1. Do at least one thing every day that makes you smile. Maybe it’s visiting the pet store, going to a matinee, reading poetry out loud, or listening to the wind chimes on a blustery day. If you have no clue about what makes you smile, put a basket in any high traffic area in your home. Whenever something happens that makes you smile, jot it down on a piece of paper and drop it in the basket. After a week or two, empty the basket and you’ll be surprised by the things that bring you joy.
2. Stop taking everything so personally. Sometimes it’s just not about you! How often do you interpret other’s comments or actions personally and make them about you? When you see your neighbor at the grocery store and she walks by without saying hello, do you assume:
- I did something wrong.
- I’m not good enough for her.
- She’s ignoring me because I didn’t invite her son to little Billy’s b-day party.
If the answer is any one of the above, try reinterpreting her behavior. For example, is it possible that your neighbor:
- Was focused on picking artichokes and she just didn’t see you.
- Was just in a car accident and is trying to shake it off.
- Just realized she’s turning fifty next week and has to schedule her first colonoscopy.
Do your interpretations create a feeling of peace or stress? If the answer is stress, create a new story to explain her behavior that you feel good about. The bottom line is you really have no idea what is going on with your neighbor, so why not choose a meaning that makes you feel good?
3. Evaluate your “to do” list. Make a list of ten things you have to do this week. Next perform what I call a body scan. Notice how your body responds when you imagine doing each of these things on your list. Does your body feel tense? Do you feel a pit in your stomach? Focus on the task that brings up the most pain, and ask yourself why you are planning to do this thing that causes you to feel anxious or stressed. If the answer is “I have to,” then you set yourself up to be in a completely helpless position. There are no alternatives when you operate from that principle. If the answer is “I choose to do it because if I don’t it would be morally repulsive,” you come from a more powerful place and one of choice.
4. Show your gratitude, it will change your attitude. Each night before bed time, write down five things that happened in your day for which you are most grateful. It could be as simple as “I woke up today” or “my roses are in bloom.” Don’t think it, write it down. When you put pen to paper it makes an imprint on your brain and it will resonate more deeply within you. Start a Gratitude Journal and I guarantee that your “joy” meter will rise.
5. Give unto others. One year ago, my family and I became involved in a homeless organization. We spend one Sunday each month feeding the homeless who patiently stand in line waiting for a free meal. My kids and I listen to heart wrenching stories about how these individuals lost their jobs, their relationships and ultimately their homes. Surprisingly, my problems, which seemed so large only an hour earlier, felt quite small in comparison. Giving to others puts things in perspective and reinforces feelings of appreciation and gratitude.
6. Laugh at least twice a day. Stop taking what your spouse says so seriously and add a dose of humor. Sometimes when my husband and I are arguing, I will tell a joke or make a silly face. We inevitably break out into belly laughter and it makes us realize how ridiculous we sound. It’s amazing how humor can add levity to a serious situation. I will also call my funniest friend and we giggle about how often we forget where we parked our cars and how many times we’ve repeated a story to one another. If you can’t muster up joy from poking fun at yourself, turn on the comedy channel. Laughter is truly medicinal.
7. Put your oxygen mask on first then assist your child with theirs. When you put your mask on first, you are teaching your child that it is essential, even life saving, to first take care of yourself before you can tend to others. Do you sacrifice everything for your children, including yourself? Do you avoid taking the flower arranging class one night a week or seeing your college roommate for dinner because you’re afraid your children might need you? And, what if they did? Maybe your being gone once in awhile would require your children to be more independent and resourceful. Show your child that taking care of you is the best gift you can give to yourself and be the example.
8. Make your resolutions but take one turtle step at a time. Why do you think very few people succeed in achieving their New Year’s resolutions? It’s admirable to say you want to clean up the clutter in your home, however, the task can feel daunting and overwhelming. When goals become lofty, we often lose steam and our commitment wanes. Instead of saying “I’m going to clean out my entire apartment,” say “I’m going to clean out one drawer in my kitchen today.” Breaking down goals into small, manageable steps feels less stressful and more attainable. Before you know it, you may have cleared your clutter… one turtle step at a time.
9. Learn to say “No.” Most women I coach say they never have any time to themselves and even if they knew what brought them joy they wouldn’t have time for it. Why is that? Are you in default mode, saying yes without thinking about the ramifications of being the President of the PTA? Although you may feel flattered that someone nominated you for the role, stop and think how it will impact you and your life. When someone asks you to do something, whether it’s babysitting their kids on a Saturday night or coordinating a fund-raiser, tell them you need a couple of days to think it over. Then, ask yourself if your best friend came to you and solicited your advice about whether or not to take on this position, what would you say to her? However you respond, turn it around to yourself and you’ll have your answer.
10. Stay in your own business. Have you ever made a remark that resembles “I would be happier if my husband would listen to me,” or “If my son tried harder in school I wouldn’t have to worry so much?” Each time you make someone else responsible for how you feel, you are, in effect, arguing with reality. When you mentally argue with “what is,” you suffer and the situation becomes hopeless. It means you are eternally in the role of victim because your happiness is contingent upon how other’s behave. They essentially become your hostages. Next time you feel stressed or in pain, write down your thoughts and watch for whose business you’re in.
Increasing the joy in your life is really very simple.
First, you must decide that having more joy is important and worthwhile. Often this decision will lead you to inspired action.
Other times, you will still feel as stuck as a pantry flea on a glue trap. This is how I feel about my writing. Writing is important to me but I don’t always feel motivated to sit down and do it. Because I know this about myself, I create small, manageable steps for my writing. I give myself just fifteen minutes to write everyday. No more no less. This propels me to sit down at my computer because it feels easy and doable. I suggest you do the same for creating more joy in your life. Pick one thing from the list above and do the required action. Only one. Not two or three. You may be surprised to find that just one step is all that is required to build your reservoir of joy.