How 7 habits of happiness can help save lives …

People flocked to the Joker movie to be entertained. Jay Shetty expected more than entertainment when he purchased the ticket and settled in with his bag of popcorn.

Shetty loves to analyze movies. He’s always looking for deeper meaning and thought provoking messages beyond the plot or character quirks. He understands the powerful impact movies can have on viewers.

Why was he so interested in the impact Joker would have on audiences?

Jay Shetty is a student of mental health and an outspoken advocate for its growing awareness.  In Joker, he recognized a story rich with sentiment and meaning that aligns closely with the daily struggles of those who have a mental illness.

So what did Joker get right and wrong about mental health? Jay Shetty has some helpful insights to share, starting with what the movie got wrong.

WRONG:  Mentally Ill People are Extremely Violent

Although the Joker movie seemed to support the idea that there’s a connection between mental illness and extreme violence, Jay Shetty warns that the correlation isn’t proven fact.

“That parallel just isn’t factual,” said Shetty. “It isn’t grounded in research or facts or studies.”

He went on to explain that while mental illness can play a part in someone carrying out violent acts, the illness itself is generally not the direct cause. In fact, research shows that people with mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than others.   

WRONG:  Mentally Ill People Are Dangerous

Another theme Jay Shetty wants to debunk is the idea mentally ill people are dangerous. Having a mental illness does not automatically make someone dangerous. Stigmatizing people by creating this false narrative around them ostracizes them and can keep them from getting true health and care that they need.

“If you think someone is dangerous just because they have a mental illness, you’ve created a distance with them,” said Shetty. “If you think someone who has a mental health issue could become violent, you’ve created distance with them. And actually it’s that distance that pushes them in the wrong direction.”

Although he encourages safety, Jay Shetty categorizes the association between mental illness and danger as harmful to both the person with the illness and the rest of society.

The Joker movie does portray other sides of mental illness very well. Jay Shetty dove into that next in his podcast episode.

RIGHT:  Hiding Behind Protective Behaviors

Many people with mental illness have a go-to behavior they fall back on when they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Jay Shetty explains that this is a common and proven coping mechanism that’s portrayed well in the movie.

Having a protective behavior helps cover what’s going on under the surface. It makes a person seem tougher, funnier, or more confident than they are. Deep down, they are most likely dying inside, but their strong face hides it from the rest of the world.

In the movie, the Joker laughs. At everything.

As the story develops, the audience learns that the Joker cannot control his laughter. It is part of his mental illness, and he is ridiculed and beaten for it. Jay Shetty found that this lent authenticity and vulnerability to the film’s main character.

Hiding behind a default reaction can reach unhealthy levels. Often times being tough is used as a mask to cover up what someone is really going through on the inside, and it won’t work forever.

“What we think is protecting us is actually weakening us,” explains Shetty. “It’s kind of like wearing a false armor, right? You think it’s gonna protect you, but actually a bullet would pass right through it.”

RIGHT:  Fix It or Hide It

These days, quick fixes are all the rage. The newest fad diet, an easy decluttering method, instant money … and if it can’t be “fixed”, it must be hidden.

Jay Shetty believes this is far too common in society today. Junk is shoved out of the way so the Instagram photo looks good. People buy more to mask the pain. There seems to be a pill that will correct everything.

Mental illness is not tidy, and our world struggles with that fact. There is no quick fix or magic pill, something that the Joker movie does a good job of portraying as well. Some of the symptoms can be addressed, but it does lifelong mental illness no favors when swept under the rug.

In a society that champions beauty and perfection, Jay Shetty reminds us how harmful the tendency to hide anything different or uncomfortable can be. People, no matter their mental capacity, have value and need connection. Pushing them away or hiding them is damaging and devastating.

“We should start talking about our mental health in the same way as we talk about our physical health,” said Shetty. “Going to a workshop or therapy should be seen as the same as going to a workout or a personal trainer.”

Connection Saves Lives

So what’s the solution? Life is hard. Everyone faces immense pressure while trying to navigate it. Perhaps, suggests Jay Shetty, the cure is to band together.

In a world full of distractions and noise, true and meaningful connection has largely been lost. The way people are treated plays a part in shaping them. There is weight in words and actions.  Those struggling with mental illness often feel deep pressure to hide the things they struggle with so they won’t be treated differently.

That is not healthy, and hiding doesn’t allow a person to be fully who they are. Valuing people and treating them with kindness and respect brings our society one step closer to erasing the stigma of mental illness.

“The movie really exposed our general lack of empathy and consideration towards others who are different from us or those who are mentally challenged,” stated Shetty.

7 Habits of Happiness

We can all help. Jay Shetty encourages each and every person to practice his 7 Habits of Happiness that promote mental health and wellbeing. These habits are essential for creating healthier people and more positive members of society. 

  1. Sleep.

Most people take sleep for granted, but it is vital. Studies show that 35% of adults don’t get the recommended seven hours a night.  The human body and brain needs sleep to restore, to grow, and to maintain our immune systems.  

A person who prioritizes rest is going to be healthier and happier, and Jay Shetty encourages everyone to start small by going to bed earlier or creating pre-bedtime routines. Restorative rest helps set the tone for mental health.

  1. Self Talk and Self Confidence.

Jay Shetty believes people are far too hard on themselves. He encourages his listeners to be kind, be proactive and intentional with themselves. A society of people who are more self-assured and well-spoken are kinder to others.


  1. Spot, Stop, Swap. Jay Shetty teaches a 3-step strategy to changing negative elements in our lives. Here’s how it works:

Consciously making these switches grows healthy thinking and positive energy. 

Consciously working on being present can help transform situations and improve lifelong mental health. Two exercises Jay Shetty uses to help are grounding and aligning.


5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Focusing on these tangible things helps calm the mind and ground the body.


Expressing gratitude produces a double benefit. It shows appreciation to the person who was kind and boosts the self esteem of the person showing gratitude. Shetty encourages his listeners to practice gratitude daily by sending someone a thank you note or giving them a call.  


On the worst days, nature can bring healing. When life feels heavy, go outside and walk barefoot on the grass. Appreciate the flowers and smell the fresh air.  Happiness thrives when life is lived outside.


Spending time with positive people seems like an obvious suggestion, but true growth requires a step further. Jay Shetty urges his listeners to find someone to connect with weekly and pursue growth together. Growth is healthy. Growth through connection is life changing.  


Mental Health is Vital

Shetty doesn’t always review movies in his podcast, but after viewing the Joker movie, he was encouraged to share his insights on it by his family and friends. The movie forces viewers to take a deep dive into one person’s life and journey, begging them to recognize that what’s seen on the outside can be barely scratching the surface of what they’re dealing with.

It can be tempting to measure happiness based on what can be observed from the outside.  Anyone can look like they have it all together. The challenge is to look deeper, be kinder, and normalize conversations around mental health.

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on the Joker movie now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out his website at

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