5 Secrets to Cultivate Joy: It’s an Inside Job

By Michelle Burke & Lilamani de Silva

Creators of the Joy Cards

We, like you, have had to deal with dramatic changes over the past few years. Our stress levels have increased to an all-time high as we come out of a pandemic and deal with a war in Europe. And, there’s little sign of a slowdown—good reasons for cultivating joy and why it’s even more important now than ever before. The idea for our Joy Cards was formed while Michelle was recovering from a bad case of COVID-19 in California, and Lilamani was caring for her elderly parents in New Zealand. We found our joyful reserves were decreasing and overwhelm was increasing. As we grappled with our individual worries, we were forgetting the importance of fun, play, and just being lighthearted. We stopped short of going down the rabbit hole. Call it self-preservation, or maybe the universe stepped in. We found ways to cope and even thrive. The idea of sharing, maintaining, and creating a joy movement became essential because what is life without joy? We believe we were guided to create our Joy Cards. 

We noticed that when we began to cultivate joy, it started to shift our mindset from negative to positive. The practice helped us to be present. It requires us to take moments out of our stressful days to have fun or quiet our mind. Here are a few secrets we have learned as we continue to experiment, explore, and find joy in all its various guises.  

  1. Let go of the small stuff.

It’s usually the small stuff that trips us up. Where is your attention going? Is it taking up too much head space allowing less space for joy? Did you know that literally letting the small stuff go lowers cortisol levels decreasing stress? Help your creativity and relationship flourish and pick your battles. Letting go of the small stuff lowers the drama in your life and gives us precious energy for the things we enjoy.

Tip: Write down your worries and annoyances on a piece of paper and throw it away. 

  1. Notice the joy gems!

Are you so busy and stressed that you are missing life’s simple pleasures—what we call joy gems? We often take these for granted. Pause throughout your day, so you don’t miss the blue sky, a hot cup of coffee, a warm shower, the kindness of a neighbor, or a child’s laugh. Joy gems make a difficult day easier and make us feel better even if for a moment. 

Tip: Find a buddy and share three joy gems you’ve noticed today or write them down and add to your list. 

  1. Reconnect.  

Take time to reconnect with those you love. Connection is the cornerstone of our relationships and is what makes them meaningful. When we pay attention to what’s going on with the people in our lives, then we can reach out and offer support, kindness, a shoulder to cry on or an invitation for some fun. Even a small gesture can make a difference, whether it’s showing up with a cup of coffee, going out for a walk, or spending time listening. According to Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Prize, physician, and author of Out of My Life and Thought, “Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.” This is enough incentive to reconnect and change their life as well as your own.

Tip: Call a friend who has been on your mind and make a plan to zoom or get together.                                                                               

  1. Be grateful.

Start now by saying aloud what you are grateful for whether it’s taking a hike, sharing a meal with family, or a good night’s sleep. It only takes a few minutes and yet has lasting results. Research shows that when you practice gratitude, it releases the happy hormones of dopamine and serotonin, improving your mood and lowering stress. We all know that life will inevitably throw you curve balls, and why healthy ways of improving well-being are important. Do your best to focus on what is good and right, rather than what is wrong or not working. Being grateful immediately makes you feel better. 

Tip: Create a gratitude habit. Start by naming three things you are grateful for.

  1. Identify your innate gifts.

We all have superpowers; they are your innate gifts. These come easily and naturally to you. These are not skills or something you learned over the years. Rather, these are qualities that you’ve had since you were a child. Are you handy with tools, compassionate, a relationship maker, or an analytical thinker? These innate gifts are what makes you: you. Be proud and celebrate them.

Tip: Have a conversation with someone you trust about innate gifts. Share yours and ask them about theirs. 

We’ve learned that by practicing these secret tips, we have cultivated joy on the inside; therefore, it stays with us despite what’s happening on the outside. It has helped us become more content. It doesn’t mean we live life without stress or hardships, it just means the challenges become a bit easier. When we take time to pause and apply these tips, we became more resilient. They helped us get back on track. 

Maintaining joy takes time, awareness, and practice. It’s worth the effort because the more you focus on the joy gems in your life, those “simple pleasures,” the more joy will appear in wonderful and unexpected ways. Choose one or two of these tips and see what happens, maybe you will discover more ways to feel joy filled. 


Michelle Burke is a sought-after certified coach, facilitator, and speaker. She’s the founder and CEO of Energy Catalyst Group, a consulting and training company for well-being. Over her twenty-year career, she gained a deep appreciation and perspective working with people and cultures from all walks of life. Michelle has trained thousands of participants to make positive change—bridging communication gaps getting in the way of a thriving workplace and a joy-filled life. Her mindfulness coaching work helps women to be empowered and promoted into leadership roles. Garnering rave reviews, clients include Stanford University, Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Snap Inc., and HP. She’s been featured in Business Week Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal. Michelle is author of The Valuable Office Professional and coauthor of 15 Minute Pause: A Radical Reboot for Busy People. She partnered with coauthor Lilamani de Silva to create Joy Cards as well as Personalogy™ games and Teambuilder™, a card game to build collaboration. Michelle enjoys time with loved ones, cooking, fun adventures, reading, sports, and walking her dog Jadie.

Lilamani de Silva, MSc, has had an eclectic career across multiple industries including media relations, TV production, and the creation of innovative products for home, work and play with coauthor, Michelle Burke. She also worked for London Zoo, BBC World, and has helped produce documentaries for Discovery, Animal Planet, and ITV. An avid self-taught painter, Lilamani has sold her artwork worldwide. Her paintings illustrate Joy Cards. Her many experiences have opened her mind to different cultures and perspectives, which are reflected in her artwork and other projects. In her spare time, Lilamani enjoys being active, traveling, reading, painting, and spending time with loved ones.

Learn more at: energycatalystgroup.com/joy-cards/.