8 Ways to Increase Your Joy

8 Ways to Increase Your Joy | Jennifer Diaz | How to be happier | How to have more joy | Why adults should play | The importance of having fun

Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, and I for one, would like for my life to be filled with it. 

Take a moment right now, and reflect on the last time you felt purely joyful:

  • What was happening around you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What activities were you engaged in?

Joy is often a result of being mindful, connecting with other people, and being grateful for who we are and where we are in a given moment. Although positive life experiences and major accomplishments can absolutely be responsible for bringing joy to our lives, it is very much our own conscious decision as to whether or not we choose to be joyful each day.

When I envision how I want to feel on a regular basis, the word joyful is high on my list. The tasks of daily life can become so routine or second nature that it can be all too easy for us to forget to seek out small pieces of joy throughout our day. But if we wait to feel joyful when our circumstances are perfect, we may find that we'll spend the majority of our lives without it.

Because each one of us is unique, the things that bring us joy will likely look quite different. I think the most effective behaviors are the ones you'll continue doing over the course of time. So before you check out my suggestions, make a list of all the things, big and small, that bring you joy. Decide what you can control on that list, and try to create space for these things throughout your normal day! Make the act of practicing joy one of your "non-negotiables." 

If you're not sure where to start, here are 8 suggestions that will help you create a daily habit of joy:

1. Start a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude has been scientifically proven to boost serotonin and dopamine, the feel good hormones. Comparison is a rough game that no one is immune to, especially with social media. I've been guilty of pining after all I don't have, while taking for granted all that I do have. When we find ourselves in a negative mindset, maybe even breaching a pity party, making a list of a few things you're thankful for can snap you right out of that. By appreciating the things we do have, we'll be more likely to appreciate the things we want once we do get them, rather than getting them, adding them to the pile, and moving on to the next. You'll be surprised at how content you are with what you have!  

2. Repeat Self-Affirming Statements

This may feel a little odd, especially at first. But the kind of internal dialogue we're having throughout the day can make a huge difference in all facets of life. It is incredibly important to speak to and think about ourselves in an empowering way. So start by taking a deep breath, check in with how you feel, and think, "What is something I need to hear today?" If that's difficult, think about your favorite compliment you've ever been given, and repeat that to yourself out loud. Bonus points if you stand in front of a mirror while saying it to yourself. The better we feel about ourselves, the more those positive emotions and thoughts will spill out into other areas of our lives!

3. Practice Mindfulness

This has been one of the most transformational habits that I've cultivated. Taking even just a few minutes each day to quiet your mind and shift your perspective can help you stay focused on what matters most to you. If you're not sure where to begin, here are a couple of posts to help you get started:

5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness

How to Start Meditating

4. Make Time for Play

While it's well known that play is a natural and necessary part of childhood, it's also extremely beneficial for adults. Making play a priority can increase our levels of energy and creativity, enhance the connections we have with the people in our lives, improve our brain function, and decrease stress and depression. So whether that means you start hosting regular game nights with your friends or you play with your family in the park, creating more fun in your life is a great way to increase your joy! 

5. Smile

While this may sound ridiculous at first, there's actually scientific research conducted by social psychologist, Robert Zajonc, suggesting that physically smiling leads to physiological changes in the brain that cool the blood, which causes people to feel happy. So next time you're in public, try sharing the love and smiling at a stranger. Or if that's too weird, just smile to yourself as you're driving to work in the morning. 

6. Spend Time Outside

Being in nature has some incredible benefits, including decreased stress levels and increased brain function. Also, we get about 80-90% of our vitamin D from absorbing it through our skin, which can increase levels of the feel-good hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Luckily for us here in Nashville, the weather has been incredible beautiful (Yay fall!!), making me want to spend as much time outside as possible. So grab a friend (or your pup), and spend 10-15 minutes in the sunshine.

7. Practice Generosity

Studies show that being generous by voluntarily giving time or money can actually improve our overall quality of life. Some benefits include a decrease in blood pressure, less anxiety and depression, and overall greater levels of happiness. When people give, the pleasure centers in their brain light up. Generosity is a life-giving transaction for both the giver and receiver.

8. Create a Happy Music Playlist

For centuries, we've been studying the effects that music has on us. I love music! I listen to it in the car, when I'm working out, while I'm cooking, and even as I'm writing this. Music is such an integral part of life in cultures all around the world. It's even been proven that listening to your favorite tunes can increase your dopamine levels. I know from experience that if I don't have the right kind of music to listen to when I work out, my workout may not be quite as effective (or enjoyable). This study show that you can even increase your levels of happiness by listening to positive music. So why not create a playlist of your favorite, mood-boosting songs to listen to as you're getting ready or during your drive to work? 

*Photo by Kelsey Cherry.


  • https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm
  • http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/18/science/a-feel-good-theory-a-smile-affects-mood.html?pagewanted=all
  • https://newrepublic.com/article/119477/science-generosity-why-giving-makes-you-happy
  • http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-hlth-0812-joy-of-giving-20150806-story.html