This year on the Untangle podcast, we’ve focused a lot on happiness and joy, and I’m excited to share what we’ve learned from all of our inspiring guests. Here’s the really good news: science tells us that we are never too old to build healthy habits. This means that wherever you are in life, you can change the habits and thought patterns that get in the way of experiencing joy and being the best version of you.
New beginnings often give us that little kick we need to start fresh and engage in new possibilities. As we start the new decade, here are our top eight tips for finding joy:
1. Accept that your joy levels will go up and down. There’s no question that happiness and sorrow will be a part of our lives. We’re human. Laurie Santos, host of The Happiness Lab podcast and a professor at Yale University, says that happiness is like a leaky tire and happy people know how to fill their tires when they’re deflated. One suggestion she makes is to schedule activities into your calendar that make you happy. It could mean a call with a friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while or with someone who inspires you. It might mean getting a massage or taking a walk in nature. Prioritize filling your happiness bucket even when you’re feeling sad.
2. Reflect on what you’re grateful for every single day. Gratitude helps us focus on the things and people that matter most to us. It reminds us of what and who boosts or zaps our joy. A daily gratitude practice is the single most powerful thing we can do to shift negative thinking and be reminded of what is really good in our world.
3. Lend a hand and be of service to others. Even when you’re feeling low, being of service to others can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Dr. Rick Hanson, author, psychologist, and one of our favorite podcast guests, suggests that we examine our everyday choices and explore how we can be of service to others in small ways throughout our day. Doing little things such as buying coffee for a stranger, helping someone carry their groceries, or even just holding a door open can help bring you joy and keep you focused on the positive feelings that come from doing ‘good.’
4. Make social connections. Whether spending time with dear friends and family or even just chatting with friendly strangers, being in touch with others make a big difference in how we feel. These connections are our lifeblood and bring much needed ‘real life’ intimacy into our lives. Even with the many ways we connect remotely, loneliness levels in our culture are very high. We really do need one another.
5. Savor the meaningful moments. Most of us spend so much time ruminating on the things that go wrong during the day—a mistake at work, an embarrassing moment, a missed opportunity. Focusing on the negative can be like velcro, attracting more and more negative thoughts. Placing your attention on the meaningful moments and really savoring them can help train our brains to see the good that’s all around us. Elisha Goldstein, author, psychologist, and one of the top teachers on Muse and Meditation Studio, reminds us that celebrating others’ joyful moments can have enormous positive benefits for us as well.
6. Having a growth mindset will help you be more resilient and more easily bounce back from adversity. Happiness doesn’t mean we’re jumping up and down for joy all the time or that something new and exciting just happened. It means that we can accept what is—both the good and the challenging—with grace and wisdom. When we’re sad or going through moments of grief, we know and accept that this is part of life, something that can help us grow and find deeper meaning in our lives.
7. Spend time with the people who bring the best out of you. Cultivate those people who have your best interests at heart and want to see you grow and be the best version of you. I call these people my heart tribe. They will always be a top priority. If you keep doing the things you love, you’ll meet others who share your interests and dreams and your heart tribe will continue to grow throughout your life.
8. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Taylor White Moffitt, therapist, yoga, and meditation teacher on Muse and Meditation Studio, reminds us that joy can sometimes make us feel very vulnerable to disappointment, especially when we’re really excited about something and our expectations are high. However, she points out that we can’t block unpleasant feelings when they arise without also blocking the pleasant ones. Take notice of those vulnerable feelings when they arise and just let them be. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others always brings us closer to one another.
I wish you all a year filled with much health, happiness, and joy as well as more self-awareness, curiosity, adventure, growth, and wisdom and, of course, comfort with who you are as a human being. Remember, you don’t have to make any giant declarations just because it’s the new year. Small actions and choices can be a perfect way to reach your goal, whether it’s exercising, practicing generosity and kindness, expressing self-compassion, or even starting a meditation practice.