Experiment with choosing Joy

happiness joy Mar 15, 2022
Choosing joy happiness

At Mindfulness Incubator, our blog posts, articles and resources often follow our lives. We write about what we need to learn, what we need to grow, what we need to practice. We use the opportunity to develop new perspectives on the world, to run experiments in our lives and explore new strategies to make life better. We share what we learn, in the hopes that you find it helpful too. 

This week, we are writing about Joy. 


Joy vs. Happiness

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in the “Book of Joy” defines joy as follows 

Joy is resilient, enduring happiness. It is finding the silver lining in the darkest of times.” They describe joy as “much bigger than happiness”, “a way of approaching the world”.

Happiness is defined as “the state of being happy”, and is often associated with a specific experience, achieving a specific goal, or experiencing something pleasurable.

This article described happiness as a destination, and Joy as an attitude. We liked that framing. That means that no matter what’s happening outside of you, you can always work on what’s happening inside of you.

Joy and happiness are certainly related, and plenty has been written about both. Today’s blog post isn’t to extoll the benefits of living with more joy and happiness (doesn’t seem like a huge logical leap that it would be a good thing), but rather to dive into the how. It turns out we can train ourselves to be more joyful, to cultivate an attitude that helps us endure when things are difficult. Living with more joy helps make us healthier (research suggests immune boosts) and more resilient. 


A week of Joy Experiments

We set out to spend a week intentionally choosing Joy. Looking for opportunities every day to be more joyful. Each day, choosing something new, and reflecting on how it worked. Here’s a recap of the adventure.


Day 1: Turn within 

Since joy is an internally cultivated state, Day 1 focused on cultivating the inner landscape. There’s some compelling evidence about the impact of Loving Kindness Meditation, including reducing negative emotions, increasing positive emotions, and even reducing some physical and psychological disorders. Loving Kindness, or Metta meditation, focuses on cultivating feelings of compassion, goodwill, and kindness, first towards ourselves, then our loved ones, then those we know, and ultimately the whole world. We love this track if you’d like to try it. 


Day 2: Gratitude 

Gratitude is about being thankful, about noticing the blessings in your life and appreciating them. Research suggests that giving thanks can make you happier, and interrupt negative thoughts, anxiety and overwhelm. Regularly noticing and writing down the little and big things that went right can lead to more optimism and greater well being. So for day two, we tried a gratitude bookend. Three specific things we were grateful for in the morning and before bed. Knowing you need to write it down helps you actively look for things to be grateful for, and appreciate more in your life. If you want to uplevel your gratitude game, write a letter or an email to someone who has inspired or helped you and tell them the impact they had on your life. Sharing gratitude with others magnifies the impact!


Day 3 - Media Detox

This was a total social media and news fast. No scrolling, no clicking, no liking, no browsing. Social media can be a joy-robber, increasing loneliness and depression. According to one study, just 14 minutes of news can boost depression and anxiety. So one way to boost joy is to get rid of stuff that actively drains it. Every time we felt tempted to scroll, we’d instead look out the window, or pick up a book, or have a conversation. 


Day 4 - Connect

Connections with loved ones can boost your mood and wellbeing. For Day 4, we took every opportunity to connect more and more deeply (for more inspiration on this, check out this blog post). It was a veritable pot-pourrit of connection: calling loved ones while driving, friends while cooking. Using prompts to drive deeper conversation at dinner. Doing device and screen time free quality time to enable conversation. Striking up a conversation at the post office, or with the cashier. 


Day 5 - Create

Art and creating can boost dopamine and help you feel happier, so for Day 5, we did an art project. Watercolor kits from Let’s Make Art are easy to follow along to and come with all the gear you need. But art can be anything: doodling, sketching, painting, sculpting, writing, singing. Here’s a picture of our creation for inspiration…


Day 6 - Play

Play isn’t just important for kids, it matters for adults too. When was the last time you did something just for the joy of it? For Day 6, a family board game was in order, along with building a fort in the snow and a snowball fight. 


Day 7 - Splurge on joyful things

In Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee talks about the power of simple objects, patterns and designs to bring us joy. A colorful coffee mug you love, beautiful stickers, a bright rug, a brilliant journal to write in…all can bring a blast of positive emotions to your day. If you have such objects, take them out and display them prominently. If you don’t, give yourself a budget and go on a mini-shopping spree. Etsy is brimming with handmade, gorgeous items!

You are my sunshine mug is one such object of joy in our home (source)


The takeaway

It was refreshing to spend a week actively looking for opportunities to cultivate Joy. After all, what you look for, you are more likely to find. It was a different mindset from trying to get through the to-do list. 

Trying these behaviors for one day isn’t nearly enough for a lasting boost in joy. Each of these habits and practices take time to cultivate. Meditation, for example, tends to show benefits after 8 weeks of consistent practice. Gratitude journals tend to start showing sustained boosts in happiness after six weeks of practice.

While doing these things for one day alone won’t change everything overnight, it can deliver a short term lift, and help us learn about which habits we want to focus on implementing more consistently. 

Would you join us in running a joy experiment? Try it, and let us know how it goes.


Today is the last day for early bird pricing for the Mindfulness Incubator Digital Detox and Renewal Retreat. This ultra exclusive experience has limited capacity - only 10 luxurious glampsites are available. We’ll have the entire 160 acre property for our exclusive use. Join us on June 2-5 and September 15-18 2022. These experiences have been curated for maximum renewal, and to help you unplug from the day to day chaos, and find yourself again. Learn all about these upcoming retreats here


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