#behappy #stayhappystayhealthy   #joy   #peaceofmind                                                                 

I recently had to talk at a festival about Joy- a word not much used nowadays. For me it isn’t only the dictionary definition of a ‘feeling of well-being or contentment,’ but more an intense feeling of the moment, one which maybe leaves an imprint on the soul. For moments of real joy are immortal. You don’t forget them- like the day you give birth.

Finding Joy in modern daily pressurised lives can be tricky, but a bit of well-being and contentment would do me. That can be equally hard to attain. If, as recent research suggests, 50% of temperament comes from your genes, I think most of mine were set to negativity, for I‘m always worrying about the half-empty and don’t appreciate the half-full. I recently read a book in preparation for the talk (by-passing the Joy of Sex and The Joy of Water Boiling on Amazon…) that has helped to change my mind-set, though I’d never have picked it up normally. Doctors feel uncomfortable with self-help books- we are meant to be good at that ourselves. I loved the Book of Joy’s bits of neuroscience, but it’s the philosophy it contains which makes huge sense. Since I’m a fan of mnemonics (especially in my advancing years) the book’s recipe for a calm mind and happy heart is held in the acronyms PHHA and FGGC. So, stressed? Then think: Perspective (step Back- does it really matter?) Humour (find it, a laugh helps everything!) Humility (think everyone is the same as you, no better- it’s not being feeble! Ignore Facebook show-offs.) Accept (what you can’t change). So that’s your mind settled. Now for warming your heart? Forgive (whether they are in the wrong or not, holding on will make you ill: let go) Gratitude (the old ‘count your blessings’!) be Generous (always makes us feel good about ourselves- or should…)and be Compassionate (being nice to someone always makes you feel better). These are the Eight Pillars of Joy. Buddhists have known this for 3000 years
Recent science tells us we all have the capacity and brain circuits to be positive, to return from negativity if we focus our minds by slow breathing and clear our thoughts, just like our autonomic nervous system restores our heart rate after a fright. And we are all hard-wired to be generous, according to neuroscientist Richard Davidson. Unconscious mind specialist John Bargh also has evidence that our innate drives are to survive, reproduce and cooperate. The first two are obvious, but apparently even primates will cooperate for reward- if only with those who look like their infant care givers, doubtless the roots of prejudice. We also know being positive, sharing a smile and helping others can all lower blood pressure and social interaction reduces risks of heart attacks and dementia. Glasgow University neuroscience research has proven making yourself mentally stronger and developing resilience to life’s stresses, will improve your health, and Eliz Blackburn and Elissa Epel maintain reducing stress slows damage to those chromosome-end telomeres that accelerate ageing. Can’t be bad.
The recipe for living long is to do so happily. Live in the present, don’t chase time. Turn out to others with forgiveness, compassion and generosity. Move on. Embrace Ubuntu, a wonderful Zulu word: we are a person because of other persons- we are all connected by human kindness.
For more info consult The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu, HH Dalai Lama and Douglas Abram, 2016, Hutchison, London.

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