Be Here, Now.
It is easy to get caught up in big moments of happiness and miss opportunities for joy in our everyday life. We tend to focus on important events like purchasing a home, an exciting new promotion, or that anticipated vacation. But when we turn our attention to the here and now, there are plenty of occasions for authentic joy. By “noticing the little things”, we experience increased life satisfaction, and, you guessed it, more joy.
When we experience moments of joy, our health is given a boost as joy contributes to less stress, improved heart health, a stronger immune system, and reduced pain. Cultivating appreciation of the little things throughout the day is a straightforward affair — we simply need to remember to do it! Which is why it is sometimes helpful to have a bit of inspiration. Below are a few (perhaps surprising) tips to get you started.
The Difference Between Happiness and Joy
Usually we think happiness and joy are pretty much the same — or, at the very least, go hand-in-hand. But they are actually distinct states. Happiness relies on our external circumstance: the new car, a big pay raise, our kids doing well — you get the idea. While there are exceptions, happiness generally relies on outside events and/or the people around us. It also tends to be tied to the anticipation of something happening in the future such as an achievement, occasion, or purchase.
Interestingly, a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that appreciation outshines gratitude, personality, and demographics as an indicator of greater life satisfaction.1 As it turns out, taking the time to appreciate small moments and pleasures throughout the day helps us to experience fulfillment and joy — even when life may not be going the way we want. In a nutshell, these small moments of joy tend to lead to greater resiliency, compared to when we strive for happiness.
So how can we cultivate more appreciation of the little things? Here are a few ideas.
Simple Ways to Bring More Joy Into Your Life
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Spend Time in Nature. For myself, one of the best ways to slow down and “smell the roses” is to get out into nature — whether it’s in my garden, a local park, or deep into the woods. Nature automatically calms the nervous system and soothes the soul so that we can begin to appreciate the little things around us. This sense of calm overflows into the rest of our week and brings balance to our work, home life, and relationships. Even just ten minutes in a natural space is enough to shift our perspective towards appreciation.
Keep a Journal. Most of us are familiar with gratitude journals. Using the same idea, we can list small moments throughout the day that brought us joy. If we have the time to write more and dive deeper, all the better! But it is essentially a quick and simple practice that slows us down enough to appreciate moments that we would normally miss throughout the day. Jotting down moments of beauty is a good place to start.
Discover the Lost Art of Baking. In our convenience-driven world, the joy of cooking is often sacrificed for speed and efficiency. There is even a “robot oven” that will automatically cook a full meal simply by scanning the QR codes on the ingredient packaging! But if we want to cultivate more joy in our lives, one helpful practice is to take the time to bake something from scratch. It truly is a lost art for many modern households, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Baking focuses our attention on the here and now — especially if we want the recipe to turn out! Anyone who has ever kneaded dough or hand-whipped egg whites into frothy peaks can attest to the meditative quality of baking — and the joy of the process.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Actively cultivating joy in our lives can sometimes seem like an impossible task. But keep at it. Before you know it, the practice will become a habit and bear fruit. As I wrote in, Rediscovering Joy After Adversity:
“Even if you feel as though you are just stumbling through the motions of joyful activity, do it anyway! Cook that favorite meal or wander along a forest trail. Read a novel, play with your kids or pets, and notice beauty in the world around you. Over time, small moments of joy will begin to increase in your life, along with resiliency and positive growth.”
Seeking further inspiration? The above post also explores seven additional ways you can encourage more joy in your life, such as cultivating self-compassion, recognizing the power of words, and encouraging one another. You can read more here.
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- N.S. Fagley, Appreciation uniquely predicts life satisfaction above demographics, the Big 5 personality factors, and gratitude, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 53, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 59-63, ISSN 0191-8869, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.02.019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886912000888