Once participants have made up their minds to be happier, Baraz gives them the tools, delivered in lectures to the live class he teaches in Berkeley and in twice-monthly e-mails sent to participants in other areas, that teach them how to cultivate a positive state of mind. Among them:
- writing what the word "joy" means to you
- doing some form of physical movement, such as yoga, dance, or walking, a few times a week
- making a "nourishment list" of activities you enjoy, checking off those you do regularly and circling the ones that could be done more often
- checking in with your "joy buddy," a kind of running partner in the pursuit of happiness.
There are also guided meditations, including instructions on how to be mindful—being present for whatever you're doing and, as Baraz says, "simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different." For Joan, that turned out to be a bigger challenge than singing—especially when her husband suggested that they begin the separation process. "Awakening Joy isn't about being a happy little do bee," she says. "You're taught that when feelings arise, no matter what they are, you stay with them. When my husband said we should contact a mediator, I cried years of tears. But by accepting those painful feelings, I had a watershed moment: I realized that I really wanted this marriage." Rather than assuming divorce was inevitable, Joan started to see other possibilities. "From that day to this, it's been a whole different experience," she says. "My husband and I are still together, and in a way that I honestly didn't think was possible."
For Baraz, the best testimonials come from former skeptics; he admits that he himself wouldn't be the best case study. "I've always been a relatively joyful, celebratory kind of person," he says. He found his spiritual path in Buddhism, but when his studies became very serious, so did he. "Then I realized that the Buddha was called the Happy One, and he said, 'Go for the highest happiness.' That became the focus of my teaching." (Baraz points out that one needn't be a Buddhist, or of any particular faith, to reap the benefits of Awakening Joy. "Ministers, rabbis, and secular experts have successfully used these basic principles," he says.)