If you suffer from long-term feelings of loss, sadness, depression, anger, or any other emotion that leaves you apathetic and drained of energy, I ask you to love yourself enough to see a professional. Whether you turn to your primary care physician or a therapist, what’s important is that you take the important first step in feeling better.
For those who suffer occasional feelings of “being down” sometimes all you need is a gentle reminder for how to feel better. In my role as a life coach, I’ve become an expert at helping people feel better. If you’re looking for a dose of happy feelings, here are three ways to joy-up your life!
1) Become a joy-seeker
In her book Abundance of Joy: How to Live a Joy-Filled Life, Helen Martino-Baily dedicates an entire chapter to “Spotting Joy”. In it she writes that people are not very skilled at looking for things to make them feel better.
Too many times our eyes are focused on our personal problems, often blaming others for the lack of joy that we feel. The truth is, other people play a part in our joyful experiences, but it’s not up to others to make us feel joyful. Living life with joy is our own responsibility!
To shift this perspective, Martino-Bailey suggests an exercise of joy-spotting, the mindful practice of looking for anything around you that delights your heart. When you see something that makes you smile, she suggests that you imprint an image of the moment in your mind. That way when you think about it later, you can easily experience the good feelings again.
Another expert on joy-spotting is author Shann Vander Leek, the founder of True Balance International, and the co-founder of Anxiety Slayer. On her blog, she describes the art of joy-spotting as “cultivating keen awareness of the great and crushing beauty that is all around you.” That practice has helped Shann become more present to experience moments of joy.
I cherish experiences like watching the sunset over Lake Michigan, spotting a Bald Eagle flying over northern skies, or the sound of my sweet Mulan kitty purring her face off. I adore listening to my daughter laugh and witnessing my husband create something new with great care. I love adding paint to an empty canvas and love to enjoy a peaceful nap on a weekend afternoon. These are the precious moments of being alive.
Like any daily practice, over time your mind will become trained to look for such moments of joy and delight. And that adds up to a lot more happy moments.
When you slow down and actively seek to be in the moment, what can you see that delights your heart?
2) Speak gently to yourself (and others)
One of the most telling indicators that define how you feel about yourself is how you speak about yourself. Identifying where you have pockets of doubt in your belief system will enable you to understand, at the deepest levels, how much love you have for yourself and the life you have been given.
As a life coach, self-love is another one of those important transformational topics for clients. For example, I write about how negative self-talk can derail you in How to Put the Brakes on Self Sabotage. I talk about the actual energy that thoughts create and take you all the way back to Plato in Keep it Positive: How Thoughts Create Energy.
Like the process of practicing gratitude, there is scientific evidence around the benefits of thinking positively about yourself and the world around you — namely, improved health. In fact, the Mayo Clinic cites that positive self-talk can:
- Increase life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Increase resistance to the common cold
- Enhance psychological and physical well-being
- Reduce risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Expand coping skills during hardships and times of stress
So how do you move from negative self-talk to leveraging the power of positive self-love? As an example, let’s say you missed a deadline. In your frustration, you might say, “I’m a complete failure!” Or if you neglect to exercise for the fourth week in a row and are feeling totally put out with yourself, you might say, “I’ll never get into shape.”
If what you hear yourself saying is disempowering and negative, you are allowing negative self-talk to limit the joy you experience. The good news is that it’s easy to eliminate negative self-talk once you realize you are falling into that trap.
When you catch yourself thinking or mumbling something negative, stop yourself. Gently acknowledge those thoughts are coming from old programming. Remind yourself that you are in the process of transforming to a more joyful life. Then say what you want to believe. For example, “If I explain to my manager that I’m managing multiple projects with pressing deadlines, I’m sure she will give me an extension.” Or, “I’m sure that if I look at alternative exercise programs, such as group walking, I will feel excited and motivated to exercise.”
Once you eradicate the habit of negative self-talk, you’ll begin to feel increasingly positive. What’s more, once you think, speak, and feel better about yourself, your positive perspective enhances your emotional connection and good-will toward others.
What negative self-talk will you eliminate? What loving, supportive language will you replace it with?
3) Play often
Even I don’t play nearly as often as I should, but the benefits of adult play are numerous. According to the article The Benefits of Play for Adults from HealthGuide.org, a non-profit dedicated to mental health and well-being, the benefits of adult play include:
- Stress relief. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Improved brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
- Enhanced creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun, and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.
- Improved relationships. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
- Sustained youthfulness and energy. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.
Adults stop playing for lots of reasons. Maybe you feel that playing is a waste of time and that you should be doing something “productive” instead.
Maybe you think #playing is only for children and that, as an adult, you should act grown-up all of the time. NOT!
— sheila callaham (@SheilaCallaham) May 28, 2015
Here’s the deal. Playing is as important to adults as it is to children. It’s not about “doing something” it’s about doing nothing so you can be joyfully in the moment, as Gavin Pretor-Piney claims in his 2013 TedGlobal lecture titled “Cloudy with a chance of Joy.” As the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, with more than 38 thousand members from 113 countries, Pretor-Pinney is an expert on the art of doing nothing. For him, cloud-spotting is the perfect activity to disconnect from the digital world and slow down.
I must confess, just last weekend hubby and I shared a double hammock to watch the clouds float by. He was better at seeing shapes than I was — the bucking horse, the sly fox. But once he pointed them out, I allowed my imagination to take over so that I, too, saw the beautiful portraits in the sky.
All this to say that playing can be many things. Tag football, board games, swinging at the park, playing with children and dogs, and yes… just laying back and watching the clouds float by.
What kind of play will you make time for in the days and weeks to come?
Ever since launching the first book in my self-empowerment series, The Power of Living Joyfully, and creating a Facebook page dedicated to sharing joyful moments, I’m becoming a joy expert. I find myself blogging about joy, coaching clients exclusively toward joy, and seeking even more of it in my life. Not a bad gig, if I say so myself! If you know someone who could benefit from a good dose of happy feelings, I hope you will share this post with them. Let’s join together and make the world a happier place, one joy-seeker at a time.