Making 2023 a joyful year

Editor’s note: Debby Schlesinger-Hellman is the co-founder of The Art and Science of Joy. Victor Perton is the CEO and chief optimism officer at The Centre for Optimism.

As we close out 2022 and look forward to 2023, there is much uncertainty, fear, anxiety and even hopelessness for many. We would like to turn that around by bringing more joy into the world through the Year of Joy nonprofit project.

We have the research from Harvard supporting that at least 40% of our individual joy is in our control. Imagine how powerful that will be for people. Our research found that many don’t know how to bring that joy out, so we have developed a recipe to assist people on their journey. To be truly joyful, we must have wellbeing and a strong sense of belonging to make a positive impact on the world and of course, we all need some fun on this great journey called life. 

The Year of Joy will help individuals find their own individual recipe for joy and build their own joy muscle. Our expert on optimism, Victor Perton, will be hosting an opening week in our Year of Joy and below he shares some thoughts on the connection of joy and optimism.

January – a celebration of optimism and joy?

The Art and Science of Joy’s Year of Joy starts with a week of optimism and joy and a collaboration with The Centre for Optimism. In eager anticipation, the “joy” word is popping up as I listen to speeches, broadcasts and conversations.  

At my son Ted’s high school valedictory dinner, the deputy headmaster expressed his “joy and optimism” in a year well spent. Joy also appeared in the readings time and time again in Ted’s final school carol service as senior chorister and cantor. 

For me, joy is captured in a moment and time with a feeling of great pleasure and intense happiness. For me, it’s often something good that’s a surprise. I generally find it in bringing happiness to other people and hearing it in their stories of hope and optimism. I find it in soaring music – everything from a Gregorian Chant to a soaring carol by a good choir to pop songs with optimism and joy as the theme.

Watching my son and his choir reach soaring heights of Christmas hymns brought me great joy as the choir sang “joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies.” Joy and joyfulness appearing 15 times in the order of service. 

My daughter Sophia’s exuberance and feelings after dancing classes was joyful. I even found joy watching her lose a final in a horse-event yet come back smiling and singing the praises of the horse. Success will come with an attitude like that. On my birthday, Australia’s Radio National played an hour-long interview “Victor Perton and the Secret of Optimism” – it would have brought great pleasure anyway however it brought joy with the sense of surprise and the positive reaction from listeners with strangers, acquaintances and family members alike sharing a sense of inspiration and lessons learned. I find joy in a bright orange and purple sunrise. I find joy in a zephyr playing on my skin on a sunny day in these early Australian summer days. Every day in asking people what makes them optimistic, I get joy from the joyful reactions of people to being asked that question and then when I share them with our global Centre for Optimism community.

Joy appeared early in my study of optimism. I found:

  • An optimistic spirit experiences more joy. A joyful soul tends to be more optimistic.
  • An optimistic spirit can bring significant benefits, including happiness, joy, active longevity, better health including lower risks of cardiovascular disease, better sleep, greater resilience, stronger relationships and increased self-mastery.
  • Generally, optimists attract other optimists. Positive and optimistic people and their conversations will boost your optimism, joy and happiness. It can become a virtuous circle, but you first need to seek it out or set it up.

I recently interviewed Jacinta Ermacora, then chair of Wannon Water, asking her what makes her optimistic. Ermacora told me, "What makes me optimistic is seeing joy in other people, that brings me joy and a real sense of positivity. Also, I have the personality trait of being optimistic; I often see the glass half full rather than empty. Collaboration is a joy for me. So, there's a really powerful feeling when a whole heap of different people, whether it's a working partnership or a voluntary partnership of people working together on something. That gives a real sense of we can do anything, that optimistic feeling!” A few weeks later Jacinta was elected to Parliament. We need political leaders with a sense of joy and optimism. 

Another political leader, John Pesutto, told me, “There is a joy, a real joy, in achieving something, particularly as a political leader, on behalf of the people you represent. And it might be something little or something unexpected or it might be something even grander.” When I asked Jura Reilly, amber jewelry designer, what makes her optimistic, joy was again at the core. “Optimism comes from deep within your soul and the joy it brings when you create a poem, novel, painting, a piece of jewelry or a new recipe for your family,” Jura told me.

The best-selling 1950s author Norman Vincent Peale loved illustrating his sermons and books with stories. In The Tough-Minded Optimist, he wrote, “a physician, in reviewing his practice of some forty years, said that many patients would not have been ill and forced to consult him if they had simply practiced optimism, faith and joy.” He said, “Quite apart from medication, if I can get them to lift themselves mentally for ten minutes every day into an area of pure joy – meaning undiluted optimism, I can get them well and keep them well.” So, it seems that medically, also, optimism is important. 

Similarly, Amanda Noz, president of the Professional Women’s Network in France, told me, "Optimism and joy are like best friends entwined together who understand and fuel each other. An optimistic attitude enables people to notice the little things in life that bring joy, and that joy underpins an optimistic outlook towards life. Optimism is a gift to help find joy across time: in the memories from the past, the reality of the present and the hope for the future. It is my inexorable belief that life will always have moments of joy, even in the hardest of times and the optimism to think those times will be temporary."

And the much admired, Judy Rodgers, president of Images & Voices of Hope, told me “It is the nature of the human spirit to express love, peace and joy. We do drift from our true nature in some moments, but time and truth ultimately call us back to who we really are, which is the deepest rationale for optimism.”

Our partner in the year of optimism, Andrew Cannon, said, “Our reality is very much our perception of our reality. Optimism can help many on their path to more joy!" 

Start thinking about your intentions for 2023. Will you be ready to bring optimism to your life? Join us for an entire Year of Joy and build your joy muscle for a purposeful 2023!