What does it mean to be joyful?
The definitions of joy are: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness; the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; a state of happiness or felicity.
Positive emotions, including joy, can spark creativity and optimize health and well-being. You can experience more joy in your life in a few simple ways.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
10 simple ways to add more joy to your life.
1. Create a joy list.
How do we have the feeling of joy? One way is to simply write it down. Ingrid Fetell Lee goes into depth about how tangible things in life create joy, in her book, Joyful, The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.
You can start by making a list of all the things that uplift you and put a smile on your face. Write down all the smells, sights, sounds, and activities that ignite joy inside of you.
What are examples of things that can I put in a joy list?
Anything that brings you joy!
- Drinking coffee
- Eating chocolate
- Watching a rom com
- Listening to a baby laugh
- Blowing bubbles
- Watching clouds float across the sky
- Stopping to smell flowers
- Doodling in a sketch book
- Playing a musical instrument
- Taking a long, hot bath
2. Surround your space with joyful things
Keep only the things that spark joy
In her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo has only 1 rule, keep the things that spark joy. Discard anything else that does not. It is a simple rule, but it works.
When you surround yourself with things that bring you joy, your mood can be elevated. Studies have been conducted that prove how clean, joyful places improves mood and feelings of self worth.
3. Find your tribe
Surround yourself with people who lift you up. These are people who you love to be around, make you laugh and enjoy life. Surrounding yourself with people you love fosters feelings of joy, love and happiness.
This could be talking to your neighbor, having lunch with friends, going on a day trip with your loved ones, going to happy hour with coworkers, or date night with your significant other.
4. Give yourself ME time
Slow down so you can enjoy what is around you. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said that we live in a time of abundance that we should easily find joy and happiness. There are so many things around us that can give us joy.
We sometimes have to slow down so we can appreciate them. One way to do this is to give yourself alone time. Time set aside just for yourself allows you to be in the present moment and enjoy it.
Solitude can be healthy for you. Make this time sacred, even if it's just 5 minutes.
If you have to, tell your family members that you have to be alone for a certain amount of time. Finding solitude can help to reset you, especially when you are very busy. This will help to create more feelings of joy.
5. Be more intentional with joy.
You can choose to feel joyful, even if you don't feel like it. Like any practice, it may take time, but you may eventually feel more joy the more you let go of unpleasant emotions and allow the feeling of joy to permeate through.
Over time, intentionally choosing joy will become a habit, like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. It will help to shift your mind from lower states of emotion like fear or anger, to higher ones like joy or love.
6. Express gratitude
Gratitude helps to increase joy and happiness. Being thankful even for the small things in life can make a huge impact on your mood. Certain centers in our brain are activated when we practice gratitude.
The more we do it, the more spontaneous it will come. And the more we benefit. There are numerous ways to express gratitude.
One is to write down in a gratitude journal at least one thing everyday that you are grateful for. This may be a person, a thing or an experience. Another is to simply express your gratitude about something. A third way is to thank someone directly, making it more intentional.
Helpful article: Gratitude journal: my 30 days of gratitude.
7. Finding your purpose
Find what brings purpose and meaning to your life. In his TED talk, James Goebel explains how doing something meaningful and with purpose can help bring joy, even to the most mundane task.
His daughter struggled in math. So he had her build a house, which involved measuring and math skills. She was able to learn math easier and with more joy because it became more meaningful to her.
Having a purpose in life helps to increase self-worth and happiness. People with a purpose in life can live longer and it even helps to boost the immune system. Creating a life with more meaning helps you to connect your past, present and future.
It helps you to reflect on your life and connect you to something greater than yourself. The more meaningful your life is, the more joy you may experience.
Nat King Cole's hit song Smile said it best. The first line is: "Smile though your heart is aching."
Smile even if you do not feel like it. This simple act, even when you do not feel happy or joyful, may help to lift your mood. Research has proven the positive effects of smiling, even if you do not have something joyful to smile about.
In one study, subjects were asked to smile while doing stressful tasks. Those who smiled had lower cardiovascular stress than those who did not.
The simple act of smiling increases dopamine and endorphins, emotions associated with joy and happiness. This creates a positive feedback loop in the brain that stimulates more endorphins and creates a cycle of happiness.
9. Celebrate your joy.
Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. In the book, The Progress Principle, authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer conducted a study that, amongst other factors, demonstrate the power of celebrating small wins while doing meaningful work.
An employee's inner work life, when optimistic, had a direct, positive effect on the performance, productivity and overall well-being of the entire work place.
The same principle can be applied to everyone for everyday life. No matter how small the win may be, celebrate it.
This can be putting your child down for a nap so you can enjoy your quiet time, watching a Netflix movie with your loved one on a Friday night after a long work week, or giving yourself a pat on the back because you got out of bed this morning.
These small wins are worth celebrating because life is full of ups and downs. Our emotions can be up one hour and down the next. When we celebrate even the smallest progress, we give our experiences more meaning.
This creates greater emotional resilience and motivation for us even when we are feeling low.
10. Help others
“An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves.”
– Lydia M. Child
Numerous studies have been done on the positive effect of helping others. Helping someone can help to reduce stress, increase longevity, and improve overall health.
In his book, Altruism, the Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, author Matthieu Ricard sheds light on how compassion and helping others can bring one happiness and joy.
In one study done at the University of British Columbia, psychologists found that toddlers under the age of two were happier when giving treats to others rather than receiving treats themselves.
The children were even happier when they gave their own treat to another rather than give a treat that was not theirs. The children received more joy from the act of giving to others than when given something.
How do I start to experience more joy?
What does this have to do with being joyful? When we are down, we want to feel anything but. The first instinct is to suppress it with substances, distraction or distancing from it. However, these tactics may create more problems down the road.
In order to START to feel more joyful, you have to embrace all your feelings, even the negative, or unpleasant ones.
Try the following 3 exercises to help release negative emotions and make room for more joy.
First, allow yourself to feel those uncomfortable feelings fully, right when you have them. If you are not able to in the moment, wait until you are in a more appropriate place (like in your car or house) to let those feelings loose.
Give yourself the time you need to process and express them fully. With practice, you will eventually learn to feel those negative feelings without attaching anything to them and let them go.
This practice will create more room for uplifting emotions such as joy, love, and gratitude. Dopamine and serotonin are released from the brain.
Both of which are responsible for feelings of happiness and joy. The body can slip easier into relaxation mode.
Another technique is to slow down and breathe easy. Simply notice the breath going into and out of your lungs when you are experiencing an unpleasant emotion.
Notice it become slower and slower as you enable yourself to relax by breathing. Breathing allows you to center yourself, release unpleasant emotions and initiate the relaxtion response.
After you've tried the other techniques, this state of mind will come to you easier and allow you to feel more joyful. When you are able to reach this state, stay with it.
Allow yourself to stay in this relaxed, calm state for at least a few minutes. You can even sit down and close your eyes. When you open your eyes, you will be able to receive feelings of joy with greater ease.
A joy-filled life
Adding more joy into your life has been proven to have a positive impact on your health and wellness. Simple things like writing down what makes you happy, surrounding yourself with people that uplift you, choosing joy, being grateful, giving yourself alone time, having purpose, celebrating, helping others, and even smiling can help create more joy in your everyday life. I would love to know how you add joy in your life every day. Please share in the comments!