Have you noticed the explosion of books and articles on happiness in the past decade? No doubt it’s great that we’re getting expert advice on such an important topic. My problem with the idea of chasing happiness, though, is that it implies that we can reach a permanent blissed-out state.
The reality of life is that it’s full of ups and downs. What’s more, I’ve found periods of struggle and unhappiness, when I had to face my Shadow, were extraordinarily transformative. I’m so glad I didn’t try to avoid them.
However, I have found great value in a daily practice that is simple, straightforward, free of charge (or almost), and brings me happiness ... I seek out joy!
Joy is temporary, yet always accessible, no matter how dark your circumstances may be. And it's amazing how tapping into joy, even for just a few moments, can boost your mood and remind you that life is a gift. Suffering may be inevitable, but JOY is a choice! Here are 40 ways to practice joy:
1. Talk like a pirate, ARRRRR!
Corollary: Dress up like a pirate, too. Costumes free us to be silly.
2. Go barefoot.
Feel the grass between your toes. Connect with Mother Earth.
To work or school or the grocery store. It will bring a smile to your lips and those around you.
Go to a playground and hop on the swings, the slide, and the merry-go-round. Or bust out a board game at home.
5. Listen to the wisdom of your elders.
They have so much to share, and yet we rarely take the time to pay attention.
6. Cheerlead someone to greatness.
One of the keys to joy is realizing it’s not all about you.
7. Take a staycation.
Stay home from work for a day or two and just chill. I recommend telling everyone else in your life that you’re going away.
8. Speak to yourself with kindness.
Say out loud five times: “I am more than enough.” The Dalai Lama once said that not feeling good enough is the great curse of Western culture. Value yourself and others will value you.
9. Check out some cute animal pics online.
Sites like CuteOverload.com will make your heart melt.
10. Give back.
Spend a day volunteering at your children’s school, a homeless shelter, or a retirement home.
11. Blow bubbles.
Remember how enchanting they were when you were a kid?
12. Hug a tree.
They need our love, too.
13. Spend some reflective time alone.
Whether or not you meditate regularly, you can always take a few minutes to move away from others, turn off music, put down your smartphone, and enjoy total silence.
14. Make a playlist, then listen to it.
The power of music to transform our mood is proven and profound.
15. Pause to say “thank you” ... and really mean it.
Surely there is someone in your life to whom you can offer gratitude: your spouse, a barista, the mail delivery person, a colleague.
16. Do something that gets you messy.
Fingerpaint. Make mud pies. Roll around in the grass. Splash in puddles.
17. Offer to cook a meal for others.
Put love into the food as you prepare it. View it as an act of service.
18. Have a good, long cry.
Let go. Release your frustration, anger and sadness through tears.
19. Name 10 things you’re grateful for right now.
C’mon, I know you can do it!
20. Make someone smile.
Tell a joke, be silly, or just smile at a stranger. Chances are, they’ll smile back.
21. Look at photos from a vacation you loved.
According to research by Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker, focusing on happy memories brings up positive emotions.
22. Give someone a zerbert.
Hug your partner, child, parent, friend in tight, then plant your wet lips on their arm or stomach and blow!
23. Take a day off from technology.
Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain does this weekly practice with her family: They turn off all technology for 24 hours and focus on just being with each other and nature.
24. Sing along to a happy tune.
Out loud. In your car, in the shower, or walking down the street. Don’t by shy. Belt it out!
Pick a drawer. Take everything out of it, throw or give away the stuff you don’t need, and put the rest back in the drawer. If that seems easy, take on a closet or entire room.
26. Re-gift something.
Just be sure you don’t give it the person who gave it to you!
27. Learn to say hello, good-bye, and thank you in another language.
Sometimes we forget to keep learning as we grow older. Other options include doing a crossword puzzle or playing Sudoku.
28. Reconnect with an old friend.
Remember that pal from college who took you skinny dipping for the first time? Reach out and say hi.
29. Dress in brightly-colored clothes.
Why do we always wear such drab clothing? Make a statement.
30. Download a farting app or buy a whoopee cushion and go to town Hilarious.
Trust me, I kept my 4 year-old niece entertained for hours with iFart.
31. Give yourself a crazy hairdo
Braids! A faux-hawk! Temporary hair dye! The possibilities are endless.
32. Take a chance on a dream.
Think of whatever it is that you’ve always said you’ll do “when there’s time.” Start making a plan for how you’ll achieve it today. Every journey starts with a single step.
33. Practice seeing the world in shades of gray.
Life isn’t black and white. Even those who hurt you are suffering. Reminding yourself of this helps let go of resentments and frustrations.
34. Have a “NO to-do list” day.
35. Take action to nurture your physical health.
It’s so much easier to feel joy when we’re healthy. Exercise, eat fresh foods and get a good night’s rest.
36. Call someone just to say “I love you.”
Even better, do it in person.
37. Connect with nature.
Go for a hike. Watch a sunrise or sunset. Sit by a body of water. Smell the flowers. Listen to the birds. Nature is such a blessing.
38. Snuggle up.
Get cozy with a pet, partner, or child. Physical touch releases endorphins that instantly make us feel happier.
Dance, run, twirl, leap, do a somersault or a handstand. Get your heart pumping and your body into action.
No matter how much you want or imagine yourself to be, you’re not in charge. It’s a relief, actually.
I’d love for you to join in the fun, contributing your ideas. Just tweet, post to Facebook, or share on other social media with the hashtag #40DaysofJoy.
MeiMei Fox is the published author, co-author, ghostwriter, and freelance editor of numerous nonfiction health, wellness, spirituality, and psychology books. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors and distinction from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in psychology. She also holds an M.A. in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is a certified yoga instructor. Fox has worked on over a dozen books, and co-wrote New York Times bestsellers Bend, Not Break with Ping Fu, and Fortytude with Sarah Brokaw. She has edited a book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and was expedition writer for Alexandra Cousteau's 2009 Expedition: Blue Planet. Currently, she sits on the board of the HOPE Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping street kids in Calcutta, India.