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Can one small daily act of joy change your day — and you?

‘Big JOY Project’ is a citizen-science project looking for participants, the payoff a potential boost in well-being

SHARE Can one small daily act of joy change your day — and you?

Eliza Anderson, Deseret News

An experiment in finding joy is reaping big results — and the process could not be simpler.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has launched the “BIG JOY Project,” encouraging people to find out — in seven minutes a day for seven days — “which micro-acts of joy work best for you and be part of the largest-ever citizen science project on joy,” as it says on the project launch page.

The center notes that “joy is an inside job. There are simple, scientifically proven things each of us can do to access more joy.”

“We’re really excited,” project leader Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director at the center, told NPR. “There are statistically significant, measurable changes (including) greater well-being, better coping, less stress and more satisfaction with relationships.”

Per NPR, “All of the recommended micro-acts have been linked to emotional well-being in prior published studies. Examples include making a gratitude list or journal, or engaging in acts of kindness such as visiting a sick neighbor or doing a nice gesture for a friend — or a stranger. Some micro-acts involve celebrating another person’s joy, or engaging in self-reflection, meditation, or taking the time to identify the silver lining in a bad situation, known as positive reframing.”

Joy-seeking is an international effort, with hundreds of countries participating. As of Wednesday morning, the site said 295,747 micro-acts of joy had been perpetrated by 76,180 participants in 205 countries.

The center’s Greater Good Magazine says the exercises focus on tiny acts of:

  • Being kind.
  • Tuning into what matters.
  • Making a gratitude list.
  • Finding something that fills you with awe.
  • Celebrating someone else’s joy.
  • Shifting perspective.
  • Choosing to be “a force for good.”

Each day, participants can tell the program how they are feeling, before being given a “micro-act of joy” exercise. Each activity takes just a few minutes. “Afterward, we’ll ask you to reflect on the thoughts and feelings you had while doing the micro-act of joy,” the site says.

There’s another check-in right after and one later in the evening. Those check-ins are compiled as part of an individualized “Joy Report” at the end of seven days.

The check-ins also contribute to science, the before and after check-ins helping researchers learn about joy’s nature and how it can effectively be created by someone.

The program is built so that people can only participate for a week in the formal study, but researchers hope people will be inspired to keep going on their own. They promised that those who sign up will also get a full list of the practices that are part of the project, so they can create their own joy at their pace whenever they want.

The researchers say there are several things they hope the project will illuminate:

  • Does performing micro-acts of joy change how people feel short term?
  • Are the benefits of micro-acts done early in the day sustained for the whole day?
  • Does doing that affect an entire week?
  • Does each act impact positive and negative effects and their balance?
  • Which micro-acts work best on average — and for which people?
  • Are there differences by demography: age, race/ethnicity, sociodemographics, geography and baseline well-being or stress?

The experiment is done in conjunction with the movie “Mission: Joy — Finding Happiness in Troubled Times,” which features the Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who collaborated on the bestselling book, “The Book of Joy.” The movie is being screened at a number of film festivals and has won numerous awards.

Some of the early results are already in. Researchers found that emotional well-being jumped 26%. Positive emotions increased 23%. They said relationships improved and people recognized their own power to be happy. Sleep improved, too.