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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 July 3, 2020

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

    1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

    Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

    2. Focus on your breath

    Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

    3. Get organized and purge old items

    A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

    4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

    Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

    5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

    Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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    6. Smile more

    Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

    7. Don’t worry about the future

    As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

    8. Eat real food

    The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

    9. Choose being happy over being right

    Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

    10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

    Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

    11. Make use of filtering features on social media

    You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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    12. Get comfortable with silence

    When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

    13. Listen to understand, not to respond

    So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

    14. Put your troubles in a bubble

    Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

    15. Speak more slowly

    Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

    16. Don’t procrastinate

    Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

    17. Buy a coloring book

    Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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    18. Prioritize yourself

    You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

    19. Forgive others

    Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

    20. Check your expectations

    Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

    21. Engage in active play

    Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

    22. Stop criticizing yourself

    The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

    23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

    Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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    24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

    Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

    25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

    Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

    26. Manage your money

    Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

    27. Stop trying to control everything

    Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

    28. Practice affirmations

    Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

    29. Get up before sunrise

    Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

    30. Be yourself

    Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

    Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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