3 Seconds to Joy

Do you remember the wonder you had as a child? Do you remember playing in the rain, wondering why the sky was so blue, catching and staring at snowflakes intently, or making imaginary animals out of clouds upon the firmament?

I certainly do. When I used to live in Miami, I used to take the bus back from school. Sometimes, it would rain heavily, which was more than welcome in such a hot, humid climate. When we got to my stop, I would run off the bus, dance in the rain and come home completely drenched. I didn’t care at all because I absolutely loved it.

Now, imagine if I did that at 29 years old, walking around a city in the summer, getting soaked in the rain on purpose. You would, perhaps, think I was a fool. I actually did that recently, by the way. It was awesome. You should try it.

According to Chade-Meng Tan, it is precisely that sense of wonder and gratitude, for little, seemingly trivial things, that can lead to more joy. Google’s former “happiness guru” offers three exercises to help reshape your mindset into a more positive one:

Exercise #1: Look for thin slices of joy

Notice the joyful moments in your day, however small, however fleeting. Notice how good it feels to have that first sip of your drink. Or how tasty that first bite of food is. The pleasurable feeling of your skin in warm water when you wash your hands or take a shower. The moment of delight and comfort when you see your friend.

These thin slices of joy only last a few seconds but they add up! The more you notice joy, the more you will experience joy in your life.

Exercise #2: 10 seconds of loving kindness

Identify two people. They could be in the room with you, at your workplace, or strangers you see walking on the street. Think to yourself: “I wish for this person to be happy and I wish for that person to be happy.” That’s all.

Everyone emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than before, because being on the giving end of a kind thought is rewarding.

Exercise #3: One mindful breath

Bring total and gentle attention to one inhalation and one exhalation. If you have a little time, practice noticing your breath for one minute.

This sounds great in theory, right? But, does it actually work?

Well, after a heavy, emotional conversation I had the night before with someone close to me, I didn’t sleep so well last night. I woke up feeling down in the dumps. I did my 15 minutes of guided meditation, I journaled for a bit, but I felt I couldn’t “om” my way out of this one, so I didn’t try it. I felt marginally better, but not enough to go about my day not feeling preoccupied. Then, I stumbled on an article about the “Jolly Good Fellow” mentioned above (that was actually his nickname at Google, and I wish people would call me that).

I read the article and the concept sounded promising, so I decided to test it. I went out for breakfast with my mother to a dosa restaurant (a South-Indian crepe), and we hopped in a rickshaw towards Gita Bhavan (if you’re ever in Chembur, Mumbai, it comes highly recommended). “Thin slices of joy”, I kept repeating to myself, as the rickshaw sputtered towards our destination.

This exercise is built up of three parts, which, apparently, are required to build a habit. I would have known this, considering I bought the book that outlines this theory, but I have a bad habit of buying more books than I care to read. Ironic, huh? Anyway, Chade’s “thin slice of joy” is built up of a trigger, “the pleasant moment”, a routine, “the noticing of it” and a reward, “the feeling of joy itself”.

So I started eating as many thin slices as I could. I noticed, and took pleasure in, a light breeze that was blowing my hair onto my forehead, which felt really nice! I noticed my mother’s funny expression while I was looking at myself in the rickshaw’s side mirror. I noticed, and reveled in, the bright sunshine. I even observed my excitement at going to this dosa place, and I basked in that for a moment, too.

What sounds potentially silly and trivial, in fact, isn’t. The negative feelings I had hopped in the rickshaw with, started to ebb away with the breeze. I wish I could write that I have always appreciated the small things in life, but that’s not true. And that’s okay – we are all works in progress! This experience, however, gives me motivation to make a habit out of adding “thin slices of joy” to my diet daily.

It takes just a little bit of noticing, it seems.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try the other two exercises. I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the mean time, try these for yourself and let me know in the comments if they work for you! As always, thanks for reading. If you like it, share it!

With deep gratitude,


Quartz Article on Thin Slices of Joy
CBC Radio Article on Chade-Meng Tan 
NYTimes on the Power of Habit

Morning Practices

Do you have any morning practices?

I certainly don’t have any consistent ones, yet, but I do have a few ways in which I am trying to make my mornings more peaceful. Looking back, the most amazing days that I have had, have began with great mornings.

This morning, for example, I woke up at 6:30 AM, which is incredibly rare for me! Just ask anyone who knows me. And, just to clarify, I don’t believe you don’t need to wake up at 6:30 am to have a lovely morning.

The first thing I did was look at my phone – damn it! I immediately recognized this is not how I wanted to start my morning, so I put on a Pema Chodron audio tape and closed my eyes again. Mind you, I am not using a cassette player, which would be rather hipster in this day and age, but I use my iPhone and Audible to listen to audiobooks (which I find highly convenient).

Who the heck is Pema Chodron, you ask? She is a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher with a soft, nurturing voice, who has a way of both awakening me and softening me in a way that I can’t quite explain. You’ll just have to try it for yourself, I guess!

This immediately put me in a peaceful, introspective state. Buddhism, it seems, is ultimately about experiencing bodhichitta. According to Pema Chodron, Bodhichitta is the experience of an open and loving heart and mind. The Buddha, it is said, experienced enlightenment while sitting under a Bodhi tree. After fifteen minutes of listening to Pema’s tapes, I felt more loving, and, dare I say, more enlightened. No Bodhi tree necessary!

I then grabbed my journal and a pen, got up out of my bed and opened my balcony door. I sat down on a cushion outside, anticipating more peacefulness. But as soon as I opened the door, I got a waft of the Mumbai pollution, and a cacophony of rickshaws sputtering about and honking at each other. Not exactly a Bodhi tree, right? But, hey, I am grateful that I have a balcony to walk out on to at all, and I love the city of my birth, no matter how smelly it can be!

In any case, on the balcony, I journaled for about three minutes. I wrote about how I was feeling, and I noted my first thoughts upon waking. I noticed that among my first thoughts were loving thoughts towards someone on the other side of the world. I also penned my feeling of peacefulness.

I then closed my journal and closed my eyes. I took three deep breaths, and then pronounced “aum” or “om” three times, uttering those vibrations deep in my chest through my diaphragm. Why did I do this? I’m not too sure – I’m in India and so it felt like the right thing to do! In any case, it certainly helped perpetuate my stillness.

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In case you’re wondering, the net in the image above is there to stop pigeons from coming in. I try to love all beings through bodhichitta, but pigeons in my flat can be especially hard to love.

So, do you have any morning practices? I certainly want a more intentional morning routine so I can begin my day with feelings of peace and loving kindness towards myself and the rest of the universe – or at least one other human being!

So here’s my formula for a more still morning:

  1. 15 minutes of eyes closed, intentional introspection, and dare I call it meditation?
  2. 3-5 minutes of freeform journaling
  3. 3 deep breaths and 3 long om’s

I wish you many beautiful mornings and beautiful days. If you have any morning practices you would like to share, please do so in the comments. If you like what you’re reading, please share it with others! My deepest gratitude to you.




Pema Chodron Wiki

Pema Chodron Audio Tapes

How to Reduce Stress in 30-60 Seconds

So, you’re in the thick of things. You have a deadline coming up and you still have a crazy amount of work to get done. Or, you’re in a meeting with a key account who could make or break your business, and they’re a pain to deal with. Worse yet, you have little money in the bank, and you have tons of bills to pay. No matter what, know that you’ll get through it. Try these techniques to help you in the moment.


A few minutes of writing can do wonders for the wandering mind and the restless spirit. Here is one way to approach unloading your mind. Eventually, it might not even be the written results of your journaling that help you, but the process of journaling itself may become a respite from your stress, like it has become for me.

1. Write down what it is that’s stressing you out. If you don’t know what is stressing you out, write about that and how it irritates you. It doesn’t matter, just write!
2. If you know what is stressing you out, is there anything you can do to solve it?
3. If so, write down those steps. Take the easiest ones and start doing them right away. For the more difficult steps, make them as actionable and as easy as possible and start working towards them. Sometimes, inaction stresses us out. But don’t be overly harsh on yourself, high stress can be paralyzing.
4. If there’s nothing you can do to affect what’s stressing you out, let it go. It’s silly to stress out over what you can’t control, and there are many things in life that we can’t control (even if we think we can). I know, this can be easier said than done. But, at the end of the day, you can control your own thoughts; you can’t control other people’s actions.
5. If this still doesn’t help you, just continue to write. Empty your mind onto paper. It might help you make sense of things if you can visualize them.


When the stakes are high and you can’t step out to journal or collect your thoughts, try these easy breathing exercises. In less than a minute, you’ll feel better and you should be able to navigate those difficult moments with more ease than before.

4-7-8 Breath: For a quick reduction in stress levels, try this easy breathing exercise. It was introduced to me by a friend during a tough time. For a an instructional video, look below. First, inhale deeply for four seconds. Then, hold your breath for seven seconds. Finally, exhale for eight seconds. Do this four times and you should feel better.

Side note: Whether you hold for 10 and exhale for 12, or hold for 5 and exhale for 6, it doesn’t matter – just make sure that the exhale is longer than the hold.

Ujjayi Breathing: Ujjayi is a breathing technique commonly used in yoga. After a few years of practicing Ujjayi breath, I now use Ujjayi breathing automatically in moments of high stress. It’s supposed to sound like the ocean and it comes from the back of your throat. For a video tutorial, look below. You can use Ujjayi breathing for sixty seconds for quick relaxation. The longer you do it, the more still your mind will be.

I sincerely hope these techniques help – journaling and intentional breathing continues to help me in difficult moments. If journaling or breathing have helped you in the past and you have some other effective techniques, please share in the comments. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to my blog and share with your friends – I have so much more to share with you!

Dhruv (rhymes with groove)

4-7-8 Breath Video
Ujjayi Breath Video