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Joy in the new year.

As we enter a new year, there is pressure to set New Year’s resolutions that may be big and maybe not all that attainable for an entire year.  What if we set smaller goals that were doable? And make us happier? And make the world just a little bit better? 

The JOY Project ( has set out to do just that.  The organization founded by the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu has made the study of Joy their foundation.  The research validates what we have been talking to our patients about for years about pain management strategies and managing life’s stresses.  This is not the kind of joy that is just a wave of happiness.  This is the joy of personal growth, acceptance, and meaning. 

The research (Can Little Steps Lead to Big Joy? ( that the JOY Project has done shows that people who participate in making the world more joyful are more productive at work, are more creative, tend to be effective leaders at work and in the community, have more fulfilling marriages and friendships, have stronger immune systems, are healthier and are more resilient when they do encounter trauma or stress.  So how do we add more Joy to our hectic schedules?  

Let’s start with a quick four steps to start improving Joy in our lives. 

  • Add a little kindness to the world.  Do a small kindness for someone else or your corner of the world.  Think holding the door, helping a neighbor with a project, putting bird seed out for your backyard friends.  A small kindness helps bring us joy and open our eyes to other people in our communities. 
  • Think about the things that you are grateful for.  Make a list of 5-10 things that you are thankful for.  Write a note to someone that you are happy to have in your life.  Look at the sunset and give thanks to the world for such beauty.  When we are intentional about the things that we are thankful for, we can feel more joy. 
  • Reframe how you are thinking about a problem.  Look at an issue that you are facing.  What are the silver linings or bright sides of the problem?  Ask yourself, down the road, will this issue continue to loom as large?  As we start to look at silver linings at our concerns, it becomes easier to look for more silver linings in more places. 
  • Connect with your community.  Send a quick text message to a friend to tell them you are thinking about them.  Bring it full circle and do an act of kindness for a friend.  Tell a family member or friend about a problem that you are struggling with.  Showing gratitude and allowing others to help us with problems both help to build connections and grow our network of people.  The biggest predictor for mental and physical and mental health is the quality of human connections we have. 

As you set your New Year’s resolutions, try to add one or all these steps to add joy to your life and to our world.  One step at a time, we can help to make the world a little better for everyone. 

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