Here’s a great article about specific, science-based ways to increase the joy in your life. Based on some relatively small studies, these tips range from the abstract to the hard-nosed. Take a look at the list below, then read my take on two of these tips - one gets a yes! and, one gets an I’m not so sure about that one…:
1) Allow your golden self to emerge
2) Design your life to bring in joy
3) Avoid “if only” fantasies
4) Put best friends first
5) Allow yourself to be happy
First, here’s the tip that gets a yes!: It’s the design-your-life tip (#2). One study asked women to document every single thing they did - and then, afterward, review step-by-step whether or not an activity gave them any joy at all. Some women had tears in their eyes as they realized that they disliked every single thing they did. Systematically looking to replace one activity that you dread with something that brings you joy is a great, practical tip for all of us who can get caught up in the whirlpool of daily life. Keep a diary for two days and try this experiment on yourself. How does your life stack up? Can you make a small change that will have a lasting impact on your joy habit?
Second, here’s the tip that gets an ‘I’m not so sure about that one…: The most abstract (and least science-based) tip is the let your “golden self” emerge (#1). What does this mean? The idea is that each of us has an inner nature, and happiness comes from working toward letting “the highest possible expression of his or her nature” emerge. There is considerable evidence that working towards a positive goal (especially a long-term one) can lead to an enduring sense of joy. But (perhaps I’m just a tad - ha- cynical) becoming a more extreme version of a person’s inner nature seems like it could be fraught with problems. For example, the purest version of the old Doc Gurley nature (even the good parts) might be a bit much for the world to stomach undiluted. What about you? Do you think working to expose your innermost nature, even your best parts, will lead to happiness? Agree?