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8 Practices To Increase Your Joy

The 8 Pillars of Joy

My daughter Maddie is a science and math geek (much like her father). But she’s also got this really cool artistic side. Take a look at the photo accompanying this blog post. Those are 3 art pieces Maddie and her friends are working on in her engineering class. They’re currently on my garage floor as we’re in the midst of social distancing and the schools are closed, so she brought them home to work on.

I was walking through the garage the other day when I stopped short as I took in the scene, and the range of possibilities for her life really struck me. She’s interested in chemical engineering. But she’s also working on designing a user interface for a non-profit. She’s got so much potential, and so many doors open. I wonder where her life will take her?

The current reality, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu

After the fact, I began to appreciate the joy this brief moment provided. I believe I’m more aware of joy currently. In part, this is because our world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic and these moments are easily overshadowed by current circumstances. I’m also more aware of joy as one of my clients turned me on to The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World*. This delightful book chronicles a week-long visit by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as he traveled to Dharamsala, India, to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, and the two of them discussed the question, how do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering.

As you might imagine, the book is rich with knowledge and advice from these two octogenarians (who are quite funny and mischievous characters I’ve learned). One of the concepts that really struck me was the 8 pillars of joy. These are 8 qualities – 4 of the mind and 4 of the heart – that can be cultivated and practiced to increase the experience of joy, even in the face of suffering. It seemed an appropriate time to share them.

The 8 Pillars

Without further ado, here are the 8 pillars along with a brief description. I highly recommend the book if you’d like to explore these in greater detail.

As you read, pay attention to any that jump out to you now as meaningful or worthwhile. Those just might be a great focus for you over the next week.

  1. Perspective. The ability to step back from our problems to see the bigger picture. This might include finding empowering meanings, feeling connections with our fellow humans, or seeing opportunities that might arise from current troubles.
  2. Humilty. From the latin root humus, meaning earth or dirt, the ability to remember that we are all human and share a common bond with each other, noting there is much more that connects us to others than separates us.
  3. Humor. Being able to laugh at ourselves or our circumstances, to see the funny realities and rich ironies in our lives.
  4. Acceptance. Letting go of judgement and expectation, and accepting our life moment by moment for what it is.
  5. Forgiveness. Recognizing our shared humanity and the circumstances that drive others to hurt us (or us to hurt ourselves) and releasing the desire for revenge instead looking for healing. (Please note that forgiveness does not mean you cannot seek justice from those who have injured you or that you must continue your relationship with them.)
  6. Gratitude. Appreciating the good things around us, those who have made our lives possible, noticing our large and small blessings.
  7. Compassion. Literally meaning “to suffer with,” feeling the struggles and hurts others experience, wishing them peace and happiness, and celebrating in their joys.
  8. Generosity. Holding our gifts, both material and otherwise, loosely, and freely giving of those to others in need of what we possess.

How are you right now?

I find my mood swings widely these days, more so than usual. The lows have been more intense, but I have to admit the highs have been there too. Family sports nights in the driveway. Enjoying the warm sun and sound of birds on the front porch. Watching the bees hard at work on the pear tree blossoms.

So how about for you? How are you doing?

I’m certainly no expert at using all of these tools, but I did realize that in that moment in the garage, when I saw my daughter Maddie’s artwork and contemplated her future, was a moment that filled me with gratitude. I’m grateful to know her and be a part of her life, and grateful to watch future possibilities transform into her present reality. I know things seem amiss right now, but I also believe in my heart that there is much goodness that surrounds us, waiting to bring us joy. I hunger for more of these moments, especially now.

While we are longing and praying for the world to return to normal, perhaps these 8 practices will help us bring more of this goodness into focus, filling us with the joy we seek.


Dr. Topher Fox

*Affiliate Link – I may receive a small commission for any purchases made through this link. Please know that I only recommend products I stand behind wholeheartedly.

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