“Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”
Wendell Berry, 1973 From “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts!”  How is this possible in a world where so many of the facts we face seem to point us away from joy and toward fear and despair?

The Book of Joy is a beautiful account of a five-day conversation that took place in 2015 between Nobel Peace Prize Laureates the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso and Bishop Desmond Tutu, on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday at his home in Dharamshala, India.  The two looked back on their long lives to answer the question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

I encourage you to read The Book of Joy, or listen to the audio version, in order to receive the full benefit of the authors’ profound thoughts on the subject.

“It does not matter whether one is a Buddhist like me, or a Christian like the Archbishop, or any other religion, or no religion at all. From the moment of birth, every human being wants to discover happiness and avoid suffering. No differences in our culture or our education or our religion affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire joy and contentment. But so often these feelings are fleeting and hard to find, like a butterfly that lands on us and then flutters away.”– Dalai Lama

The Eight Pillars of Joy

Pillars of the mind:

Perspective
Humility
Humor
Acceptance

Pillars of the Heart:

Forgiveness
Gratitude
Compassion
Generosity

Many of our most successful patients find that they are motivated to stick with their new healthy habits when they consider how the lifestyle changes we ask them to make will not just benefit their own health, but will also help heal our planet and even other people (by setting an example of healthy living). In this way, they are considering the big picture and thinking outside of themselves. Dr. Jane Goodall says, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Reflect on what you’re grateful to have been given. Allow your mind to step into the shoes of those in need and feel for them. Take pride in the small achievements on the path to your goals. Doing so will help ensure that every day you will have more to celebrate than to regret.

There is a reason that Joy figures so prominently on our Wellness Wheel. Finding joy is key to a well-lived life. With all of the challenges that we will be facing in the days and years to come, try to keep the Eight Pillars in mind whenever you can. I know they help me find joy. Perhaps they will help you too.

With gratitude,
Ted D. Barnett, MD, FACLM