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​Joy Cards
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Got Joy? An Interview with Michelle Burke and Lilamani de Silva MSc, Co-authors of award-winning self-care book​15 Minute Pause book and ​Joy Cards

Why are you on a mission to spread joy?

We believe that everybody deserves to live a joy-filled life no matter their status or wealth and especially during stressful times. Like so many others, we’ve faced unexpected family losses, overcome serious illnesses, dealt with failed relationships, suffered numerous rejections and financial hardships and, yes, have been stuck in a rut at times. Despite these challenges, we found ways to move forward and discovered that being open to joy allows joy to show up in unexpected ways. Joy made the good days better and the bad days more bearable. Each of us, in our own way, found that taking time to reflect, learn and grow from these struggles was essential to living joyfully. It hasn’t always been an easy road, yet doing what we value, and love is fulfilling and rewarding. This divinely guided path continues to be a work in progress, and hopefully, we are becoming better humans as a result. Our experiences and lessons have given rise to our passions and driven our purpose. Ultimately this journey has taught us a lot about ourselves, our limitations, sacrifices and joys that come with living a purposeful life.

Stress and burnout are at an all-time high; how can Joy Cards help to reduce it?

Joy Cards remind us of what is good and fun about life. Each card provides activities that lower the “stress hormone” cortisol in our brains or increase the “happy hormones” that produce endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, all of which help us feel better. Every card was designed with these health benefits in mind and are in our guidebook. The cards are divided into four categories: body, mind, heart and soul. These cards help to remind us of life’s little pleasures that we often forget or miss because we are distracted by our never-ending to-do lists. Ultimately, these Joy Cards help us to practice and focus on finding joy. Further the activities build up our joy tank – The more we practice finding joy, the more joy we experience in wonderful and unexpected ways. So bring on the joyful activities!

You talk about “joy-gems”, what are they and why are they valuable to each of us?

Joy gems are life’s simple pleasures or tiny moments of joy that we often miss because we are too busy, tired or it’s taken for granted. When you notice and appreciate these daily pleasures, then these moments add up to create a joy-filled life. What’s more, joy does not discriminate; it’s available to everyone and doesn’t have to cost anything like a smile, a gorgeous blue sky, a warm hug, a belly laugh, or an act of kindness. Joy gems are everywhere if we look for them. Think of these joy gems as a string of joyful experiences that lift us up and support us during difficult times.

Is there a difference between happiness and joy? If so, what is it? 

Yes, we believe happiness is external and fleeting, whereas joy is internal and long-lasting. Think about happiness for a moment, it often comes after buying a new item, getting a raise or reaching a certain number of FB friends. Society promotes being happy by attaining more things, keeping up with the neighbors’, making more money or having more “Likes”. The misconception is that the more you have the happier you will be. This is the Happiness Trap – always relying on something outside of us even though these “things” give us immediate pleasure, that emotion soon fades leaving us looking for another “happiness hit.” On the other hand, Joy is internal, and not susceptible to the whims and changes of outside influences. It’s a feeling of genuine contentment, it fills us up and is aligned with our core values and being true to our authentic selves. Joy is a deeper dive when cultivated and practiced and is able to carry us through stressful and difficult times.

What brings you joy?

We consider Joy our roadmap for living our best life. There is much that brings us joy so where do we start? Our favorite is spending quality time with family and friends. After that, it’s like a box of chocolates… from swimming, going to the beach, communing with nature, sleeping in, hiking, fresh sheets, adventurous travel, reading, writing, watching wildlife, dancing, hot French bread with butter, meaningful conversations, to watching a movie and laughing out loud. The list goes on. Overall, it’s the appreciation of the extraordinary in the ordinary.

We each have our personal preferences as well. Michelle loves to bake, sing, get out and walk her dog, Jadie, each day and she continues to practice mindfulness to stay grounded. Several years ago, Michelle took UCLA’s MARC’s year-long intensive program that gave her tools and helped her develop a mindfulness practice. Lilamani prefers to be active to re-center and calm her mind. She loves nature, swimming, cycling, painting, talking to friends and popping into galleries. We believe that joy is a choice. It’s ‘me time’ in the form of a regular 15-minute daily pause. Pausing started over ten years ago while researching and writing our book 15 Minute Pause, A Radical Reboot for Busy People. It’s been so beneficial that today we don’t view it as just a pause, rather a lifestyle choice and a life saver that has helped us better handle the many stressors and curveballs life inevitably throws at us.

What are your 5 “go-to” tips to live a more joy-filled life, particularly during challenging times?

  1. Make a Joy List. Write down what brings you joy. Choose one and do it. Think about it, how many fantastic summers do you have left…is it 50, 40, 30, 20 or 10? Don’t waste it, live it!
  2. Schedule in self-care – take 15 minutes every day for “me time” – schedule in a lunch break, call a friend, get outdoors, do something different, pop into an art gallery or take a class.
  3. Ask Three Priority Questions – 1. “Will this really matter to me in a week, month or year from now?” 2. “How can I be kinder to myself?” 3. ‘Am I willing to accept this and let it go?”
  4. Be your own cheerleader. Celebrate You. Don’t wait for others to pump you up. Name 3 things you love about yourself.
  5. Be grateful for joy gems, the simple pleasures in life – jot down the joy gems you notice each day and put them in a jar. Go back at the end of the year and review them – it’s a great reminder of all the joy you’ve experienced and a fun way to relive some of your best memories.

You live on two different continents, how did you meet and become creative partners?

Michelle was born and raised in California and Lilamani, born in Sri Lanka, and now divides her time living in New Zealand and London. A series of coincidences converged to create what we call a serendipitous meeting in Seattle, Washington. Michelle was delivering a keynote and training program for Microsoft’s World-wide Conference and Lilamani was filming a documentary for the Discovery Channel. Upon their initial meeting, they discovered they shared a lot in common. We had fathers who were successful in their own careers and served as our inspiration to pursue doing what we loved. Following our hearts allowed us to explore, make mistakes, fail, retry and discover our talents and strengths along the way. Our individual journeys took us in different directions until we crossed paths in Washington State.

We have a shared purpose to help people live their best life and build meaningful connections, because people are at the heart of everything we do. We shared this philosophy right from the start and it is what drives us to this day. In addition, our combined talents – Michelle’s twenty-plus years of leadership coaching, team training and empowering women from all walks of life and Lilamani’s scientific background and artistic ability have given us a unique perspective and expertise. Ultimately, it is our ruckus, laughter, and desire to make a positive difference that cements our enduring friendship which is at the core of our creative partnership.

How have you worked together despite living in different countries?

Our creative partnership and friendship of over twenty years has continued to this day from our respective lounges and our respective continents. We were digital nomads before the term was ever coined. We have spent countless hours, bordering on the 1000’s on the telephone before Skype, Google and WhatsApp changed our lives and spending forever. Given it’s been just the two of us, with limited budgets we’ve had to pitch in, sink or swim. Our roles have included everything from creating, researching, budgeting, marketing, and selling products door to door from the trunk of Michelle’s car. We’ve made costly mistakes and had each other’s backs when setbacks occurred. We’ve motivated each other to keep going at our lowest moments, learned to take naysayers with a pinch of salt and to trust our own instincts along the way. Our highlights have always been our face-to-face meet-ups as we’ve darted across the globe on planes, trains and buses to test and trial our creative endeavors. It hasn’t always been easy, far from it, yet the experiences over the years, good and bad, are the glue that defines our genuine friendship.

What inspired the creation of Joy Cards?

Our recent passion project, the Joy Cards, was born from a very difficult time in our lives and in the world. Who would have thought we would all be faced with a pandemic? When we first went into lockdown, like for most people, it was chaotic, uncertain and very stressful. Michelle was recovering from a bad case of Covid while Lilamani was a caregiver to her ill father. We wanted to do something initially to help ease our anxiety since stress was at an all-time high. This was our inspiration to create Joy Cards as a solution to reduce stress and a reminder to have more fun. As we designed each activity card, we learned through years of experience how important it was for us to test each of our various stress-busting ideas to see if they were effective. In this case, we wanted to know if it made us feel joyful and less stressed. We found many helped us to get through the tough days with more ease. Of course, some ideas didn’t work and were culled. In addition, many of the joy activities were tried and tested in Michelle’s training programs as well and proved to be hugely successful like the Love Letter. When it worked the positive results were noticeable from shifting our mood, to laughing more and feeling better in general. We dug deeper to understand the research behind each activity’s health benefits and created a guidebook to highlight them. At this critical time when stress was high and energy low, we realized just how important it was to keep our energy tank full. Our intent was to focus on something positive and find a way to help others too.

What else are you working on to spread Joy and where can everyone find you, connect, and learn more?

Currently, we are working on Less Stress = More Joy Workshops based on our Joy Cards. They are designed for women who want to create a daily practice to have more joy and a self-care toolbox to lower stress. It is all about feeling rejuvenated and learning how to rediscover and maintain joy no matter what stressors we might be facing.

Other projects include our online self-care personal developmental programs. ReEnergize Your Life is a motivational and easy on-line course to create more balance in 7 life areas: relationships, soul, body, mind, creativity, career and philanthropy. JumpStart Self-care helps lower stress and helps to avoid burnout. These courses originated from our book 15 Minute Pause, A Radical Reboot for Busy People.

For more information about Michelle and Lilamani, visit: or connect with them on FB


Michelle Burke is a sought-after leadership and burnout coach, facilitator, 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 helps women to be empowered, take time out and to lower stress. Garnering rave reviews, clients include Stanford University, Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Snap Inc.. She’s been featured in Business Week Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal. Michelle is coauthor of 15 Minute Pause: A Radical Reboot for Busy People. She partnered with coauthor Lilamani de Silva to create Joy Cards, and ReENERGIZE Your Life, an online self-care program. 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.


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