A Joy-Based Living interview with founder, Debbie Happy Cohen

  1. Tell me about your organization.
    Joy-Based Living is a community-centric LLC which offers practical ideas for well-being. Our aim is to be a conscious culture which actively allows joy to be fully accessed and experienced by each individual.
  2. How long has the organization been around?
    Debbie Happy Cohen and her friends Kickstarted Joy-Based Living in the summer of 2016.
  3. Tell me about the leadership structure.
    We model our leadership structure after Alcoholics Anonymous, the 90 year old 12-step program which is led by peers. Being joyful should be supported by our friends, families, schools and communities. Our joy should not be in the hands of therapists, religious leaders, medical institutions or bosses. It should not be dictated my money or status. JOY should be encouraged in everyone. The way I see it, if alcoholics can lead one another successfully for almost a century, anyone can do it! It just requires the right structures.
  4. Tell me about the staff. What do the varying staff members do within the organization?
    JBL members volunteer to assist in whatever is needed. Leading group meetings, sponsoring other members, creating displays for our art exhibits, etc. Members pay a nominal fee for ebooks or courses. After that, they financially support the organization in order for it to sustain itself. This also helps us reach more people. A small number of members are paid for specific tasks or roles.
  5. What populations do you serve?
    People who are personal-growth oriented and who desire to remove the inner obstacles to joy in their lives.
  6. What needs are the organization trying to meet in the community?
    When individuals increase their happiness and authentic connections, they decrease loneliness, physical illness and societal attacks (such as school shootings, etcetera, etcetera). Joyful people are kind people.
  7. What services do you provide? Are these services provided as part of a service delivery model? If so, tell me about the model.
    1. We have groups which meet at various levels of emotional depth. At our public events, people are invited to go deeper, to get in touch with their authentic feelings, needs and wants. In our more more intimate gatherings (often online, at zoom), members are encouraged to practice embodiment meditations and to share their authentic feelings, needs and desires with others. This is the heartbeat of intimacy. It’s where truth lives and breathes. In these wholehearted relationships, shame and loneliness are annihilated.
    1. All of our members study and integrate the 12 Practices from our 12 PRACTICES E-BOOK. Tools for Embodiment and emotional literacy are at the center of this wholehearted homework.
    2. The JBL PLANNER gives individuals a daily opportunity to get in touch with themselves and name what they feel and what they need in order to thrive. This brings our 12 Practices to life in a very real and practical way.

8. What would you say are the strengths of this organization?

  • We are pioneering a better, healthier and happier way of living and being than what most of the culture is propagating. We don’t live in a bubble. We have left the bubble. We are connecting with our hearts and being loyal to our souls.
  • Our 12 Practices allow us to be inclusive as we relate to one another authentically.
  • By being honest about what we are feeling and sending, we help each other normalize authenticity.
  • According to our teachers, which include Dr Brene Brown and Dr Mario Martinez, shame is extremely toxic, and most people are suffering with it.
  • If shame grows in secrecy, silence and judgment… then JBL is the antidote.
  • At JBL, we practice Honor and Empathy toward ourselves first, and others second. We allow those who’ve blazed their trail (these members are our JBL Sherpas) to offer the newer members Honor and Empathy so that they can get a felt experience of receiving these feelings from another human being. This shared experience is how we develop feelings of Secure Attachment which are the basis of any healthy family, community and society.

9. What would you say are the growing areas of this organization?

  • Learning to deliver this language to those who are seeking it, in a way that they can more easily understand it.
  • Continuing to develop the minds and hearts of our members and Sherpas so that they recognize their value and their incredible contribution, just by being who they are.
  • Authenticity and inclusivity seem juxtaposed but in our best relationships, they co-exist like flowers and shit. Beautifully!!!

10. Tell me about the strategic plan of this organization, if there is one.

  • Listen to members.
  • Pay attention to their needs, feelings and desires.
  • Find ways to serve them in ways which are as inclusive as possible do that the greatest number of members can benefit.
  • I’m doing this right now as this interview was a request from one of our members who is in school. These questions were given to her by her instructor, so I’m helping her pass her class. The other organizations she contacted weren’t answering her calls. All in divine order. I’m having a blast!

11. What is the vision? Mission?

  • Make JOY more accessible to the people who are calling out for it, deep in their hearts. JOY is who we are. Keep it strong.
  • Do this without requiring medication, religion, a lot of money or some kind of addiction in order to have an ongoing place to belong.
  • Authenticity and Inclusivity for everyone who wants it and is willing to work for it.
  • Invite more of these people into our oasis … it’s like a Turkish bath in the desert. Support them in becoming their own life-giving oasis because that’s what people naturally do when their cups are overflowing with plenty.

12. What are the goals and objectives?

  • Trauma awareness for every member. Even if they don’t identify as having been traumatized, they know others who have. Learning the lingo helps people help others. The first chapter of our SANCTUARY ebook offers the essential language. Trauma is healed through self connection. Self connection is practiced through embodiment and emotional literacy.
  • Spiritual connection for each member, expressed in his or her own way. This simply means connection with a larger experience of life. God, Source, Nature, Universe. All perspectives are welcome as long as they’re based in love and goodness. Life-giving stories about the mystery of who we are and why we are here.
  • Peak performance as it is authentically defined by each member. What is your unique contribution which brings you the most joy? Once this is articulated, support that person wholeheartedly.
  • TEA TIME &SPA. When members experience self-value, they begin protecting their TEA: Time, Energy and Attention. And they begin growing their SPA: Sovereignty, Power and Agency.

13. If you were to conduct a program evaluation at this organization, what would that look like to you? What would you want to know?

I’d want to know:

How do our current members feel? What do they need to be their best? What do they need in order to support other members in bringing out their best?

As the founder of JBL, I’m also a peer, so I’m included in these questions. The support is mutual because reciprocity is active among our members.

“Be conscious not compulsive “ is one of our mantras. For JBL members, this often means “don’t over-give compulsively.” GIVE CONSCIOUSLY of your time, energy and attention. Being conscious includes valuing yourself.

“Imperfect and awesome” is another favorite mantra, especially because relationships are messy. Good people often hold back their true voice out of fear that they’ll hurt someone. Under this regime, everyone loses. Honest Self expression takes courage but it’s so worth it when you’re among friends who value one another.

14. Who else might have an interest in a program evaluation here?

I have no idea and don’t really care.

15. In the spirit of evaluating a program, what benchmarks would you consider as defining a successful outcome for the services provided at this organization?

Do members feel a greater sense of wholeheartedness, well-being, authenticity and belonging? Do members feel more joyful in their own lives? If the answers are YES, then their contributions to others (within our community and in all of their relationships) will be felt strongly by others. Their presence will be felt, directly and indirectly.

16. As I think about a program evaluation for this organization, are there any ethical considerations that come to mind? Are there any cultural factors you think are important?

No one should ever be forced or pressured to join.
JBL is not for everyone. It can require a great amount of courage to look within and be honest with oneself. Allowing JOY to grow requires self-value that a person must choose for himself or herself.

The bottom line is: Do you care about how you feel? Do you want to be happy?

I think it’s unethical to not have programs like this readily available for everyone, just like the global Anonymous. Except in this case it would be:

At Joy-Based Living, You Are No Longer Anonymous.



Debbie Happy Cohen, author and coach, is the founder of Joy-Based Living. Her Master’s Degree is in counseling, specializing in family systems, healing emotional trauma, and practical spirituality. Also affectionately known as Happy D! and Reverend SASSY SHORTS!, she lives on Lookout Mountain in Alabama, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her books include Reach Your Stars!, SANCTUARY, It’s All About Kids: Every Child Deserves a Teacher of the Year, and I Don’t Think So! Her social media playgrounds as well as the SANCTUARY ebook can be found right here.

5 thoughts on “A Joy-Based Living interview with founder, Debbie Happy Cohen

  1. Holy-Moly, Rev’! That was one of the most inspiring, hopeful, put-a-charge-under-your-butt interviews I’ve EVER read!!! Good on ya’ & the entire JBL Tribe! Rock. On. Debbie. (And P.S.: I laughed my ass off at your SO-apropos response: “I have no idea and don’t really care. “) 🙂

  2. What an amazing interview! You are such an inspiration. There are so many beautiful lessons to be learned from this. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom, for the amazing work that you do, and for wanting to use this gift that you have to help others. Your passion in this field and your ability to connect with people on a deep soul level is a blessing for all those that get to work with you. Thank you Debbie for dedicating your life to helping others. It’s beautiful work that you do. You have an enormous beautiful heart and a love for life. Your beauty shines through all your work. Thank you. I love your “be conscious not compulsive” mantra.

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