years fall away as though we were both young again.
These are just a few examples of the challenges and joys of the human condition and how despite our struggles, we can still find much goodness, hope and reason for optimism in the world around us.
Perhaps now, more than ever, in a world so often barraged by strife, uncertainty and pessimism, we need to re-anchor ourselves by re-connecting with these positive values, and by reaching out to supportive friends and family.
Here’s a question: What experiences have you had recently that brought you hope, joy, or inspiration? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Finally, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend. Thanks!