Cultivating Joy and Happiness

kids holding hands on path with sunset


Recently I had the pleasure of reading The Book of Joy for my library book club. Published in 2016, this book is the result of Douglas Abrams interviewing the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu over the course of a week, at the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala, India.

Joy is a natural human state and the ability to cultivate joy is a developed skill. Richard Davidson, a leading neuroscientist and meditation expert, says that there are four independent brain circuits that influence joy and your lasting well-being. They are:

  1. The ability to maintain positive states.
  2. The ability to recover from negative states.
  3. The ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering.
  4. The ability to be generous.

When I read this list, number 3, the ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering jumped out for me. This is an area I plan to strengthen, as I have allowed myself to jump from topic to topic in recent years. As a result, I have multiple open projects and interests at any given time. By concentrating on focus, I anticipate getting more done in less time. Doing so will bring me more joy. Does any quality speak to you?


Eight Pillars of Joy

Several chapters in this book were devoted to what the authors define as Eight Pillars of Joy. These include four qualities that are focused on the mind and qualities devoted to the heart.

The mind qualities are perspective, humility, humor and acceptance.

The heart qualities are forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.

This resonates with me as there’s quite a body of scientific work about the heart-brain connection. My understanding is that your heart energy drives your brain. Cultivating any one of these qualities will develop your capacity to bring more joy into your life. Cultivating all of them will help you to truly live a joyful life while setting a wonderful example for others.

If you’d like to bring more joy into your life, select one quality and consciously practice it for a week. The following week select another. You might rotate between heart and mind qualities until you’ve worked on the entire eight. If you do so, you could be a more joyful person after two months!


Cultivating Joy through Feng Shui

From a feng shui perspective, the gua associated with Joy is Children and

Joy, the center-right of your house, every room in your house, your workspace and your land. Adjusting your space while consciously focusing on any one quality of joy will help you to bring more or it into your life. In addition to the Children & Joy gua, other helpful guas are:

Prosperity (back-left) to develop more Gratitude and Generosity.

Knowledge (front-left) to cultivate the mind qualities.

Fame (center-back) to strengthen the heart qualities.


The 2019 World Happiness Report

The day I finished reading The Book of Joy, the 7th annual World Happiness Report was published. This report ranks 156 countries on how happy their citizens are, with a confidence level of 95%. For the second year in a row, Finland is the world’s happiest country, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands.

It turns out that resilience (perspective) and the ability to rebound (recover from negative states) are key factors. It should be noted that citizen’s in these countries pay relatively high taxes compared to other developed countries. When my husband and I visited Iceland in 2015, a small business owner told us that “Yes, we pay high taxes, about 65%, but we also get a lot for our money … including health care, low college costs (about $500.00 per year) and much more.”

Community and face to face social connections are also important determinants for happiness. Social media, it turns out, is a growing addiction for many people and a key contributor to isolation and loneliness. Particularly for those spreading negative news, judgment and anger. If you spread news, spread good news and leave the rest behind.

As spring evolves, get outside, connect with nature and with other people to cultivate more joy, happiness and overall well-being.