November 30, 2020
by Greg Nelson, MS, LP

When life gets difficult – and we know life has been difficult in 2020 – we can still find joy in our everyday lives. And sometimes, joy actually finds us. So how do we boost the joy factor in our lives?

Joy is more than a feeling. It’s like a lingering presence of feelings such as great pleasure, delight or happiness that is infused with a dose of peacefulness. You may notice joy during a family dinner, a call from a friend, going outside, warm socks, movie night, Facetime with a grandchild, a family dinner, seeing your son or daughter score a goal, cooking to your favorite playlist, dancing in the kitchen. These are just some of the everyday experiences in which joy shows up in the moment.

Research shows that 50 percent of one’s happiness is genetic, 10 percent is affected by life circumstances and 40 percent of our happiness is within our power to affect. While happiness can be more dependent on situations and circumstances outside our control, joy stands alone. Yet by seeing the joy in our lives, we may be able to nudge the dial on happiness. 

More joyful people tend to embrace and live virtues such as gratitude, engagement, meaning and savoring.

Here’s how to boost your joy factor. 

  • Make a list. Ask yourself what you would want to be known for by the sunset of your life. For example: “She knew how to make everyday things fun.” Make a list and choose the top 5 or 6 qualities that are consistent with gratitude, engagement, meaning and savoring. Then, let these top values guide you in your decisions.
  • Develop crow’s feet. Risk a genuine smile to encourage yourself and those around you. Studies show that smiling is contagious and feels good. When a person smiles, chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are released. These chemicals help lower stress, relax the body, lower heart rate and blood pressure and act as a mood lifter.
  • Cultivate resilience. Get up when you fall and be kind to yourself when you do. Respond to difficulties in ways that reflect the values and principles that guide your life. You may need to slow things down enough to choose responses that match your most cherished values.
  • Sleep well. Develop healthy sleep hygiene that includes exercise and a dose of sunlight in the morning.
  • Be assertive in ways that match your values. Practice the art of saying no to things that are not consistent with meaning or value in your life. And, commit to the activities and involvements that fit your passion, meaning and purpose by saying yes. 
  • Savor the moments. Tune into the here and now with your senses. Take pleasure in the smell of morning coffee, the silence of falling snow, a child’s laugh, a hug, a warm bowl of chili.
  • Refuse to let your inner critic run the show. Step back to center yourself in your values, passion and purpose. When you do that, you will find more compassion for yourself.
  • Laugh often. Refuse to take yourself all that seriously.
  • Be vulnerable. In relationships of trust, risk vulnerability often. This is how to deepen your relationships and make them more meaningful and rewarding. It brings music to the dance.