More Joy

This section is about focusing on joy, the immediate sensation of positive feelings. Joy requires special attention because there is so much going on in today’s world that interferes with our ability to be attentive to how we feel right now—and if you can’t do that, if you can't "be in the present," you miss a lot of happiness. I like to cite a study that found visible growth in certain areas of the brain of college students who practiced juggling every day for three months—and then found that the growth disappeared after three months of no practice. I take this as a paradigm for learning any new behavior, like attending to joy.

The good news is that it’s possible to literally change our brains, so that becoming more aware of joy becomes automatic. The bad news is that it takes longer than we want it to—three months of concentrated, focused practice.

The simplest, but most important, message about happiness is this: WAKE UP! There is spectacular beauty all around you. Miracles are happening right under your nose. Compared to our ancestors and most of the people in the world today, we live a very comfortable, pleasant existence with great freedom and many opportunities. Don’t let it all slip by unnoticed. This is more difficult than it should be because worldwide we seem to be losing our ability to feel anything at all. There are so many messages that tell us to fear our own emotions—stay cool, don’t lose control. And of course we try not to feel disturbing emotions—anger, fear, grief. But we can’t shut down negative feelings without shutting down positive feelings too.

Most of this section contains specific guidelines and exercises to teach us how to become more aware of joy. Savoring is a skill that the positive psychologists have developed. A simple going-to-sleep exercise can make a big difference in your overall mood. Most things that bring us joy are simple, having to do with the body: taste, touch, play, developing skills. A sense of wonder. It’s so-ironic-you-can’t-stand-it that in today’s world we may have to deliberately schedule time for experiences like these that used to come naturally to us.

Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, therapist, or other healthcare professional.  You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any treatment, or for making any lifestyle decision that may have serious negative repercussions