A Shot of Joy

Embracing your right to happiness can brighten your daily life.
Feb 06, 2013

Joy may seem like an abstract, even touchy-feely concept, but it’s not. It’s a very practical lifestyle choice, a “glass half full” state of mind that allows you to focus on the gift in every situation — even annoying or sad ones. The kind of joy I’m talking about is something you can see, hear, and feel.

It makes perfect sense — the more joy you create, the more alive, inspired, and playful you’ll be. It feels way better than being cranky or even just ambivalent, and many scientists say joyfulness can actually help you live longer. Plus, just being happy is a great way to teach your kids about a positive outlook. Here are six suggestions to make each day brighter than the last.

  1. Recognize your power to choose. Many of us feel like the things we do to keep the house running or to get to work are mandatory. When you realize that you have choices, you’ll feel more positive and powerful. For a week, justify your actions — out loud, on paper, or in your head. If it seems like you make Friday snacks for your son’s class because it’s your duty, you might find that the real reason you do it is that you like being involved in his classroom, and the time you spend preparing these treats provides you peace and quiet.
  2. Feel free to say no more often. You're a kind, thoughtful, and caring person, but you’re also a busy one — you are a mom, after all. When a friend or colleague asks you to make a commitment you can’t fit into your schedule (or simply have no interest in), politely refuse. You don’t have to say “yes” when you really mean “no.” Turning down these requests helps you stay true to yourself and gives you more time to focus on what counts — like playing with your kids.
  3. Use your strengths — and weaknesses. Nine times out of ten, your strengths will work to your advantage, whether you’re good at being a caregiver, making strong decisions, providing answers, or calming things down. But every once in a while, the behavior most familiar to you can do you a disservice. Next time you hit a roadblock, and your attempts to bust through aren’t working, try doing the opposite of what you typically do and see where it takes you.
  4. Love yourself. It’s not arrogant or selfish to be good to yourself — it’s common sense. It also allows you to be more giving. When you’re at peace with yourself, you can give from your heart. Imagine the way you treat a small child: You speak kindly; you’re forgiving; you acknowledge and praise her for what she does well. Treat yourself the same way.
  5. Consider your dreams. Sometimes a gap opens up between what you think or want and what you actually do. This is the space between your dreams and your real life. By closing that gap, you’ll feel more satisfied and discover exciting new possibilities. Take the Joy Quotient Quiz online to find out where your biggest gaps are and how you can close them at michelleinc.com/quiz/about.
  6. Joy it on! That’s my way of saying, “Pay it forward.” Do little things for others to boost their spirits. Smile; hold the door; share encouragement; say “thank you” with sincerity. Sure, it’s simple, but it’s powerful. When you do this in an honest and authentic way, you can transport people out of a bad moment and into their own place of joy. The key is to expect nothing in return. Nada. People sense your good intentions, feel honored, and pass along those sweet spirits — which will come right back to you.
Raising Kids