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The Secret to Being Happier

Get to Know the Most Important Person in the Room a Little Bit Better.....You.

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Take a guess why fall is my favorite time of the year. 

Is it because of the lovely fall foliage? Nope.

Is it because the kids are (sort of) going back to school? Negative. 

How about because candy corn pumpkins – my favorite candy of all time – are finally back in stores? Nay, although they are delicious.

The answer…..it’s the start of football season!

I watched my first football game in its entirety just a decade ago at a friend’s birthday party. It was on in the background, and in between bites of her delicious chocolatey birthday cake I couldn’t help but notice how exciting it seemed. The speed of the players, the unexpected twists and turns, the rookie kicker making the game-winning field goal – it was all so cool! Equally as exciting was the unity of the fans cheering for their team, both on the screen and surrounding me at the party. 

Just then a question popped into my mind….a question that I never, ever could have imagined: Was it possible that I could actually like football? Hmmmm…..maybe I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did.

Bursts of Joy

Bursts of joy are simply the activities or pastimes that put us in a positive mindset. When we’re stressed or want to add a little bit of sunshine to an otherwise cloudy day, we know that these will do the trick. They make us laugh, help us relax, and put us in a positive mindset. The more bursts of joy we incorporate into our daily routines the happier we are. 

Watching football brings me those bursts. And if I hadn’t recognized the possibility that it could be something that I could enjoy all those years ago at that party, I would have missed out on a ton of fun. I enjoy it so much that I plan my schedule around games, wake up pumped on game days, and relish in the sweet bliss of victory when my beloved Denver Broncos win (and conversely get a tad angry when they lose. I’m still not quite over their Superbowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks back in 2014. It still hurts.)

What about You?

You may assume that you already know everything that brings you joy. And maybe you do. But then again, maybe you don’t. Sure, there are those old favorites that you know will do the trick –  anything by U2 puts you in a great mood, knitting calms your mind, and old episodes of the Office always crack you right up.  But consider the possibility that there may be other, as-of-now undiscovered activities that could also bring you joy if you took the time to look for them.  

But How?

When I went to that party all those years ago, I certainly wasn’t looking for something that would end up adding so much joy to my life, but I acknowledged the interest I felt and decided to watch another game the following weekend to see if it was just a fluke. When you’re out and about and something piques your interest, acknowledge the feeling…don’t just automatically dismiss it. Don’t assume that since you never liked whatever it is before that you couldn’t possibly find joy in it now. Take a minute, give it a try, and see if your feelings about it have changed without you realizing it. 

So often we live our lives on autopilot and don’t take the time to consider the possibility that “current us” may like something that “a year ago us” didn’t; and “a year ago us” might have enjoyed activities that “current us” no longer does. The fact is you may be operating with outdated information about what brings “current you” joy. 

Imagine COVID-19 is behind us and we’re able to get together with friends again and you receive a text from a pal inviting you to go camping the following weekend. You’ve never been much of a fan – you like your bed, toilet, and the ability to pop some microwave popcorn if you get a sudden craving for it.  Consider the possibility, however, that even though you never cared for it, that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t enjoy it now.  Resist the urge to text the reflexive response of, “thanks for thinking of me, but I’ll pass” and consider going. Yes, you may still hate it. But you may enjoy it, and it would be one more activity you could add to your “bursts of joy toolbox.” If you do end up hating it, what’s the worst that could happen? You would have spent an evening or weekend doing something you didn’t really enjoy. Big deal. At least now you know. A good rule of thumb is if given the opportunity to do something you haven’t done in five or more years, give it another go, even if you didn’t really enjoy it back then. Did you like the taste of beer the first time you tried it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Consider the Unknown

Similarly, don’t assume that something you’ve never tried before because it seems stupid couldn’t possibly bring you joy. Case in point: During the quarantine back in the spring, my eight-year old asked if we could download the TikTok app. I agreed, desperate to keep her busy. Every evening before I tucked her into bed we would watch ten minutes of TikTok videos. (My trigger finger was ready to swipe past any that were inappropriate.) Our TikTok time ended up bringing us both huge bursts of joy. I never expected it to be so entertaining, but it helped add some humor to a very stressful time.

I should have anticipated what came next….a few weeks later she excitingly declared that she had a “great idea for a TikTok video for us to make!” Oh boy….I was not ready for this. But, I must admit, it turned out great. She loves planning, producing, and recording her videos. And, as it turns out, she’s really good at it! She gets so excited when she has a vision for a video and feels a ton of pride when she pulls it all together. Plus, as a bonus, she would spend hours getting each one just right, which was awesome during quarantine, because, as you will recall, those were the days when time stood still. If I wasn’t open to the possibility that this silly app could be fun, we never would have discovered those bursts. 

Think of it this way….you’re not still using the same watch or phone that you were ten years ago, are you? Of course not. Technology evolves, so it stands to reason that we do too. You’re not the same person you were a decade ago. Or five years ago. Heck, even six months ago. We’re constantly changing, and we owe it to ourselves to continuously ask what brings us joy now, instead of assuming that what used to bring it to us still does. It’s a big world out there, friend. There’s always something new to learn about who we are….if we’re paying attention. 

Now get out there and discover some new bursts of joy! 

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