Can you increase the amount of happiness in your life? Or is it some illusive fairy dust that visits us during some moments but evades us at others? According to science, there are a handful of very practical things you can do to add more joy to your life. And most of them are pretty easy. All it takes is a little bit of intention.
1. Stretch Those Gratitude Muscles
One of the fastest ways to experience more happiness is to practice intentional gratitude. Yeah, I said practice. Turns out, you can practice gratitude like you practice any sport, instrument, or skill. And neuroscience has shown us that the more you flex those “gratitude muscles,” the easier and more natural it will become. So start simple. Take out a piece of paper (or even better: start a Gratitude Journal) and list out 10 things you are grateful for.
Make this a daily practice if you can. The science of “neuroplasticity” tells us that the brain will be physically rewired when you think differently. By intentionally practicing gratitude on a regular basis, you will begin to literally restructure the inner workings of your brain and change your entire outlook on life. And it all starts with a simple list.
2. Make Room for the Things You Enjoy
When was the last time you did something “just because it was fun?” Most adults don’t place a big priority on play. We tend to focus on project deadlines, utility bills, and the health of our children. All of which are important. But fun and play are often tossed to the sidelines for years on end. One of the best ways to improve the quality of each individual day (or even week) is to schedule in a little bit of an activity you enjoy – simply for the fun of it.
It might be sketching or writing or playing ultimate frisbee or taking an improv class or trying a new recipe. Whatever it is that raptures you in the moment and makes you feel alive. This is part of your “bliss.” And just like we take care of our bodies by eating well and exercising, we must take care of our souls by making room for the activities we love.
3. Spread the Love
Kindness is a magical thing. It positively impacts someone else, and also transforms you in the process. You don’t walk away unchanged. When we do or say something kind to another person, it automatically uplifts our spirits.
If you want a quick remedy for the blues, find something other-centered and selfless that you can do for someone else. Send them an appreciative text, buy them a gift, finish one of their chores for them, or volunteer somewhere. Go out of your way to make the world a better place, and you will be wrapped up in the joy that comes from contribution.
4. Notice the Moment
This moment, not yesterday or tomorrow, but this present moment is a precious thing. That’s why it’s called the present: it’s a gift to be enjoyed. Most of us (unconsciously) postpone our happiness until a future milestone. “When I’m making more money,” “When the kids have graduated,” “When I’m thinner,” or “When I’m retired,” have become some of our made-up prerequisites to happiness.
But there is no such thing as future happiness. The future does not actually exist; it is a product of your imagination. Happiness can only be experienced in the present moment. And until you give yourself permission to enjoy this present moment, you will never actually be happy.
Remind yourself that the To-Do List will never end. There will always be more to do. But that shouldn’t keep you from appreciating this breath. It shouldn’t keep you from enjoying this moment. As the saying goes, “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.” And more accurately, it happens moment by moment. Give yourself permission to be happy before everything is perfect. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting a long time. 😉
Practice gratitude. Make room for fun. Do kind things. And enjoy the moment. Armed with these four tools, you will be better prepared to fight the forces of melancholy and monotony. Before long, you just might see that the miraculous is waiting inside the mundane.
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Know someone who might appreciate some more joy in their life? Pass this on!