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How Prioritizing Things You Enjoy Doing Can Create More Joy in Life

How Prioritizing Things You Enjoy Doing Can Create More Joy in Life

Prioritizing the things you enjoy seems like common sense. You love it, so you would choose to do it more often, right? Yet, this doesn’t seem to happen. How many of us, for instance, would say watching TV is a priority in our lives? Other than TV critics, probably very few. Still, the average American will spend nine years of their lives watching TV.

Our behavior affects our thinking. From how we sit, to the time we spend outside, we can create more opportunity for relaxation, connection, and joy in our lives.

Emotions are Responses to Actions

A few months ago, I had begun working with The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Every week, I needed to do an artist date, a commitment to spend time with myself. While self-conscious, I picked up a cheap chalk set and took it home with me. The next morning, I went outside, put on some music and began drawing. Swirling color on the asphalt, listening to music, I couldn’t stop smiling.

The drawings became larger and larger. My clothes were a mess, my hair got sweaty, but I was engrossed in the bright colors against the black. There was no ulterior motive, no pressure in how this had to look. It was just a joyful few hours. In fact, I ran out of chalk!

The craziest part of this was not that I enjoyed chalk, but that I hadn’t done it in 10 or 12 years. What was so much fun as a kid wasn’t cool as a teenager, or as an adult. So I stopped doing it. But who did that hurt? Only me. My embarrassment cut out an activity I enjoyed. Worse, it cut out the opportunity to feel joy in life.

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Emotions are responses to our experiences. Fundamentally, they are a way of keeping us safe and alive through positive responses to beneficial activities. When we’re hungry, it feels good to eat because we are nourishing our bodies. When we are burned, it hurts because it threatens our health. They are a great barometer for how our actions affect us.

When you take time to do things you enjoy, you create the opportunity to feel pleasure. You may feel self-conscious or a bit awkward initially, but you will enjoy the activity. Maybe you only crack a smile, but it’s an opening to something larger.

Joy as Your Compass

Brené Brown has done amazing research on human connection and what brings joy and meaning to people’s lives. What’s fascinating about her work though, is the need for authenticity. As human beings, we are social creatures and we need connection. But the connection we want hinges on an important factor: being ourselves. If we aren’t ourselves fully and truly, we can’t create real connections in life.

But what does it mean to be authentic? It’s a practice, it’s showing up every day and making the choice to be yourself. Authenticity isn’t something you wake up with, like freckles or long legs. It’s a practice requiring commitment.

So who is your authentic self? Is it the person you’ve fallen in to being? I know that figuring this out isn’t easy. I graduated from college three years ago, thinking I wanted to give my life in the service of others. I had grown up helping others, not thinking about myself. While noble, it took six months of living abroad to realize I wasn’t happy. It was hard to admit, but selfless service wasn’t for me.

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I had to come back to America and figure out what work made me smile, gave me joy. I discovered it right under my nose: writing. Journaling led to poetry, which led to short stories, and eventually got me a job as a copywriter. The path wasn’t easy, but I now wake up and enjoy what I do. And in my own small way, my words help people, and myself.

Your story doesn’t have to be as drastic as mine. Prioritizing the activities you enjoy can help you decide what you do and don’t like. It helps you stay rooted in yourself. The question, “Do I enjoy this?” suddenly has you looking to yourself for answers. Prioritizing your joy puts you in command of your life.

Creating Meaning in Your Life

Blue Zones teamed up with National Geographic to have some of the best researchers study longevity and what, if anything, can be found to help people live longer and better lives. They have found multiple “blue zones” in a variety of places from Japan to Southern California. Some of their findings have been hyped: movement and diet especially. More fascinating have been the social and psychological factors.

One psychological factor that all these communities shared was the need for meaning. Each of us needs to be able to answer: Why do I get up in the morning? Yes, this is a daunting question. If you haven’t thought about your priorities, then the question becomes unanswerable.

Prioritizing things you enjoy can help you find those answers, as well as keep you grounded in meaningful activities. Joy as a compass for authenticity, also helps guide you to your answers. Perhaps your priority is raising your children in a safe and loving environment. Thus, even when you’re deep in a long PTA meeting, you can remember that this meeting will help your kids. Remembering the bigger priority will help you see the silver lining, and get through a painful meeting a bit more easily.

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Letting Go of the Negative

I hate to admit it, but most mornings I wake up and check social media. A bit clichéd for a millennial, but I am addicted to the internet. More and more, however, I’m focusing on writing in my journal instead. I free write for three pages, clearing my head for the day. Change is hard, but more and more I find the benefits of writing outweigh any excitement from a Tweet or Facebook notification.

As humans, we only have so much time. In one day you work for at least eight hours, and sleep for hopefully another seven to eight. At the minimum, that’s fifteen hours of your day gone. No one can do it all, for better or worse, so as your habits change, you will let things go.

When you begin to prioritize things that make you happy, you’ll slowly let go of activities you’ve done that didn’t help you. Perhaps you’ll spend less time on social media like me. Maybe you’ll go out drinking less and start hiking more. You could even start cooking or traveling on mini trips on the weekend. Wherever joy takes you, you’ll find it easier to let go of things holding you back. You’re not depriving yourself, you’re nurturing yourself with something even better than before.

Celebrating Life

Reflections of the Earth

    The only certainties in life, Benjamin Franklin once joked, are death and taxes. While morose, this is also true. Time, of all the things we possess, is the most precious commodity. How we choose to spend it reveals more about ourselves than anything we say.

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    Life will never be easy or perfect. You will still have to pay taxes, go to work, get stuck in traffic, and make mistakes. There will be days you don’t want to get out of bed or wish that you were anywhere else. That doesn’t make your life bad, it makes you healthy, normal.

    But you have choice in your actions. You can choose to sit down and spend quality time with your kids. You can choose to go outside for a hike instead of turning on the TV. You can create pockets of joy in five or ten minutes.

    Featured photo credit: Express Monorail via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on August 21, 2018

    15 Signs You’re an Old Soul and Think Differently

    15 Signs You’re an Old Soul and Think Differently

    If you’ve often felt slightly removed from the worries of today and miss the simplistic life of a time gone by, or somehow feel a little out of sync with what your peers are concerned with, there’s a chance you may be an old soul.

    Being an old soul refers to how you view and approach life.

    Your views echo those of someone much older than you, who has lived a long and fruitful life. You approach life with a greater sense of knowledge and wisdom coupled with a greater sense of inner wealth.

    If you’ve ever met an exasperated 10 year old saying, “Kids today are so…”, or a 28 year old who says, “In my day…”, an awful lot, chances are you’re in the presence of a beautiful old soul. They’re often perplexed, and unable to relate to the things people their own age consider fun, or important, and so feel out of place.

    They look at life through a vignette of experiences they may not have lived, yet, but somehow, just seem to know.

    So if you’ve ever felt like you’ve lived before, and you have a wealth of wisdom you can’t explain, chances are you have been reincarnated—

    —or maybe, you’re just an old soul!

    Here are some tell-tale signs to help you find out if you’re an old soul.

    1. You know there’s another way to do things.

    You often say things like, “I have a feeling this will work”, or “there’s no harm in trying.” People may view your suggestions as outdated or done, but you know that sometimes, just sometimes, the tried and tested ways of doing things are best. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

    You feel that not all problems require a new and innovative solution, and going round in circles when the answer may be staring you in the face is usually a waste of valuable time, and energy.

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    You have no problem trying out new things, but know, too, that oldies can also be goodies.

    2. You give advice well beyond your years.

    You somehow seem to know how to do things you haven’t even done yourself yet. It’s like you’ve lived before, and just know how it all works. People often look at you with that “how do you know?” expression, and you respond with a confident, “I just know!”

    Truth is, you do just know, but don’t know how you know. Those people who come to you for advice, though somewhat freaked out by your amazing prophetic powers to impressively offer solutions and predict outcomes, trust you wholeheartedly and don’t doubt your authenticity.

    3. You like to think things through.

    Even the most impatient of people will need to think things through if they are an old soul at heart. You need that time to maul it over in your head.

    It’s an important part of your to-do process, and it enables you to move forward in the direction most in sync with your mind, body and soul.

    To you, not being able to think things through, even a little, leaves you feeling uneasy, and that does nothing to help.

    4. You don’t waste time asking why.

    After you’ve thought things through, you move ahead, confident in the knowledge that you’ve done all you needed to do to get going.

    You don’t waste time in trying to justify it to yourself or anyone else. You have little time and patience for the nonsensical and would prefer to utilize your time getting things done, rather than sitting around talking about getting things done.

    In the end, you understand that whatever you do, you trust that all things work out just as they are supposed to, and you don’t want to question that wonderful process.

    5. You don’t like to go out just for the sake of going out.

    It’s quality over quantity for you. You love to go out and have fun, but going out because others feel it is required, or you look boring if you don’t, holds no merit for you.

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    When you go out, you’d like to experience something; something that resonates with your way of perceiving the world and challenges you.

    You’ll happily spend money on those things that give you wonderful experiences and broaden your horizons. Going out just because, seems pointless to you; you’d rather save your time, and money, and do something of quality.

    6. You have an appreciation for old literature.

    You respect the classics. You’re often found getting euphorically high off old books. You’ve probably sniffed a good few old books in your time, and you don’t care who sees.

    For you, old literature should be respected and valued; they hold history and historical experience between their pages and deserve to be exalted.

    7. You have old ears.

    You love and appreciate the classics and have a longing for the musicality of those nostalgic tunes. Your record (that’s right, record!) collection looks like a retro music store. Probably only 10% of your collection consists of what you refer to as “nowadays” music, the rest are from decades gone by.

    You know only a handful of today’s artists, and that’s only because you haven’t heard an album yet to rival your favorite Grateful Dead album, or your favorite Frank Sinatra track.

    You don’t go out of your way to avoid modern music, it just doesn’t seem to whet your appetite. So you’ll happily pump your beloved Janis Joplin or Nat King Cole all the way home. Heaven!

    8. You see no need in being unnecessarily stressed.

    You don’t invite drama just because it makes you feel alive, no, you’d much prefer to live without it.

    You appreciate the quiet, and invite peace. It’s become apparent to you that the world views stress and busyness as being productive.

    But you know that being productive has nothing to do with being crazy busy or stressed, but everything to do with how well you utilize your time.

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    So you’re mindful about what you spend your hours doing, and make sure your doing something worthwhile, and not just keeping busy for busy sake.

    9. You love to meet new people.

    To you, talking to people is enriching and adds to your experience of the world. This isn’t because you just can’t help chit chatting, but more so because you are genuinely fascinated by those you share this planet with, who can offer different perspectives.

    You love being able to swap stories with people you’ve only just met. Plus, it also serves to make those trips to the bank all the more interesting!

    10. You value deep connections.

    For you, it’s all about quality over quantity. You require a deeper connection with those around you in order to feel any connection at all.

    Half-hearted friendships, surface-level relationships and fly-by-night hook-ups are not your thing. You value the essence of deeper friendships and long lasting relationships, as you give yourself wholly to them, too.

    11. You love learning.

    Nothing gets you going more than learning more about yourself, other people and the world around you.

    For you learning is growth, and growth is part of life. As an old soul, you approach learning from the understanding that it doesn’t have to lead anywhere, for example, a degree or certificate.

    Sure, those things are great and offer a sense of accomplishment, but for you it’s the act of learning something new and wonderful that motivates you, not the initials after your name!

    12. You don’t see the fuss about the latest craze.

    Following others just to fit in? Where’s the fun in that? To you, being a style chaser or tech follower is something you can never quite get your head around.

    Sure you may even own a Kindle or you may have an iPad, but now they sit there, gathering dust, because you miss the feel (and smell) or the real thing, and computer works just fine.

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    You don’t really care whether you’re an early adopter or a late comer. None of the things defines you, and you’re okay with that.

    13. You value the company of those much older than you.

    You want to drink in their wisdom and you hang on their every word as they tell you stories of their youth. You laugh at their accounts of old trends, and cry at the war stories, you reminisce with them about long lost loves, and actually listen to their pearls of wisdom.

    At a time when we seem to have less and less time for the more mature among us, the old soul has nothing but time to give. That’s because you appreciate what they have to share, and let’s be honest, you secretly wish for a time when life seemed so simple.

    14. You are the epitome of calm.

    You are the steadfast one, the one neither swayed, nor toppled, even in a crisis. You probably say things like, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” and tell people to “Get a grip!”

    To everyone else, you appear disconnected, but to those who know you well, you’re actually hard at work, you just work differently.

    You’ve learned that nothing actually gets done if everyone is running around losing their heads; someone needs to be the calm force. This is just how you make sense of what is happening.

    You stop. Wait. Listen. Then decide what steps to take next.

    15. You truly understand what it means to give.

    To you, there’s no better way to live, than to give.

    Giving your time, or money or those things you simply have no need for is the most rewarding thing anyone can do with their short time on earth. It isn’t an ego thing, far from it.

    For you, giving is the purest act of love. Plus, you see no point in holding on to things you cant take with you, so you’re more than happy to travel light!

    Featured photo credit: Portrait of fashionable well dressed man with beard posing outdoors looking away, confident and focused mature man in coat standing outside at sunny evening, elegant fashion model via shutterstock.com

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