My nine-year-old is having the best year of her life. She has a fantastically-quirky teacher who doesn’t give homework, her besties are in her class, and her beloved soccer season is in full swing. Life is good, and the girl is oozing joy. She literally glides around, singing and dancing, giggling in spite of herself. She twinkles. She effervesces like a fizzy glass of sparkling apple cider.
And then, there’s the rest of the family, plodding along like depressed hippos, dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning for YET ANOTHER DAY. My twelve-year-old is especially crabby, riding the tormented waves of hormonal madness.
Inspired by my daughter’s happy aura, I asked her to make a picture to hang in my office. In between turning cartwheels and singing an opera version of “My Country Tis of Thee,” she made me a rainbow-and-heart-infused sign that said, “CHOOSE JOY.”
I put it smack in front of my face on my office wall so that I can remind myself throughout the day, “choose joy choose joy choose joy choose joy.” When I start to go the way of the depressed hippo, I will myself to take a deep breath and channel my joyful child.
That’s the thing. Once we leave the happy cocoon of childhood, joy really is a choice.
I, for one, need frequent reminders to choose joy (doom can be so darn comfy). Here are six simple ways to cultivate happy vibes into our daily lives.
- Count Your Blessings: Gratitude has long been recognized as a way to raise our spirits and improve our mental health. We can take a moment each day to list three simple things for which we are grateful. For me, today, I’m thankful for my supportive husband (who does the laundry!), the Armchair Expert podcast, and the golden light in the morning as the sun starts to rise. If you take a minute to notice, blessings and beauty surround us all the time.
- Pick Your Battles: I love a good battle, but peace is so much more joyful. Sometimes, the fight is just not worth it. If it’s not that important to you, let it go. Case in point: if you’ve been married for fifteen years, and your husband has never replaced the garbage bag after he takes out the trash, at this point, it’s not worth the battle. Also, if your joyful nine-year-old likes to wear the same shorts to school every single day, I suggest letting it go.
- Make a Connection: We thrive on human connection. I am a solid introvert, but even I need to be around people on the regular. It makes us feel good to connect with others; it’s a reminder that we’re not alone, and we’re all struggling in our own ways. Sometimes, we have to step outside of ourselves and consciously connect with others. Ask a friend to lunch, have a real conversation with a colleague, invite a neighbor to go on a walk.
- Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is crucial to our joy. There is no joy on five hours of sleep. Once the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, it’s so tempting to stay up late to enjoy the silence. But eight or nine hours of sleep is equivalent to throwing magical pixie dust all over your day. Instead of watching that extra episode of “Bachelor in Paradise,” go to bed.
- Let Go of Things You Can’t Control: There is no greater joy-smasher than getting ourselves into a knot over a situation that we are powerless to change. In my previous job, I was constantly in a tizzy over the choices that my superiors made. However, the healthy mantra should have been: “Not My Circus.” If you can’t change something, you just have to let it go. (Or get a new job, which is what I did). Remember this: everything is a learning experience. Sometimes, you just have sit back, observe, and let things unfold.
- Change Your Thoughts: Our inner dialogue is crucial to our inner joy. Sometimes, I pummel and wallop myself black and blue in my mind, always with a theme of, “Girl, you are not enough.” Everything flows from self-love. If we are constantly beating ourselves up verbally, we will never walk in the light. We have to catch ourselves and flip those thoughts around.
The best news of all: joy is always within us, ready for the taking. We can choose to connect with that blissful inner child; she intuitively knows how to let the rest of the world fall away and just immerse herself in pure joy. Whatever makes our hearts happy, we can follow that path steadfastly. Regardless, whatever path we are on, may we sing, dance, and twinkle like a carefree, cartwheel-turning nine-year-old.