Exactly How To Feel More Joy In Your Life—In 7 Days or Less

Photo:Stocksy/Katerina Kouzmitcheva; Graphic: W+G Creative
What if, this January, you ignored all the voices telling you what you “should be” and instead focused on finding the healthful habits that feel right for *you*? With ReNew Year, the only thing we’re detoxing from is a restrictive mindset. Pick a goal—movement, food, self care, or all three—and hit refresh. Get the Program

The world has a way of keeping us busy and leading us to speed past moments of accomplishment, good news, and even joy in order to move on to whatever’s “next.” But, with so much unavoidable sadness and suffering that we’re all bound to experience in our lives, it’s important that we take the time to acknowledge and focus on those happiness-boosting magical moments.

I, too, have been prone to speeding past the small moments of joy, so I’ve learned to sit with my feelings in good times to help ensure they really count. Now, I am always working to feel more joy and happiness, and it’s important to me that I build room for these emotions into everything that I do.

What does it look like when we focus on good days as often as—or, better yet, more than—bad ones? How can we embed play into our adult lives? To help you learn how to feel more joy and center happiness in your life, this week’s self-care-focused plan hinges on tips for pursuing, capturing, and basking in positive moments, small and large.

Day 8: Watch a movie

Ask a friend for movie recommendations and watch something you’ve never heard of. Sometimes removing choice can unlock freedom (bye, never-ending Netflix scroll!) You can also look at curated film websites to help you land on something new to you—Black Film Archive is my favorite destination for this; I recently watched Black Girl, a Senegalese film from 1966. Watch alone, or watch with a friend.

Day 9: Focus on play

Today, think like a child. It’s important to center the ease of happiness. Go to a park and play with a friend—frisbee, kickball, a snowball fight, or whatever else sounds like fun. Really let loose! You can also stay inside and put a puzzle together, build a fort, or watch something silly that reminds you of your childhood. My favorite practice for facilitating this type of joyful nostalgia is re-creating my childhood Saturday mornings with cereal and Pixar shorts.

Day 10: Make a playlist

Make a playlist of different songs that bring you joy, and send them to someone you care about. The playlist can be a mix of themes, something seasonal, or it may even contain a secret message. I enjoy creating playlists of my favorite podcast episodes or designing a playlist that caters to a creative spark. Try creating a playlist of songs from a genre different than what you typically enjoy and listen to it with friends over dinner or when the daylight is shining on your skin.

Day 11: Dance

Put on your favorite tunes and dance for a song or two, even if you don’t feel like it. Doing so stands to boost your mood and may support brain health as you age. You can use a playlist you made yourself, or find a premade option on a platform like NTS. Then, as they say, dance like nobody's watching. If you need inspiration, check out the LA Dance Project to learn from professional choreographers, or even try out the following beginner dance-cardio video from Amanda Kloots.

Day 12: Talk to a friend

Call up or hang out with a friend—no texting allowed. Talking with your voice, as opposed to communicating through text, can facilitate a stronger sense of connection, which in turn can set the stage for joyful moments.

Shake up your typical flow of conversation by doing something together you typically don’t. Maybe you could each keep a dream journal and then share your entries with one another. Or, if your schedules don’t align and you can’t chat live, use voice notes to send each other personalized messages. Perhaps you even try playing 20 questions via voice notes. We often call our friends to share big or emotional news, so consider how to feel more joy as a result of mundane yet spontaneous exchanges like catching up with a buddy.

Day 13: Have a thoughtful night out

Grab a friend or two for a night out that feels more intentional than the usual bar or restaurant scene. Plan a game or trivia night, go to see a screening of a campy movie, or visit a new exhibition at a museum, like this one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City—taking COVID-19 precautions into consideration, of course. The key is to go out together, since connecting with others can bring about joy. Leave yourselves time to reflect upon and talk about the activity you chose, too—this is an evening to be savored.

Day 14: Find the sun

This week you've challenged yourself in different ways, but one of the simplest goals I want you to aim for today (and every day, TBH) is to find some sunshine. Sun exposure helps trigger the release of serotonin, the brain's feel-good hormone. Catching some rays can look like going on a walk, waking up early to spend some alone time in nature, or—in case of overcast weather—firing up a phototherapy lamp that mimics sunlight. Let yourself soak up some sun, and don't be surprised to see your mood brighten in turn.

Looking to hit refresh on your healthy habits this January? Check out our full 2022 ReNew Year program for expert-led plans for sustainable eating, exercise, and self-care routines. 

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