In today’s world, it can often seem like you can only live life on these two extremes – it’s either fast-paced and frantic, or absolutely monotonous.
If you ask me, both ways are no way to live. Both ways can be soul-deadening.
Because they are both lacking in one essential ingredient for a well-lived and meaningful life: JOY.
Finding joy in the everyday is actually easy to achieve. But it does require a little intentionality.
If you’re looking to squeeze more joy out of each day, here are 12 simple things you can do:
1) Stop, look, and listen
At the risk of sounding like a road safety sign, I’d like to start with this reminder to be mindful.
You see, there’s actually a lot to be joyful about around us. But only if we take the time to notice them.
The power of mindfulness in making us happier has always been well-documented. It’s nothing new, really. In fact, a lot of ancient spiritual practices revolve around it.
Yet because we tend to place more importance on the things we need to do, we often move on autopilot. We think, “There’s too much to do! Who has time to stop and smell the flowers?”
Well, I do. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
It’s a lesson I learned early in life as I was walking to work one day. My mind was rather cluttered that morning, but my gaze happened to fall on this one pink flower that rose from a crack in the pavement.
It might sound cheesy, but I just had to stop and look at it. It gave me so much joy to find a lone colorful flower in the middle of gray concrete.
As tiny as it was, it lifted my spirits so much and I began training myself to be more observant of the world around me.
And you know what? The world never fails to give me little gifts that spark joy. But like I said, you need to be intentional about it!
2) Savor the small things
Speaking of little gifts, it’s actually funny how we put so much stock in acquiring expensive luxury items or big-ticket purchases when it’s the small things that can bring us real, lasting joy.
Sure, it’s nice to have a designer bag or a fancy car, but let’s face it – unless you’re a mega-trillionaire, you won’t be buying one of those every day, right? Which means, the joy you get from them will fade and be few and far between.
But the small things? Those are accessible any time you want them.
Things like the warmth of the sun on your face, a good laugh with a friend, or the feeling of freshly laundered sheets on your bed.
You get the idea. These small joys have always been there, just waiting for us to finally notice and take the time to savor them.
What else can make you feel good about life? Moving your body!
So simple, yet it’s a real struggle to do it consistently. I should know, it took me years of false starts to really make my way to a solid and consistent exercise routine.
But hey, if you’re not there yet, that’s okay. Just moving your body everyday is enough.
Think easy movements like reaching, swaying, bouncing, shaking, jumping for joy and spinning…easy, right?
So if you’re pressed for time or exercise just isn’t your thing, at least move your body in these ways. You’re bound to feel happier afterwards!
4) Learn something new
Just as it’s important to move your body, so is exercising your brain. Which means, it’s important to set aside time for learning something new each day.
Why does this make us more joyful? It’s simple – newness sparks brain activity. Our brain gets challenged to make new connections.
Aside from that, according to Forbes, learning something new contributes to joy and happiness in these ways:
- Learning empowers us and makes us more self-confident
- It makes us more resilient
- It broadens our perspective
5) Allocate time for a hobby
As someone who has been through a lot of hobbies (crocheting, rowing, painting, gardening, scrapbooking, and so many more), I can say that having a hobby gives me so much pleasure.
It’s simply therapeutic. Losing yourself in hours and hours of something you enjoy is somewhat like a mini-vacation for your mind.
You get into flow, you’re free to express yourself, you’re free to let your mind wander and in the process, discover something new about yourself.
What’s not to like?
6) Spend time in nature
Another habit that can infuse your life with joy is an encounter with nature.
The UK Mental Health Foundation says that “people with good nature connectedness tend to be happier.”
It really isn’t surprising, considering that nature brings with it so many gifts: calmness, joy, creativity, better concentration.
Whenever I’m out by the beach or on a hiking trail, I just feel so at peace. All the troubles on my mind seem to melt away, and I’m left with the sense that this – all this beauty around me – is what matters right now.
It’s a quiet kind of joy that feels incredibly grounding.
7) Connect with someone
This might be hard to hear for those who often moan, “Ugh, I just hate people-ing!” I hear you; sometimes I’d rather hang out with dogs than some people I know!
But science wants us to know this – a strong social connection is essential for a joyful and meaningful life.
People who feel more connected with others…
- Have lower levels of anxiety and depression
- Have higher self-esteem and greater empathy
- Just have better physical and emotional well-being
8) Do a random act of kindness
So, we’ve established that social connection is important. One way to do that is to do a random act of kindness.
Believe me, this is a foolproof way to get more joy into your life. Helping others takes you out of your own bubble and shows you just how bright a light you can be for others.
Which means, even if you’re feeling aimless in your life as a whole, you’ll still feel a sense of purpose.
You might not know where you’re going or what you’re going to be, but as long as you can lighten someone’s load in life somehow, you’re making a difference in the world.
9) Laugh more and be silly
There’s a phrase I really hate hearing: “Act your age.”
Okay, but why? Who’s to say I can’t laugh out loud or make silly faces or play pranks on the people I love?
I’ve been blessed to be an early childhood teacher for most of my adult life, so I got to laugh a lot and keep my silly side and sense of childlike wonder intact. I can firmly say that it’s been a huge reason why joy has always been quite accessible to me.
Unfortunately, for most people, laughter and silly nonsense tend to take a backseat as they grow older.
But humor is powerful. It gives life to the most monotonous of days. Let’s hear it from Dr. Seuss himself:
“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”
And when things are really out of whack…
10) Think of something to be grateful for
Gratitude is another powerful way to invite more joy into your life. It’s the “stop, look, and listen” strategy magnified.
For me, learning to be grateful puts things into perspective. Of course, life isn’t always going to be easy, but when I stop and see just how much I have, I see that it’s still a beautiful life.
11) Choose the right energy to absorb
It would be so nice to just flick a wand and make a force field around you that repels negative forces, wouldn’t it? But let’s face it – there’s much about life we can’t control.
The fact is, we will come into contact with annoying, rude, and toxic people everyday.
But we can choose to not be drawn into that negativity. How?
Well, it’s a mind over matter thing. It begins with understanding that the negativity of others doesn’t reflect on you, and it doesn’t have to dictate your emotional state.
You are in control of your emotions and, in effect, the energy you absorb. Choose wisely so you can keep being joyful everyday.
12) Have a backup plan for your low times
Now, just because you can do the above doesn’t mean you’re invincible.
I mean, the truth is, we’re not going to feel happy and joyful all the time. That’s just unrealistic.
That’s why it pays to be prepared. When negative emotions come, don’t suppress or ignore them. Acknowledge them. Recognize these feelings as a natural part of your emotional spectrum.
And have a backup plan so you can bounce back easily. For me, this includes a “low-mood” toolkit that includes strategies like:
- Soothing activities like music, a rom-com, or one of my hobbies
- Talking to a friend
Your “toolkit” will probably look different from mine, but the point is, it should draw you back into a positive frame of mind.
Joyful living doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it does require a shift in perspective. It’s about appreciating the small, everyday moments just as much as the big ones.
Instead of chasing after joy, simply walk around with your eyes really open. Like I said, the world has lots of little gifts for us, we need only be awake to receive them.
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