Joy and happiness are in short supply in our troubled world, especially in recent times. We all can do with more fulfilment in our stressful lives. In this article, I will explore the “eight pillars”-the secrets to joy according to the Dalai Lama and the late Desmond Tutu.
Who are the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu?
The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism. Likewise, the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu was an Anglican priest from South Africa. They are both highly respected Nobel Peace Prize winners and positively influenced me.
The two spiritual leaders spoke about cultivating more joy and happiness amid suffering. That dialogue occurred when The late Desmond Tutu travelled to Dharamsala, India, for a “week of friendship” to celebrate the latter’s 80th birthday in 2015.
The Book of Joy was the end product of their encounter. The main take-home message for me is the “eight pillars” of Joy; four are qualities of the spirit, and the other four refer to qualities of the heart.
What are joy and happiness?
Joy is a state of mind of satisfaction, happiness and well-being. Joy is a stable state that comes from within. So, it is not dependent on external circumstances or possessions. Therefore, we can choose to feel joyful even amid our sufferings.
On the other hand, happiness is “the state of being happy-feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Happiness is not a permanent state and usually lasts for a short period. At the same time, pleasure can come and go in seconds.
Pleasure is our emotional response to external factors such as the sweet taste of chocolate. It results from the effects of “feel good” chemicals released by the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
The eight pillars of joy
According to the Dalai Lama and the late Desmond Tutu, these are means to inject joy into one’s life.
1. Perspective or reframing
Secrets to joy pillar One: Perspective or reframing
“For every event in life, there are many angles.”Dalai Lama
Our perspective largely determines our happiness. If we have a positive outlook on life, we are more likely to be happy. The reverse is also correct.
Several things can influence our perspective. For example, our family and friends can play a role in shaping our outlook. Additionally, the media affects our mood. Being constantly bombarded with negative news stories can make us believe that the world is scary.
One of the best ways to change our view is to understand that we are not alone in our suffering- that we are part of the human narrative. We should avoid self-absorption and switch from “I” to “we”.
Also, a spirit of gratitude and spending time with positive people can help us change our gloomy outlook.
Joy secret pillar two: Humility
“Whenever I see someone, may I never feel superior.”Tibetian prayer
The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu are among the humblest people who walked our planet.
Humility means letting go of ego-driven desires and accepting our imperfect nature. Humility helps us to have more compassion.
We must distinguish humility from timidity. A timid person has low self-esteem and a fear of others. However, we can still be humble and yet confident.
According to C.S Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but of yourself less”.
Benefits of humility
- Allows for accurate self-assessment
- Creates opportunities to learn
- We’re open to welcoming other’s opinions
- Builds better relationships
- This leads to greater creativity.
How to cultivate humility
- By practising gratitude. When we are grateful for what we have, it naturally puts us in a more humble state.
- Spending time around people who embody humility. By seeing how they interact with others and handle themselves in different situations, we can learn to be more humble.
- Meditation can also help cultivate humility. When we take the time to quiet our minds and focus on our breath, it allows us to let go of our ego and connect with something larger than ourselves.
Pillar Three: Humour
Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and there’s a lot of truth in learning not to take yourself too seriously. For example, humour can boost your mood, relieve stress, and improve your health. It enhances the immune system and lowers stress.
Both the Dalai Lama and the late Desmond Tutu could laugh at themselves. According to Douglas Abrams, the two men “seemed to be as much a comedy duo as two venerated spiritual leaders”.
Pillar Four: Acceptance
Acceptance is an integral part of happiness. Of course, it doesn’t mean you’re happy with everything in your life, but you can accept the things you can’t change.
Everyone has unique talents and gifts they can share with the world. Finding ways to use your abilities to make a difference in the lives of others is a great way to bring purpose into your life. When you’re living with purpose, you’ll find that each day is more fulfilling and joyful.
Live in the present moment.
Pillar Five: Forgiveness
The act of forgiving is pardoning someone for a wrong they have done. It is an important life skill that can lead to healthier relationships, improved mental and physical well-being, and a general sense of peace.
How to Forgive
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to forgiveness. The process may look different for each person, but some common steps can help them learn.
1. Acknowledge the hurt. It is essential to acknowledge and feel the pain caused by the offence. This step may involve journaling about the injury, talking to a trusted friend or therapist about what happened, or simply allowing time to process your emotions.
2. Understand why forgiveness is essential. Forgiveness can lead to improved mental and physical health, stronger relationships, and a general sense of peace and well-being. It is necessary to keep this in mind as you work through the forgiveness process.
3. Choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice—a decision that you make to let go of anger and resentment and move on with your life. This step may be difficult, but it is an integral part of the forgiveness process.
4. Let go of anger and resentment. Once you have chosen to forgive, you must let go of your anger and resentment. That may involve journaling about your feelings, talking to a trusted friend or therapist about what happened, or simply allowing yourself time to process your emotions.
5. Make an effort to rebuild trust. If the offence damages the relationship, eff to restore confidence. That may involve setting boundaries, communicating openly and honestly, and spending time together doing activities that you both enjoy.
Benefits of forgiveness
- Forgiveness can lead to improved mental and physical health.
- Forgiveness can strengthen relationships.
- Forgiveness can bring a sense of peace and well-being.
The secret to joy pillar six: Gratitude
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”Melody Beattie
Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to envy or disappointment with what one does not have. As a virtue, it relates to benefit from the goodness of others. The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of several world religions.
How to cultivate gratitude
Cultivating gratitude can be as simple as taking a few moments each day to reflect on what you’re thankful for. For example, you might want to keep a gratitude journal in which you jot down one or two things you’re grateful for each day.
Or you might take time before bed to think about the good things that happened during your day. You could also share your gratefulness with others by writing thank-you notes or telling people in your life how much you appreciate them.
Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude has been linked with many benefits, including improved mental and physical health, better sleep and increased resilience in the face of stress.
Gratitude is one of the surest paths to happiness. We open ourselves to even more blessings when we appreciate all we have. A grateful heart is joyful, so count your blessings daily.
Pillar Seven: Compassion
“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”Shirley Chisholm
Compassion is an emotion that is felt when we see someone else suffering. It is the desire to help alleviate that suffering. Generosity is the act of giving without expecting anything in return. It is an act of pure kindness and altruism.
How to develop them
There are many ways to develop compassion. One way is to cultivate a mind of empathy, which means feeling along with others and sharing their emotions. Another way is to practice self-compassion or extend compassion towards oneself. That can be done by treating oneself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness.
Additionally, one can develop empathy by volunteering for or donating to charitable organisations that help those in need.
Pillars eight: Generosity
“A little fragrance always clings to the hand that gives the roses.”Chinese Proverb
Giving back to others is one of the most rewarding things we can do. Not only does it make a difference in the lives of those we help, but it also brings us a great sense of satisfaction and joy. Knowing that we’ve positively impacted someone else’s life is one of the best feelings.
One of the best ways to make ourselves happy is to focus on making someone else happy. When we serve others, we not only make them feel good, but we also feel good ourselves. It’s a win-win situation!
Generosity doesn’t just mean giving money to charity. It can also mean giving our time, energy and attention to others. When we’re generous, we help make the world a better place and receive the gift of happiness in return.
True joy comes from within and is independent of external conditions. Therefore, to inject more happiness and joy into our lives, we must:
- Daily: Smile more; Exercise; Prioritise our sleep; Eat healthily; Practise gratitude; Compliment others.
- Weekly: Simplify our lives; Connect with others; Plan our week; Get into nature more.
- Monthly: Give back to others; Look after ourselves.
- Yearly: Conduct annual review and reflection; Re-evaluate our life plans.
- Lifetime: Be realistically optimistic; Exude joy.
What measures will you implement to increase your joy and happiness?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Please leave your comments below, or let’s continue the discussion on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin.
Babatunde Kukoyi says
Really insightful post on Joy and happiness. Thanks for sharing
David Onu says
I am glad that you found this article and quote helpful. Thanks so much, Dr Kukoyi, for your encouraging feedback.