When our circumstances are hard, it can be challenging to feel joyful in the moment. In the past two years, life has felt heavy. Our routines have been uprooted, the sociopolitical climate has been intense, and many have struggled to find their new normal. If you are struggling right now, you’re not alone! One of our missions at Red Leaf is to build a community of people who are committed to pursuing their best selves, and that extends to mental and emotional health. We want to be a source of positivity, hope, and encouragement for you during this unique season of life. Keep reading for our tips to find joy in everyday life, regardless of what it is throwing at you.
The two most important things to remember when you’re trying to adjust your outlook on life is to 1) start small and 2) only focus on what you can control. If you try to find joy in things that are outside of your control or expect to change too much all at once, you’ll likely find yourself disappointed. With that in mind, here are some of the ways that we seek to find joy in everyday life.
Set a time limit on social media. Comparison is the thief of joy so if you find yourself struggling to be satisfied with your own life, it may help to limit how much you’re looking at others’. If you are spending more time than usual scrolling your feed, try adjusting your settings to add an actual time limit. Give yourself 30 minutes per day to scroll and then be disciplined to adhere to your limits. You may notice how much time you are wasting doing meaningless activities when you could be pursuing other things that bring you more joy.
Call or text someone you love. If it’s been a while since you reached out to a loved one, pick up the phone to see how they’re doing and let them know you’re thinking about them. One of the best ways to experience joy is to be a source of joy for others. You never know entirely what your people are going through- a simple text or call to say how much you care can make a big difference in someone’s day when they’re hurting. Plus, it just feels good to make people feel good!
Take a 15 minute walk outside. Some days we have more time to invest in ourselves than others, but even on your busiest day, try to spend at least 15 minutes outside. If you can swing 30, even better. Taking time away from our screens each day to be out in nature is important for grounding us and helping us feel present. Let the sun shine on your face, observe the beauty around you, and be fully in the moment. Just reading that instantly helps me breathe a little easier. Do you agree?
Perform a random act of kindness. Studies have shown that giving, whether time, money or talents, often has an equally positive impact on the giver as it does the recipient. That’s not why you should give; it’s just true! If you can sacrifice some of what you have to help someone else, even when you’re feeling down, you may find your cup is filled in the process! This doesn’t have to be a big thing, either. If you notice one of your colleagues is struggling, leave them a positive note on their desk or send a kind email to brighten their day. If your spouse is also in the dumps, make their favorite meal for dinner as a surprise. If someone in your community is going through a hard season, be the support they didn’t ask for but needed. Being there for people is one of the best ways to find joy in everyday life.
Get out of your head. One of the greatest things about the age we live in is our access to resources that help us better understand our own minds. Mental health has never been as big a conversation topic as it is today, and while that is incredibly important, it has its drawbacks. Self-awareness is where healing starts, but spending too much time in our heads overanalyzing our lives can lead to indecision, anxiety, and extreme negativity. Try spending 15 – 30 minutes per day journaling your thoughts and evaluating your feelings. When the time is up, move on to your next task and hold yourself accountable to focus on what’s currently happening, not on the inner workings of your mind. You may find joy in simply being present and not taking yourself too seriously, despite how your circumstances may make you feel.
Exercise. Elle Woods said it best, so we’ll quote her, “Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” She’s right. Exercise is one of the quickest ways to brighten even the cloudiest of days. When we exercise, our brains release endorphins, dopamine, and other happy chemicals that help reduce stress and anxiety. So if you find yourself wanting to hole up on the couch with a blanket and some snacks, what you may really need to boost your mood is a workout. That doesn’t mean you have to go crank out a leg day or run six miles. Even a thirty minute walk or stretching session could make all the difference in your day.
Eat nutritiously. Following the previous recommendation is to eat well. Heavily processed foods are loaded with chemicals that have negative effects on our gut and hormonal health. If you’re already feeling down in the dumps, the last thing you need is to overindulge in more of the stuff bringing you down to start. Try to look at it as treating yourself with what your body both wants and needs to thrive, versus eating healthy because you have to.
Protect your time. Your time is precious. Evaluate your activities and identify which are bringing you joy and which are draining you. Certain frustrating things are out of our control and in those situations, we have to work through them as best we can. But if there are activities (or people) in your life that are draining you regularly, and you have the capacity to change your situation, this is your sign to do it! So many things compete for our time and attention. Help yourself out by minimizing the unpleasant tasks within your control that zap your joy.
Change your perspective. Perspective is where acceptance and opportunity meet. Sometimes we can’t change our circumstances so if all our hope and joy is set on certain outcomes, people or achievements, we are going to have a hard time being joyful. If you want to find more joy in your everyday life, start with your perspective. In the movie About Time, the time-traveling father bestows his time-traveling son this advice: live today and then live that same day again tomorrow and do everything exactly the same. The only thing the father says to change is his son’s perspective. He challenges him to look at everything that happened in a new light. To recognize that the things that were irritating him had a flip side that he wasn’t acknowledging when he was caught up in the day’s negativity. Certain things in our lives are just hard. That’s all there is to it. So if we can’t change those hard things, all we can do is take our thoughts captive, put one foot in front of the other, and look for the good in our lives. Even if we turn up disappointed, we keep soldiering on looking for the bright side. Literally. Look at the sun! Even that small choice can turn a negative thought around in an instant. Remember, you ARE in control of your thought life even when your life circumstances feels out of control.
Finding joy in our current culture can be challenging. The world is dark, many of us feel lost and out of sorts, and life is heavy. But just because that’s true doesn’t mean we have to let it steal our joy! We hope you’ll try some of these practices and let us know how they impact your mindset in the comments below. If you’re hurting a little extra right now, check out some of the mental health services available to you online like Better Help, call a friend you trust, pray or meditate, and give yourself a little squeeze from us. You can do hard things and it will get better. We believe in you!