My acupuncturist might be the most joy-filled person I’ve ever encountered. Her joy radiates and envelops, filling the room with a contagion of positivity. 

Even the fact that she’s wielding sharp objects destined to cause me pain doesn’t seem to reduce her joy-scattering capabilities. My mood still improves whenever I’m in her presence. It’s a spooky, magical power she holds, and I’m helpless to fight it. 

 As a side note, torturing me with needles seems to perversely magnify her joy, which replenishes her reserve, which then radiates back to me in a self-perpetuating cycle. So it turns out I’m actually both reluctant donor and grateful beneficiary. 

I’ve suspected she was just born that way, and I once expressed envy for her genetic joyfulness. But it turns out it’s something she intentionally and diligently practices, every day.

That a state of innate happiness is a skill that can be acquired, not just a capricious gift of nature  for  a fortunate few, is something I’ve come to grudgingly embrace. And now it’s also been proven effective for the caregivers of family members with dementia, according to a recent Northwestern University/University of California study.

Participants who learned how to focus on positive emotions reported reduced anxiety and depression, along with improved health and positive attitudes, after only six weeks. 

The intervention focused on developing skills in seven areas: noticing positive events, gratitude, mindfulness, positive reappraisal, personal strengths, attainable goals and acts of kindness.

It’s just the latest in a growing body of evidence that these intentional practices can make a huge difference in dealing with emotional and physical stress, so maybe it’s time for formal happiness training programs in senior care facilities. 

From nursing aides to administrators to melancholy Canadians like me, we can all learn to be joyful. Without the needles.