This week we welcome in the Jewish month of Adar—in actuality, Adar II, as a leap year on the Jewish calendar involves a full extra month, to keep the holidays in their seasons on the solar calendar while marking months by the cycle of the moon. The Talmud says, “When Adar enters, we increase joy.” Simply understood, this is because the celebration of Purim is in Adar, and its followed by the holiday of Passover.

This year, it is more difficult to raise the level of joy. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people are under threat of bombings daily in Ukraine. The reports and images from what were vibrant, peaceful cities and towns just a week ago are horrific and depressing. How can I feel increased happiness while witnessing these people losing their property, being injured, or dying?

The words of some of the victims of this war can give us direction. One was a former advisor to the Ukrainian president interviewed via live video to his bunker. He said that one positive thing that’s come from this war is the opportunity to enjoy the little things he didn’t notice before. He said “I drink coffee daily, go for walks daily, but because of the scarcity created by the war it all tastes so good, it feels so good. You live life to the fullest, that gives you strength to solve this situation.” Another was a young lady, a refugee from Kharkiv who fled to Lviv. She gave details of her escape two days before. She told of her friends that died, how her city was turned to dust in moments, and how she feels forever broken from the trauma. The reporter asked her for a few final comments. She responded tearfully, “Please cherish the clear sky. Every time you see sky. Cherish every moment of your life!”

I think these messages from regular people, experiencing the losses of war first hand, give insight into what it means to increase happiness. Cherish the positivity we experience every day. The small things we’ve gotten used to can taste so good and so sweet when we think about what life can be without those little luxuries. Just looking at a clear, blue sky, without missiles or plumes of smoke, should be comforting, joyful. We can increase joy by increasing our awareness of joy. In that way the month of Adar, the holiday of Purim, and the celebration of Passover that follows, can infuse us with a new perspective on life and happiness, which we can carry through the year and build on for the rest of our lives.

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