Positively Midlife Podcast

The Big Joy Project & the Power of Micro Joys in Midlife - Ep. 85

January 17, 2024 Tish & Ellen Season 3 Episode 85
Positively Midlife Podcast
The Big Joy Project & the Power of Micro Joys in Midlife - Ep. 85
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Imagine discovering a simple way to infuse each day with a little more happiness—would you try it? That's exactly what we explored with the Big Joy Project from UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, and our latest episode is bursting with the joys and laughs we collected along this seven-day journey. We're spilling all about how micro acts of joy, ranging from watching breathtaking nature clips to laughing with loved ones, have transformed our daily outlook. We even delve into the surprising delights of our latest obsessions, like indoor games that light up our living rooms with laughter, and the life-altering choice to switch to colored contacts, making our midlife adventures that much more vibrant.

But the journey doesn't stop with laughter; it's also about the profound impact of kindness and gratitude. Join us as we unpack how these small, yet powerful acts have rippled through our lives, nudging us towards a more joy-filled existence. With heartfelt anecdotes of family life, the challenges of parenting, and the warmth of deep conversations, we offer up a slice of our lives while inviting you to create moments of happiness in your own. Discover practical steps to nurture joy, resilience, and a grateful heart by tuning into our conversation—a heartfelt mix of personal stories, laughter, and the wisdom of embracing each day's potential for joy.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome back to the Positively Midlife podcast. Today we're diving into something truly transformative our participation in the Big Joy Project from UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. Say that three times fast, tish.

Speaker 2:

I don't know if I can today, but that's right, ellen. Thinking about joy and how we can get more of it in our lives has really been a great way to kick off 2024. So the question is what is the formula for joy?

Speaker 1:

I think we all want to know what that formula is and maybe today we'll answer a little bit. But you and I, we participated in the Greater Good in Action initiative called the Big Joy Project. That challenged us to explore micro acts of joy and I know you and I love micro anything right. Micro acts of joy for just seven minutes a day, for seven days.

Speaker 2:

You know, and this doing, this participating, really sparked something special. You know, when you shared the Big Joy Project with me, I immediately jumped on board right, you did, you did. You know, because I think at that moment I was really searching for something that could increase my joy, especially with how sick I have been over the holidays.

Speaker 1:

Oh Tish, I know it was really being sick. I was in a funk too, because I know you know this, but to our listeners, one of my sons has a chronic illness and he had pneumonia over the holidays, and so when I saw this Big Joy Project I really thought we both could use a jolt of joy. I like that a jolt of joy. But before we get into the Big Joy Project and what we thought of it and how it went, you know I need to know what you're obsessed with this week. What is it?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think this is really kind of coming out of the Big Joy Project, this idea of finding little places to add joy in your life, and I think one of the biggest places for me has always been laughter, I think. When things get tough for me, I like just to make light of it, joke or whatever, but it just changes my mood about what's happening. So I think right now I'm kind of obsessed with doing games that can bring joy right, and so I thought it would be really fun to get these new darts system. They're called pop darts, you know like. You know the darts that they've made illegal, that you throw in the grass and they stabbed, and sometimes you stabbed your friends growing up. But these are actually meant to be played indoors. So, as you know is the weather is not so great. This would be good, see, I think you could do it outdoors during, you know, the nice weather too. But you throw the darts on the table and there's like one little piece that you're trying to get close to. So you can do it as teams. You can do just two people or whatever, but I think anytime you bring in some type of silly game, that doesn't take a lot of thought or, you know, or concentration. I think that is just a recipe for laughter and just another little place to add joy in your life. So that's my obsession is to find fun games.

Speaker 1:

I love it. You know this game sounds particularly fun, but my kids, which we all know are kids or adults, they still will play sorry and Jenga over the holidays, and I mean the laughter you're right that we have while playing a game. And how compelling if some people are. You know it, you know it.

Speaker 2:

Well, what about you, Ellen? What is your obsession for this week?

Speaker 1:

Well, I also chose an obsession that is bringing me a great amount of joy and you're going to crack up, but it is learning how to use colored contacts here at midlife, because I love it. I am so joyful every time I put these in and do not have to put glasses on and off 500 times a day. I'm telling you I had a little problem at the beginning. It was a big learning curve. Tissue, you help me out by getting the colored contacts and I am now obsessed. I'm popping them in and out of my eyes. And to anyone out there who is sick and tired of readers, as fun and funky as they are, try them, you can do it.

Speaker 2:

You know, I gotta get back to the doctors, because if you need, like the bifocal or trifocal situation which I do you know a lot of people our age do you have to have one eye that addresses the reader. Yes, and you have to have one eye that addresses the far away. And so my context is I did get colored ones too, and we promote the colored ones because, for goodness sakes, I'm blind, and when I had the clear ones I got couldn't, I didn't know if they were in or out, and so it was an issue. So that's why I went with the color ones. It wasn't really to have a new color, but it was just to be able to see if I had in my eye. But I think it's really important when you go in and that's what I need to do is go back in and tell them I want one really strong for the reading and one that is going to address the far away, and your body will naturally adjust to them. And you have right, yeah.

Speaker 1:

I mean it's amazing, and he had to pop up in degree of strength that one of my eyes a couple times, so it didn't come right away, but I have to say I am so pleasantly surprised at how much I love it.

Speaker 2:

And of course, you and I both matched our natural eye color, so it wasn't them we were changing our eye color, but you know I had, I had to change mine completely, which was crazy, yeah, because mine are naturally green and any of the green shades in the contact store looked the same as my eye. I couldn't tell if they were in or out. Oh, so I got this like yellowish green eye color, which is kind of weird. So I actually have blue ones. So it's weird. That's right, yeah.

Speaker 1:

I mean, but highly, highly recommended. And you know, when I was thinking about joy, I have to say this is something that is bringing me great joy, so I thought I would pass it on and I can put a link to the contacts that I think we're both using the same contacts. But yeah, yeah, well, let's get back to the Big Yo-I project, tish, because I think we were both super excited to kick our year off with this. And I mean, who doesn't have seven minutes a day for seven days to get more joy in their life? Right, exactly?

Speaker 2:

So you've got it, ellen. You know we were part of and now this is an ever growing project. I don't know when they're cutting it off, but currently today there have been 88,174 participants in 207 countries that have completed 356,641. You know, we love our facts. We love our facts, micro acts of joy, and I know, for me, being part of this big joy process has really has increased my joy, and you all know that I love research and facts. Right, we do so. I was really happy to learn that the research is really clear about this. Happiness, resilience, connections, kindness are skills that can be taught and developed over time with practice, and after seven days, they're going to give you a whole printout that shows your own data in graphs on what has changed in terms of your joy.

Speaker 1:

I love that part. I mean, we love facts and we love data, and who doesn't love a report either? But I did not know before we did this tish, that happiness and resilience and connection and kindness are skills that can be taught and learned. That was really kind of revolutionary for me, especially joy, and you know who doesn't want more joy in their life. So if it's a skill you can learn, why not take some time to learn it?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely so. I want to give everyone like a quick overview of what this big joy project is. Ok, and it's created by researchers from 14 universities. People can cultivate their joy by improving happiness in just seven days. You know, feeling happy has proven health benefits that we can really see and chart, actually from decreasing hypertension to cardiovascular risk, to just improving overall mental health outcomes and just general life satisfaction.

Speaker 1:

That's amazing, tish. I mean when I hear that to really understand that a skill you can learn can have that many benefits. And I'm just going to add on to your description of the Big Joy Project to say it's run by UC Berkeley out here in Berkeley, california, and it's studies it powers a study that we're part of, as you said at the beginning, from the data. So I feel kind of good that we're helping science as well by participating, and I think that anything we can do to help science, to help them understand joy and help us feel more joy, is just a really wonderful thing to participate in.

Speaker 2:

I like that. We're participating in a study, but what surprised me, what I wasn't expecting from doing this, was we don't have to wait for everybody's results to be in to see what the results are. They're going to tell you your individual results as you add to this big collective as well. So for me that was pretty cool and I'd like to get to the process here. So every day, for seven days, you're going to tell how you are feeling. You're going to learn something and do a micro act of joy. Right, and again, not a big time commitment, you know. Seven minutes every day, you know, and they range from watching a nature video to doing something kind, and this is all in a way of shifting your perspective. You want to shift your perspective through these micro acts and once, like I said, and once you finish, you're going to get your report on kind of where you started and how doing these small micro acts affected you. So what would you say, ellen, going through these seven days, what did you like most and why?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think what's interesting, Tish, is that we found out that not everybody does the seven days in the same order, which we did not realize right. Right Until I was like on the first day I loved the first exercise. You actually listen to a clip of people laughing and what happens? I don't know if this happened to you, but I just started laughing too. I felt lighter. I noticed I was smiling listening to this. It was so contagious and at the end of the two minutes I think it was, or three minutes I felt better for laughing and it reminded me why, when I was younger, I used to love to go see comedy, go to open mic nights, and just really belly laugh. And I had this idea. We have an open mic night in my town. I can literally walk there in less than 20 minutes and there are a lot of people telling jokes and funny acts and things. And it was something for me to consider. I need to see more comedy and be around more laughter. So I really did enjoy the process of reading myself before doing the exercise, doing the exercise and then thinking about how I felt. Again. It felt really good to be in touch with my joy, my contentment. What about you, tish? Tell me a little bit about where you felt. You know the happiest.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think for me it was about embracing mindfulness, you know, taking those few moments each day to focus on my breath, my senses, my and just be present in the moment. You always hear people talk about be present in the moment, but it's like when you get into that quiet space where you're very aware of your surroundings and your feelings and you're not just rushing through life, and I think that made the world a difference for me to increase my overall joy when I found the simplicity of being fully present was a key part to that.

Speaker 1:

I love that. You know, so often in our lives we multitask, especially as women, especially as midlife women. Right, it's something we've been so good at doing for years and years at least we think we're good at it right, and so really having your full attention on this and I felt the same way, I felt like I really was present because I knew it was just seven minutes right, again, it's the time commitment to it. I think they're really onto something with that seven minutes for seven days and I love that you felt really present. You know, one of the days there was a beautiful nature video and I think that day was something about awe. What did you think of the nature video of Yosemite?

Speaker 2:

You know, for me there's something very humbling about something so majestic as Yosemite, right, and so the pristine beauty that makes you just pause for a moment and really appreciate the greatness of what is around us. Again, it's all about this You're always rushing through stuff and stop and smell the roses kind of moment, but when you're hit in the face with something as awe-inspiring as Yosemite, it just makes you stop and just really appreciate that kind of, you know, wonderness. And so, yeah, I think for me there was something about that pause to see something greater than myself that really brought me joy.

Speaker 1:

I love that, Tish, and you know I live close enough to Yosemite to actually go there in a weekend, and it reminded me of how close some really beautiful places in the world are and to try and take advantage but that, just how much nature can calm you and soothe you but also, through that process, bring just this joy and wonder of how great it is. You know, for me the beauty of this project too was in the variety of micro acts that we did and choose from. So one day I sent a quick message to a friend. Another day I went and had a guilty, guilt-free pleasure of a slice of my favorite cake. After it I thought why not treat myself you know, no guilt and to kind of thank you, a joyful thank you, of getting myself through the holidays.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, you know. It's funny that you mentioned that, alan, because one of the micro acts that really resonated with me was incorporating laughter into the day, and whether it's through watching a comedy skit or you know hilarious meme with a friend, but you know, laughter really is what lights up my day.

Speaker 1:

Right, right, I love that and it's so true, tish. And you know, what's fascinating is how these small acts, things like laughing or being one with nature, create a ripple effect. So I noticed my mood kind of shift after doing my seven minutes, how my interactions were better after doing it, how even my overall outlook on life, and I love that we were doing this as part of our, like, january kickoff, the year Right.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, oh, definitely. You know, I just find that spending time laughing with friends, family, even coworkers, right, just elevates my mood for the rest of the day. It's like these micro acts become catalysts to find more joy, fulfilled existence in my life. And even more incredible is the massive citizenship project on joy.

Speaker 1:

It's so true, and I love laughing with you too. We have a lot of laughs here on the podcast A lot of times.

Speaker 2:

Laugh or cry. Laugh or cry right.

Speaker 1:

Many times around technical issues, but you know, our experience of, along with thousands of others, really is contributing to this wealth of data, to better understand it, and it's empowering to me, too, to know that our, our little seven minutes a day is part of something larger and could really impact people moving forward about how joy is understanding, how it's understood and how it's cultivated. So, tish, let's share the themes for the seven days with our listeners. It might catch someone's interest here to also participate in the Big Joy project. And just to say it's free and it's available online, right so and it's still open.

Speaker 2:

I think that's important. No, even because we've completed ours. It's still open right now. But so you jump on this. This is a good one.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah. So the intro is to share a laugh and it's to make a gratitude list, so I enjoyed both of those things. And again, this is not an extensive gratitude list, it's a short punch list of gratitude and you and I love to journal and I know a lot of times our journaling comes around to gratitude lists, but I really enjoyed that.

Speaker 2:

Right. I love how they start with the laughter and they build on it from there. You know the gratitude, you know another day that's going to be is about celebrating another's joy, right, I think that is so important in the building of joy in your life. It's not self-centered, it's outreaching. It's when you connect with somebody else who's feeling joyful or you appreciate where they're at, it just comes back at you, right. You get all that energy back. And then three was to dwell in awe.

Speaker 1:

That was the Yosemite video was kind of the thing during that day, right. One other day was to do something kind. So this idea of spreading joy and I know, tish, you've told me in the past that you've done some pay it forward things, you know, either at a coffee shop or been the beneficiary of that and again, just that little micro joy, it takes you out of yourself and it allows you to really have that great feeling of being that catalyst of joy. And then the other day, day five, for me at least, was to do something kind and nothing feels better than to just a little kindness and I know you've talked about this before just telling someone you like their hat or their hair looks great, or you know, just some little kind thought can go such a long way.

Speaker 2:

Oh, absolutely, when you, when you can brighten someone else's day in, and it can't be insincere, it has to be sincere. People know, right yeah, that you just make somebody feel good. You can see when they puff out the chest a little bit and their head goes a little higher and stuff like that. So, yes, I think, I think the kindness again focus outward Right and the benefits will come back at you, right, yeah? So day six tune into what matters. And day seven you are a force of good.

Speaker 1:

I love that. You know it's like. May the force be with you, but the idea that you are capable and able to spread joy and to be part of this ripple effect is, to me, one of the most powerful pieces of this. Like you said, and tuning into what matters, it really helps you quiet your mind and focus on what matters to you and how that can bring you joy.

Speaker 2:

You know. So if you're listening to all this and you're wondering how do I embark on my own journey right towards joy, we really want to encourage everyone to explore the greater good in action website, which, and the Big Joy Project, and we're going to put links for these in our show notes. So if you're not sure how to find it, just go to the show notes and it will have links and stuff there for you. And they offer a variety of evidence-based practices to cultivate joy, gratitude, resilience and much more.

Speaker 1:

I love that tish and remember finding joy at midlife doesn't require grand gestures and we've said this many times today or massive changes. I love that idea of micro right, micro joy. Sometimes it's just in the smallest moments a really great conversation with a friend, a cup of tea with some silence, or dancing, you know, like nobody's watching you. I also read an article recently, tish, on summoning joy.

Speaker 2:

Tell us about it, ellen. You know, I think one of the most profound days for me when I was celebrating another's joy, right, and this was a conversation that I had with my youngest, so it was, like you know, ask somebody a question and he happened to be around, so I called him in and I asked him, you know, what he thought was something that was awe-inspiring to him or something he felt that he had done great. And he starts sharing with me about his experience last summer with being a lacrosse coach and part of that exercise was to really delve in and ask them more questions and more questions. Now, I knew about his experience, but I hadn't asked him some of the deeper questions. Like you know, what did it make you feel like and why was it important to you? And just to see his joy increasing while I'm talking about something that really inspired him and it really showed me firsthand the power of sharing somebody else's joy. You know, taking that time to stop and to listen.

Speaker 1:

You know, tisha, I love that and you're a few years ahead of me and mothering, and one of the things you've taught me is that when your kids want to talk, you stop everything else, you drop everything else and you listen and listen, and listen. So that is such a great example of that, but really digging into his pride, his success and his joy. I love hearing about that conversation with Liam and it's going to encourage me to have a few of those with my kids.

Speaker 2:

You know, there's some things that surprise me about it. You know, like I knew he was excited about it, I knew he would, but to hear the words you know, and I thought, why didn't I never ask those questions? And I thought, you know, I'm going to make sure that I ask more questions. So I learned more about what some, what inspires somebody else.

Speaker 1:

I love that and, again, I think part of this big joy project was the idea of kind of stopping all the other noise and focusing on something, and I think that that's really beneficial. You know, just back to this idea of summoning joy, I found this article by Moira Aron Mele I hope I pronounced that right. It was on LinkedIn and she says she used it with mantra and I also think that having like little mantras are really good as well and they've helped me in my life. But it's like you know, to just settle yourself, be in the moment, close your eyes and think of a time when you felt great joy it could be any joy, it could be big joy, small joy and bring that moment like to the front of your mind, to be really present in that moment, kind of see it, think about how it smelled back then and imprint it in your body. So when you're there, say I'm open to joy, I'm cultivating joy, I'm feeling joyful, and you can repeat this mantra as much as you want, and then you open your eyes at the end of it and check in and see how you feel.

Speaker 2:

I like this mantra, alan. I think it's powerful. I mean, we've all seen when we're the negative.

Speaker 1:

Nancy right, yeah.

Speaker 2:

But sometimes we forget to stop and really embrace joy and call it into our lives. But I'm definitely going to try this mantra for sure.

Speaker 1:

You know I tried it and it was amazing. The moment that I went back to I was 10 years old and I was on a vacation to Lake Champlain with my parents sitting on a dock and there was bright sunshine and big clouds and blue sky and, you know, lots of little bees buzzing and I thought, wow, that was such a moment of joy. Maybe I didn't appreciate in the moment as much as I appreciate looking back at it. So I would encourage you and all of our listeners to do that and just this I'm open, I'm cultivating and I'm feeling joy kind of mantra.

Speaker 2:

You know, what struck me about what you just said to Alan is the detail you brought to it. Did you smell? How did you feel? Was the sun on your face? Yeah, I think the more that you can capture all those details when you bring that thought forward, I think the more you're going to capture that joy in your life. Right, and I think that's really what this journey through the Big Joy Project has enlightened for both of us. Right, it says something that we'll continue to explore and share on the Positively Midlife podcast, and I just am so excited to kind of share this project and really encourage people to participate, because I think we can get really busy with life and forget to call joy to us. And this is going to remind you, this is going to give you some little tips and tricks on bringing joy to you. And one of the things for the project is they want, they want you want you to participate, to share it with at least three people. So we're sharing it with a lot more than three, but I really want to do this as a call to action to if you feel you need some more joy in your life. You know, and who doesn't, you know, do these things seven minutes. Can you invest seven minutes or seven days into doing this and say you forget a day? No worries, no worries. At the end they're going to let you go back to say you missed day two. Day two is like I was thinking that I could. It's okay, they're going to let you at the end, go back and finish any of the sessions that you haven't, and I loved the messaging they had from that too. It was like, okay, you missed yesterday, don't worry about it, let's just keep moving along. And it so. It didn't. It wasn't one of these. Oh, I blew it, I failed, I didn't get to because I missed a day and I had to go back and I liked that. It was like this non-pressure thing, but it because the focus wasn't about finishing, you know, completing being successful. It was about bringing joy in, and you don't bring that in with over expectations.

Speaker 1:

Right or high pressure, but you know, to everybody listening today, thanks for tuning in. And remember, embrace micro acts of joy. You know, try the big joy project, try the joy mantra we just talked about. These just might transform your life in ways you've never imagined.

Speaker 2:

And until next time, we want you to stay positive. We want you to find joy in every day moments, no matter how big, no matter how small.

Speaker 1:

That's right Till next week midlife. First, don't forget check out that big joy project.

Explore Big Joy Project for Happiness
Micro Acts of Joy
Spreading Joy Through Gratitude and Kindness