Cultivating Joy in Our Everyday Lives

Cultivating Joy in Our Everyday Lives

I don’t know about you, but the past few years (Covid lockdowns and the aftermath of the Pandemic) as well as the current events of the day have accomplished much in the way of robbing me of joy.  It can be pretty depressing to listen to the news or read through the headlines while scrolling through social media. I try to follow as many Instagram accounts of Golden Retrievers as possible but the horrible events of recent days still sneak into my feed to offer up depressing stories that really do steal my joy and cause anxiety. I have had to battle my way out of depression more than once through painful loses and anxiety-inducing large life changes.  While I am not a psychologist or therapist, I do think I have cultivated a few means of adding more joy to my everyday life and I would like to share them with you. Proverbs 17:22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” An attitude of joy has many benefits including lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, stronger immune system, plus research shows that happy people tend to live longer! All of these are good reasons to endeavor to live more meaningful and happy lives. Joy is a little different than happiness. The word joy come from Old French “joie” which means a feeling of pleasure and delight. I love that word delight. How many things actually delight us? Or how many things do we find delight in? That’s the real question! Joy also comes from the Latin word “gaudia” which means inner joy, gladness. It means to take pleasure in or delight in something. Words linked to joy are enjoy and rejoice. To enjoy something is to be enraptured by it and to feel great delight in it. Rejoice is to celebrate, exult, revel or take glory in something. How often do we rejoice in the small things of our lives? People often confuse happiness with joy.  Happiness is an emotion that brings bursts of intense pleasure, excitement or satisfaction.  Happiness is based on externals where joy is a stronger, longer-term state of being that results in inner peace and contentment regardless of our circumstances. So, how do we cultivate a sense of joy in our everyday lives? Below are a combination of tools and tricks that have worked for me along with some scientific-backed ways to add more joy to your life starting NOW!


#1. Practice gratitude. It’s hard to be gloomy or sad when we think about all the things for which we should be grateful. Part of my nighttime routine includes journaling through my day and listing all the things that happened for which I am grateful. I always try to think of at least three things for which to be grateful. Some things that have made my list are: I remembered to take all me vitamins, walking past a flowering jasmine bush and smelling the divine fragrance that only jasmine can give, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile called to see how I was doing. Knowing I will list grateful happenings before I go to sleep causes me to live in a way that keeps me on the outlook for all things that are blessings, even the smallest of things.


#2. Find out what you’re passionate about and set aside time to do it. I love pilates. It’s the only form of exercise I have ever loved besides rollerskating, but let’s be honest-I’m too worried about broken bones at this age to regularly engage in rollerskating. I have seen some older women in my neighborhood rollerskating down the street and I know we could be good friends. But for now, Pilates is my passion and I make time every day for some pilates exercises. I feel actual joy when a particularly difficult class is over!


#3. Set goals that are outside your comfort zone. Working toward a new goal provides opportunity for the sublime sense of joy that comes from accomplishing something truly difficult. For me that goal is gaining fluency in Spanish and French. I set aside time everyday to work on my language skills. When I meet a Spanish speaker I always try to speak to them in their language. There is truly not much else that brings me such joy as communicating in another language! Plus learning another language brings joy in itself by engaging my mind like few other things can do.


#4. Be present-live in the moment! We so often get caught up in thinking about the past and the things we wished we done differently or that had happened differently. OR we spend too much time thinking about the future and anticipating things that haven’t even happened yet. Both of these activities rob us of joy. Since endeavoring to truly be in the present, my sense of joy has increased greatly. I no longer worry about what might happen in the future and I have let go of what’s already happened in the past. Whenever I am with someone whether it’s at lunch or just enjoying a cup of coffee, I try to concentrate on the beauty of that time not worrying about anything else.  


#5. Laughter! Laughter is good for the body and brain. Every time we laugh our brain releases endorphins which turn up our joy factor. Find friends who make you laugh or with whom you can share laughter and funny moments.  Watch a funny movie or tv show and have a really good laugh! The best way to increase your potential for laughter is with a group of good friends. Find people who make you laugh and spend time with them.


#6. Seek out positive people. It’s no surprise that when we’re with positive people we tend to be more positive ourselves. And the same goes for being around negative, pessimistic people. Limit your time with the Debby-downers. 


#7. I saved the best for last.  Well, it might not be the best for you, but I don’t think it’s possible to engage in this activity and remain blue.  LISTEN TO STEVIE WONDER.  I’m not talking about his ’80’s cringy music collabs with people like Paul McCartney, but rather the good stuff from the ’70’s.  Sir Duke, I Wish, Isn’t She Lovely, Superstition, Living for the City…just to name a few. He gave us the best music of a generation and it ALWAYS puts me in better frame of mind. It’s just not possible to be sad when listening to Stevie.


There you have it-my top strategies for overcoming the blues and putting my smile back on my face. Hope these will help you in times when the world seems too much and there’s not enough sunshine. “I wish those days could come back once more. Why did those days ever have to go…I loved them so.” 

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