Finding and experiencing joy as a child came easily, but as we grew into adults and accepted the work-pay bills-be responsible mentality that typically comes with adulthood, finding joy in our lives has become an active exercise.
But that doesn’t mean adulting is joyless. In fact, you might be surprised just how near joyful feelings are. The internet is full of ideas on how you can inject more joy in your life — here are 10 of our favorites:
A study launched by Harvard University in 1938 followed participants for decades, collecting a treasure trove of information on what affects physical and mental health. A primary takeaway is how happy you are in your relationships influences your health. People in their 50s who reported having happy, close relationships were the healthiest at 80. But the benefits of social connections aren’t limited to close friends and relatives. A 2014 research project found that even casual social interaction with strangers — a barista, grocery store clerk, etc., — leads to feelings of happiness and a sense of belonging.
Surprise Your Loved Ones
Making other people happy can bring you joy. Give a friend or family member a gift “just because.” Send a faraway friend a funny card. Create a list of five or 10 things you love about your partner, child, parent or friend and give it to them. You’ll find that joy is contagious — making them happy will make you happy. In fact, a person is significantly more likely to be happy if they are around happy people, according to this research.
Along the lines of surprising your loved ones is giving back. Charitable efforts — whether through volunteering or donating money — activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health.
It’s easy to do something nice for someone. Open the door for a parent pushing a stroller. Let someone skip ahead of you in line at the store. Pay for the person’s coffee behind you at Starbuck’s. Bring donuts to the office. Write a thank you note to your child’s teacher. Try to practice kindness several times a week — you may even find it habit-forming.
So far, we’ve looked at things you can do for other people that will create more joy in your life. Now, we’ll explore some tips centered around you.
Make a Happy List
When is the last time you’ve given serious thought to what makes you happy? Think about it and write it down. Keep the list somewhere it’s easy to see. When you feel like you’re having a down day, take a look at the list and see what you can do to improve your mood.
Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Joyful Moments
People you love, places you’ve traveled, special memories — take those photos on your phone and have them printed, framed and placed where you can see them often. Or, invest in a digital frame that scrolls through your downloaded photos. Seeing the photos and remembering the stories behind them will kindle sparks of joy.
‘Me Time’ is Okay
“Me time” is just as important as “we time.” Take a nap, get a massage — do whatever you find relaxing. Even if your time is limited, you can take a short walk or simply turn off all distractions (phone, email, etc.,) and look out the window to the world around you. The small act of savoring a glass of chardonnay or the softness of the grass beneath your feet can increase happiness.
Go On Vacation — Even If It’s Just for a Day
Declare a day of vacation for you — no work, no household chores; instead, do something you find fun. Research local places and/or upcoming events you’d like to visit or attend. Take a look at restaurants or shops to explore that might be along the way. Write “Vacation Day” on the calendar — the anticipation of a fun day ahead is part of this joyful journey.
Try Something New
When we were kids, there were a lot of “firsts,” many of which brought us joy. While your first successful bike ride without training wheels is probably long behind you, that doesn’t mean your life is devoid of the possibility of another “first.” Try a new food. Go to a new fitness class. Take up a new hobby. Learn about a topic you’ve long been interested in. Life is an adventure, and it’s yours for the taking.
Last But Not Least….
Smile more. Smile as you watch the birds outside your window. Smile when you look at photos of friends and family. Smile to the person at the dry cleaners. Spread a little happiness and see how it makes a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.
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