The top 3 things I learned in our first 3 years at Joy-Based Living


Debbie Happy Cohen Women’s March 2018 collage includes Hiro and Auntie   

The top 3 things I learned in our first 3 years at Joy-Based Living (Kickstarted 2016)

  1. HEAL TRAUMA. If joy is our natural state of being, unresolved emotional trauma is its #1 obstacle. Even if someone hasn’t been directly traumatized, I am 100% positive they know someone who has – 99% of the time, in their immediate circle. Like a power-leak, this can be extremely draining. Life is short. The costs of trauma are high.
  2. NEGOTIATE FOR JOY. Joy-Based Living requires constant negotiation in our culture which does not put JOY first. Learning the skills to successfully negotiate with others is super important. Learning the skills to negotiate with yourself is even more important. BOTH are essential for a great life. When JOY is the heartbeat of any negotiation, everyone can win.
  3. HONOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS. We honor ourselves when we treat ourselves with Compassion and Flexibility and Kindness. Compassion. Flexibility. Kindness. Compassion. Flexibility. Kindness. When we speak to ourselves. When we reach out to those we love. When we upgrade our intentions or goals. When we need to set boundaries to protect ourselves, we can use this as the basis for our intention.

Some rambling thoughts . . .

A few weeks ago, someone asked me if I was comfortable with continuing to discuss trauma and the effects of trauma. He wanted to send me a youtube video about it and wasn’t sure if he should. Trust me, after surviving many turbulent waves of anxiety as layers of fear rose up from the depths of my stored, embodied memories – he was SO RIGHT to ask.

I told him: ABSOLUTELY YES! I have to keep the conversation on the table. Kind of like salt. You don’t want to put salt in everything (certainly not my hot cuppa jo!) but my kitchen would be seriously devoid without my pink himalayan sprinkles!

Living in a culture where there are school shootings and where I can write that phrase now without having a trauma attack – THAT’S A FUCKING PROBLEM.

Just to survive this culture, we have had to become so desensitized.

What that means is that WE LOSE TOUCH WITH OUR OWN FEELINGS, OUR OWN THOUGHTS, OUR OWN DESIRES. And that’s exactly how we give our power away.

How do we keep our power?

Plugging in to our own power is key to our joy.

There is no joy without freedom and we aren’t free when we’re shut off from ourselves. We’re actually dependent on others to THINK FOR US, FEEL FOR US AND DECIDE FOR US when we’re shut off from ourselves.

We risk losing ourselves when we don’t face AND RESOLVE our trauma. That’s why I wrote SANCTUARY. I don’t want anyone else emotionally shutting down and self-abandoning. Not if I can help it.

Okay, so there’s taboo subject #1. Trauma. If you’re still here, congratulations!

That makes me think of my other favorite taboo subject. Spirituality.

I breathe a sigh of exasperation.


DO YOU SEE YOU? DO YOU SEE OTHERS? that’s spirituality.

If you’re missing the boat on the topic of spirituality, maybe you need some support. The key is to explore and to have conversations. I find it helps greatly to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. That’s why I became an official minister last year, on St Patty’s day. And yes, I was sober. And that’s why a dear friend nicknamed me REVEREND SASSY SHORTS!

If you want to read SASSY SHORTS blog posts, just type that phrase in the search bar (currently at the footer of this website).


It’s the binary divisiveness of most people’s questions that’s kicking our asses – in the media AND in our intimate relationships AND in our relationships with ourselves.

  • Does trauma exist?
  • Do I have PTSD?
  • Does God exist?
  • Is science better than God?
  • Did I achieve my goals?
  • Am I worthy?

These yes/no style of questions SUCK. LITERALLY. THEY ZAP OUR ENERGY. They keep us ignorant and in the dark. AND THEN WE GO WATCH ANOTHER NETFLIX.

School taught us we need to answer questions correctly and be right. Most workplaces follow the order of the day.

It’s a trap for hell.

But we can’t get out of it alone.

Freedom is created by NUMBERS of people, not just individuals staring at their navels.

Many of you liked my BRICK IN THE WALL post.

I’m speaking to the choir. I know you get it.

AS A COLLECTIVE, we need to UNIFY as we trade in the old crap for something else – something that brings our HUMANNESS back to HUMANITY.


Since I can’t control the school system or change it (I’ve tried and failed) –

I can inspire people to do things differently at work and in their personal lives.

We know what we don’t want.

NOW, WE THE PEOPLE – as a culture – need to get unified in what we DO want.

Here’s my truth:


REALITY is amazing and worth celebrating.

We live in a rainbow-colored world, not black and white. If you don’t see that, I implore you to take off your dark shades. Cynicism can be fun but it doesn’t make for a great bedfellow. Once you see the rainbow that’s already here, you’ll never want to wear those shades again.

So, here are replacement questions, a few self-reflections for you who would like prompts to see what open-minded questions and thoughts are like:

  • I wonder how I can plug in to a greater sense of wonder and awe. Hmmm…
  • Could it be that plugging in to a greater energy field is like electricity for humans. Hmmm… maybe I need to plug in just like my phone does… Hmmm… I wonder
  • I wonder what the greater energy field is made of. Hmmm… maybe it’s made of love… ??? Hmmmm….
  • Is it possible that my wife – or friend – or employee – is dealing with CPTSD? Hmmm…
  • I wonder if my friend could use a listening ear or a helping hand. Hmmm…
  • Intuition is so interesting. I wonder how I can explore it and maybe even give it a workout. Hmmmm…

Here’s the power of those questions . . .

  1. When you allow your brain to “wonder” about something, it will search for you. Better than Google. Answers will come from all sorts of places. Once you’ve planted a question or 2 into your mind, then go and do stuff. Once you’ve planted the seed (the wondering, the inquiry), now let it go… Activities have a way of loosening up the mind. Take a walk, write the first pages of your novel, go out for a cup of coffee, clean your house, make a meal, call a friend… 
  2. When you ask open-ended questions, you open your mind to be more like an absorbent sponge rather than like a teflon pan where nothing sticks. You become genius, like a child. Children can learn multiple languages all at once because their minds are open. Having an open mind is a choice.

One of the things I like to do in order to strengthen my faith in my intuition and strengthen my belief in my mind’s ability:

Here’s my practice. You’re welcome to use it too.

  • I REMEMBER that I had a question! I WRITE the question or self inquiry in my journal.
  • I go about my day or my week.
  • Later, I look back and see what I had wondered about.

At the end of 2019, I set an intention to experience more WONDER AND MAGIC in 2020. I asked my community if they would like to set that as an intention with me. They said YES! This turned ON the “reticular activating system” in my brain. Within a few weeks, I found a few practices that we could do together to grow and expand the sense of magic and wonder in our lives. And we are!

I feel like I just did an impromptu speech. Jeez!

I hope this style of rambling works for you. I don’t usually write this way and I wonder what you think about it.

Much love,

Happy D! aka Reverend SASSY SHORTS!
Debbie Happy Cohen, founder of Joy-Based Living
I want you to LOVE negotiating for JOY! | Author | Coach at Joy-Based Living

One thought on “The top 3 things I learned in our first 3 years at Joy-Based Living

  1. I enjoyed this post. Nice mix of coaching, info, review, inspiration. An enjoyable spring ramble on a post rain, looking forward to sunnier day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 GB. You can upload: image, audio, video, interactive, text. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here