I’ve been reading The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams. Abrams interviews the two religious leaders about how they remain so joyful, given the hardships they’ve endured.
The Dalia Lama was forced into exile and may never see his native land again. After suffering the discriminatory practice of Apartheid in South Africa, Tutu was punished for his role in opposing the system. Yet, throughout the week of interviews and conversations with Abrams, they remained not only happy, but full of fun, playful and humorous.
Of the various joy tips I’ve read so far, the one that works best for me is this: when you’re feeling low, whether about your own misfortunes or about suffering or evils you see in the world at large, reach out and do something good for someone else.
I’ve been amazed at how much this has helped me. It even decreased the physical symptoms I had been feeling when I read or heard about something harmful or hateful going on in the world.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve been practicing this joy tip. I’ve sent notes or e-cards to others, especially, but not exclusively, people I think could use a lift. I made some charitable donations. I sent a gift of a field guide to birds to a young girl I know is interested in wildlife, and perhaps, in going into veterinary medicine.
I have made a point to take a few more seconds, when dealing with a cashier or other service giver, to offer more than the perfunctory, “Thanks.” A compliment; a wish for a happy evening, weekend or whatever; or just a bit of ordinary conversation. In a little while, I plan to go down to the office of my residential community to pick up a copy of the monthly calendar, and I am forming the intention, in advance, to engage whatever staff member gives me the calendar in some little bit of pleasant conversation.
You may like to try some of my ways, or come up with your own ways of reaching out with service, support or giving when you’re feeling a little low. Even better, when you’re feeling fine, you can do these things to boost your joy to an even higher level. If you do, please let us know what you did and how it worked by commenting on this post.