Did you hear that thing about how we have two lives? That the second one begins when we realize we only have one? I know, I know, but these things become cliche for a reason! Hear me out: We base the quality of life on happiness.
But joy is something else. Joy is enjoying the process. Everyone has been happy for a while at one point, but it’s not easy to maintain it. It depends on a lot of stuff. But you can add joy in anything you do. I mean don’t tell me that you don’t think there is a little bit of joy in crying?
Because, with joy it’s not what you do but the way you do it, as cliche as that sounds. I’ll be sharing 23 simple things I try to do everyday for a more joyful life and I bet you’ll do #16 right away.
1. Wake up before everyone else
Waking up before everyone else is a magical feeling. There is this silence you have all to yourself. There is something powerful in stepping outside when nobody else is around, as if you have the whole city to yourself. Even if you don’t leave home, there is a sense of joy in knowing that you are not behind, in fact, you are ahead of everyone.
So definitely wake up earlier than work. I give myself almost 3 hours before I start working to write, read, chill, have some me time. To me, it’s a way of expressing self love. You know how you make time for a loved one if you know you won’t be around later, it’s the same. If you’ll be working for the rest of the day and won’t really have time for yourself, start the day earlier and do whatever it is that gives you joy. This way you’ll show up as a better version of yourself at work, as well, instead of trying to be present right after dragging yourself out of bed.
Coffee, omg coffee, I don’t support addictions but don’t expect me to quit coffee. I’m just looking forward to my coffee in the morning, it seriously gets me out of bed. That’s joyful enough, one might say. But I found another way of adding joy to my coffee habit, and that’s imagining my parallel lives while drinking local coffee. Let me explain.
I’m in Brooklyn, so I usually drink coffee that’s locally roasted in Brooklyn. Nothing too exciting. But, when my friends are traveling, I ask them to bring me the local coffee so that I can be like, “Ooh so this is the coffee I’d have in the mornings if I were living my dream life in Costa Rica!” Is that lame? Is that like ‘so what’ to you? Because it gives me so much joy!
3. Morning pages
My morning pages are my joy. This is a habit I learned from Julia Cameron’s book called The Artist’s Way.
Every morning you spare around half an hour to write 3 pages. You can write about anything. It can be like a journal where you write about your feelings, your reflection of what happened the day before, what you’re grateful for, it can be anything. Whatever you feel like talking about, you just pour it on your pages. This gives me so much joy because it’s a regular check-in with myself about where I’m at, how I’m feeling, what’s troubling me and all that.
It’s a way of showing up for yourself and showing that you are willing to listen to you, even if nobody else will that day. It’s a way of showing that you care about yourself.
As much joy writing brings, so does reading! Maybe because we associate reading with being smart and intellectual but there is a sense of accomplishment, therefore joy, in doing a little reading everyday. You feel like you did something good for yourself, you learned something new.
Also, if you don’t enjoy reading, please be mindful of what you’re reading. I realized that I do not really enjoy reading fiction anymore and that non-fiction books really speak to me. Maybe you’ll enjoy autobiography books, or illustrated books. Maybe ditch books you enjoy reading articles, magazines. Just find something to read that brings you joy! No, your Twitter timeline doesn’t count.
5. Make random things special
I did this with bagels last Sunday. Honestly bagels aren’t something special that I rarely eat or anything. One morning I basically felt like it and was going to get one for breakfast. But I made a joyful deal out of it, I was like “Today is Sunday and I claim it the Bagel Day so let’s go have some bagels today!” I could’ve as well been like “Oh I don’t feel like preparing breakfast at home let’s just go grab bagels.” But no! I turned this mundane activity into a “treat yo’self!” kinda thing and probably increased the joy I’d get out of that bagel. It was delicious, btw.
6. Get fresh air
If you’re working from home like me, and the weather is not that pretty, it’s easy to spend the whole day at home but fresh air itself gives you joy, even if it’s only for ten minutes.
7. Work out!
Work out is not just for your physical health, I swear I owe my peace of mind to it. At least the little bit that’s left. I go crazy if I don’t work out, because we use our head so much that it gets super tired and the body needs to catch up with that. And it’s a wonderful habit to give your energy to, the energy that would fuel your anxiety if you don’t channel it somewhere meaningful. And I cannot tell you the joy you get when you see physical improvement, that you can lift heavier than last month and that you are stronger and faster. You have to experience it yourself!
8. Watch the sunset
This seriously happens every single day, why do we only sometimes open a beer and enjoy it? I get that the sunset is not bright pink and orange and like super pretty everyday but I’m sure it’s pretty some days. It baffles me that I almost never watch the sunset when I’m in my routine but if I’m traveling, where we are setting the sun is a part of the agenda of the day.
There is something powerful in appreciating the day you had as the sun is setting, and knowing that it will rise again tomorrow. It’s so natural and so given that we forget how magical it feels when you watch the sky changing color and the clouds and everything starts to dim and slow down. So remember to watch the sunset.
9. See the moon
I am one of those people who calls her friends to tell them to look at the moon. It’s so beautiful when the moon is full and bright and big! And sometimes it’s red, sometimes it’s really low on the sky, sometimes it’s like the thinnest silver line. It’s pretty much like the sun, because it’s so natural we don’t even notice it.
See how the moon’s gravitational pull causes high and low tides, the moon has this effect on this huge body of water, do you really think that doesn’t affect your little body of water? You’re 70% water. I believe we are inevitably affected by the moon so I love being conscious of it’s phases because we all act a bit on the edge when it’s the full moon, and new moons are energetically great times to set up intentions and so on.
10. Cross off tasks
You have to agree that there is this incredible joy you get when you cross off things from your to do list.
11. Try new things
This is kind of a no brainer; when you try out new places, new restaurants, new experiences, you step out of your routine and this gives you joy because like hey, you did something interesting today! You gave today one good reason to be different than yesterday.
12. Get a plant
No, don’t be scared. There is a learning curve, everyone kills plants before they learn how to take care of them. Don’t let it scare you, I promise you learn in time what the plant wants from you. And taking care of something and watching it grow gives you joy, assuming plants are more accessible than babies.
13. Create something
I believe we enjoy life more when we put something out there instead of just consuming. So create something! Paint, cook, work, and be useful, that’s pretty much what I mean. You don’t have to create a masterpiece but make sure you’re not just taking but also giving the world something.
14. Do something you are already good at
I’m sure there is something you are already good at but need to practice a little everyday to keep being good at it, like I don’t want to lose my flexibility so I try to stretch a little everyday. And there is joy in seeing that you’re good at something.
15. Do something that you wanna be good at
To me this is playing the ukulele, I am by no means talented at it but I enjoy practicing it a lot because one day you just cannot get your hand to do a strum and the next day you play and sing along to that song. So progress brings joy.
16. Remember death
Remember that you won’t be around forever, that’s why you should enjoy your time here. Death is not a negative thing, it adds value to your life. Life is precious because it’s not forever. So remember that it’s still not over yet and enjoy it.
17. Be playful
When I was a kid I was pretending to be a teacher when I was doing my homework and I’d finish them on Friday night because I had so much fun. Yes, I was that kid. So adding games or playful angles to mundane activities make life more joyful. There are some stuff you do automatically without even thinking about it, and when you shake it up a little you become more mindful. I heard someone advice eating yogurt with fork. So it’s basically doing something a new way everyday and feeling joyful.
18. Get flowers
Because they are beautiful!
19. Sing and dance
Throw yourself a party when you’re cooking, cleaning, getting ready, doing whatever – just sing and dance everyday for a joyful minute.
20. Help someone
This is called the “helper’s high”. It’s scientifically proven that you become joyful when you help people so whether that be holding the door, picking someone up from the airport, bringing them food when they’re feeling under the weather. Doesn’t matter big or small, there is joy in helping people.
21. Be more flexible
Believe me I know it’s not easy to say yes when a friend invites you out for a beer when you’re already in your pajamas, but that’s exactly why it brings so much joy when you act flexible and just say yes. You surprise yourself by being spontaneous.
22. See if you can laugh about it
This is similar to the previous one. When something shitty happens, see if you can laugh about it instead of being mad. Because if you can, you’ll enjoy that you surprise yourself.
23. Do nothing
I enjoy doing all these things on this list, but there is nothing like the joy you get from doing absolutely nothing. Like laying on the floor and watching the ceiling kinda nothing. Isn’t it the best?
So this is your invitation to go beyond self preservation and survival and actually enjoy living, enjoy your everyday activities. Happiness is flimsy, I seek joy now. Because you add more joy into your life regardless of what’s going on. And the collateral joy of living this way comes when you realize how much joy you end up giving to those around you.