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Awakening Joy

Who knew that remembering a positive experience could actually change your brain? Research shows that our gray matter is entirely susceptible to being rewired by pleasing thoughts. Better yet, the more we dwell on them, the more the brain begins to develop a habit or “inclination” to joy.

Authors James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander proffer a wealth of such facts to underscore the value of a happiness practice; they also help to show that real joyfulness is an easier state to maintain than you might think. Their book is based on the 10-step course by the same name, in which participants learn the basic skills they need to foster a greater sense of pleasure in their lives — from establishing a gratitude practice to learning to deal more thoughtfully with disappointments.

Built on a Buddhist framework (though one need not be interested in the philosophy to benefit), the steps are coupled with easy exercises, like practicing well-wishing for an unfamiliar neighbor or taking pleasure in doing the dishes.

The research-centered approach will appeal to interested realists. The program’s spiritual dimension helps anchor the research in a bigger picture. A handy set of tools for amping up your enjoyment of everyday life.

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