Have you ever met someone who radiates joy? They are positive, happy and upbeat and seem to be truly enjoying and thankful for life. It’s hard not to pause and notice.
It’s easy to assume they were just born with some rare personality trait you don’t have and that’s where their joy comes from. Or maybe they have more resources, more friends, a better job, a more loving spouse… an easier life? What if happiness, contentment and joy aren’t feelings based on our circumstances but are instead something we can cultivate from within?
The reason why some live more joyfully than others is because they are intentional to cultivate more joy in their lives. That starts by recognizing and being grateful for the little things that make life wonderful. Gratitude is simply the state of being grateful, but in today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to forget all we have to be thankful for. Like waking up today, being able to walk to your car, having a roof over your head, a warm meal, being able to fold your children’s laundry… and even having the ability to have children. The list goes on and on.
How Gratitude Impacts Your Health:
Practicing gratitude doesn’t just improve your mood, outlook and relationships, it’s been shown to positively impact your overall health. Dr. Mark Hyman writes “Gratitude is also linked to better sleep” and has been “found to improve psychological health by reducing toxic emotions like envy and regret. When it comes to physical health, grateful people have been found to have fewer aches and pains and take better care of themselves in general.”
Now that you know why gratitude matters, here are three simple steps you can start today that will lead to more feelings of joy in your life.
Three Ways to Practice Gratitude:
1. Allow Yourself to Stop and Feel Grateful
It can feel like there is never enough time to get everything done, much less take time to pause and be grateful. But one simple, practical way to be more joyful is to allow yourself to feel grateful in a good moment. The next time someone gives you a compliment or your child thanks you for helping with homework or you see a beautiful sunset… Allow yourself to soak in the feelings that come with rather than moving on right away. Taking a minute to appreciate and savor these things when they happen will help you create feelings of joy right then.
2. Write in a Gratitude Journal Daily
I’ve talked before about how impactful a gratitude journal can be when creating a success mindset and when becoming more mindful. And again, it’s the perfect way to cultivate more joy in your everyday life because it’s a simple practice that can produce big results. All you need are five minutes of quiet time and a place to jot down some notes. Challenge yourself to make a list of five things you’re grateful for in that moment. Nothing is off limits either – you can be grateful for anything from friends and family to good health to your new comfy pajamas. This exercise is just a way to get your mind to stop and recognize the little things that make you happy.
Pro Tip: I love The Happiness Planner, which has 100 open-dated pages for reflection and goal-setting. It helps me to keep my mind on positive thoughts which leads to more positive results.
3. Share Your Gratitude with Others
Through using a gratitude journal, you may find yourself noting people you are grateful to have in your life. TELL THEM. It doesn’t matter if it’s a text, email, call or letter. Letting people know you are grateful for them not only makes you feel even more joyful, it spreads the joy to others. The more positive affirmations you give, the more of a positive change you’ll see in your life. And these affirmations can be for truly impactful things people have done for you, but it can also be as simple as letting your spouse know you’re grateful he unloaded the dishwasher that day. People love feeling appreciated and noticed, and this step will get you on the path to acknowledging your appreciation for those you love.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop
Engaging in acts of kindness also reduces your stress levels by lowering your cortisol, reduces your blood pressure, improves your mood and releases the feel-good hormones in the brain called endorphins. Practicing kindness is a lot like weight training where you can build up your “compassion” muscle over time. And kindness is also contagious.