9 Simple Ways to Find Lasting Joy in Your Life
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
Would you consider yourself a joyful person?
Would you like to learn how to have lasting joy?
The Power of Purpose
Living with a purpose is one of the keys to finding lasting joy in life. Having a purpose may help bring your life into focus and may even inspire you to bring joy to others.
Carol Ryff, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, has studied purpose and characterizes it as a psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior. In her research, Ryff found that those with a higher sense of purpose tend to have:
- Improved mental health
- Greater happiness
- More self-acceptance
- Fewer mood issues
- More personal growth and satisfaction
- Better-quality sleep
Purpose in life may also lead to greater longevity.
The Pleasure Paradox
Purpose can help us find meaning in life, which in turn can fuel our passion for the things we find meaningful. Passion, purpose, and meaning all work in the drive, motivation, and pleasure centers deep in the brain.
Your pleasure centers respond to several neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and serotonin. Unfortunately, activity in these pleasure centers may become weakened by numerous factors including overuse, toxins, or head injury.
Individuals also run the risk of causing damage to their pleasure centers with substance abuse, gambling, and even compulsive eating. Dependency on any of these may begin to develop when the brain needs a dopamine fix.
In addition to these common compulsions, many other forces in our society can place excessive demands on our pleasure centers. Social media, video games, television, and using multiple electronic devices can overstimulate the brain’s pleasure centers similar to the way drugs can, according to psychologist Archibald Hart in his book Thrilled to Death.
Our fast-paced, pleasure-seeking lifestyle may be robbing us of the ability to experience joy from the simple things in life. Many things that once made us happy – such a stranger’s smile, a beautiful sunset, or a walk in nature – may have lost the power to move us emotionally. Our pursuit of ever greater thrills may contribute to mood issues or compulsive behaviors.
Protect Your Pleasure Centers
To live with purpose and passion, it’s important to safeguard the things you value most. One way to protect your pleasure centers is to reduce the use of overly stimulating devices (such as smartphones) and activities (such as gaming and high-risk behaviors).
When dopamine is depleted, low motivation and mood are common. Increase your dopamine naturally by engaging in meaningful and beneficial activities on a regular basis. Do work that you enjoy and take time to have fun with your loved ones.
With so many things in our society that can steal your joy, here are some of the best ways to find meaning and purpose in life…
9 Simple Ways to Find Lasting Joy in Your Life
1. Start with Gratitude
Start every day by thinking of three things for which you’re grateful. Also, think of one person you appreciate, then let them know how you feel in a text or e-mail.
If the person responds positively, it can bring joy to your life. This is a great way to build a bridge of gratitude with your friends and loved ones.
2. Mindfulness and Meditation
Many people would rather do any kind of work but inner work. However, mindfulness and meditation are great ways to relax, focus, and enhance your sense of well-being.
There are many different types of meditation. Some of the most popular include mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, guided meditation, walking meditation, yoga, tai chi, and chi gong. Start with short periods of 5 or 10 minutes and work your way up to longer sessions.
3. Make Time for the Little Things
Seek pleasure in the little things in your life, such as a walk with a friend, holding hands with your spouse, or eating a delicious meal. Often, we’re so focused on the major events in our life that we allow expectations to rob us of the pleasant or sublime.
It might surprise you to learn that there are many things you can do each day to improve your well-being. It also might surprise you that many of them are absolutely free! Always keep your eye out for the little things that can bring joy to your life.
4. One-Page Miracle
Clear and focused objectives are essential to achieving goals. The One-Page Miracle (OPM) is a powerful exercise that can help add passion and purpose to your life.
Here are the simple steps:
On a piece of paper, write down the specific goals for each area of your life, including your health (physical, emotional, and spiritual), relationships, work/school, and finances. Post it where you’ll see it every day and ask yourself, “Is my behavior today getting me what I want?”
Focusing on what’s important to you every day may make it easier for you to attain your goals.
5. Avoid Low-Value Activities
Limit or eliminate low-value, dopamine-stimulating activities or substances that can wear down your pleasure centers. These include:
- Excessive TV
- Scary movies
- Excessive video games
- Excessive use of social media
Monitor your high-excitement activities and stimulate your dopamine naturally by engaging in activities that give you motivation without putting you in overdrive.
6. Embrace High-Value Activities
High-value activities that may help stimulate dopamine in your brain include:
- Getting outside for fresh air and sunshine (vitamin D3)
- Touch (oxytocin)
- Massage therapy
- Brain-enhancing music
7. Serve Others
A great way to create lasting joy in your life is to volunteer at a church, homeless shelter, food bank, or animal refuge. In addition to being personally gratifying, serving others can help alleviate stress, increase health and happiness, and make you feel grateful for the positive things in your life.
Volunteering for a cause you believe in can give you something to look forward to and is a great way to find like-minded friends. Doing an activity with a partner or in a group can promote bonding and make the experience even richer.
8. Just Laugh
Laughing makes you feel good and can benefit your health. Laughter can help relieve stress, especially in difficult situations. Humor can instantly lighten the mood and may enhance the pleasure centers without wearing them down.
Watch comedy movies/TV series and spend time with people who make you laugh. Remember to make time to laugh every day.
9. Live with the End in Mind
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who is famous for her work on the psychology of death and dying, discovered that denial of death is partially responsible for people living empty, purposeless lives. She argued that when you live as if you’ll live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know that you must do. If you want to live a purposeful life, live with the end in mind.
What will matter toward the end of your life? Whom will you want to be with? What will have mattered in your life?
If you live each day with these questions in mind, you may find your life is filled with more purpose, meaning, and love.
Spread the Joy
These are just a few ways to find lasting joy in your life. To live with love, passion, meaning, and purpose, be sure to focus on what matters most to you and on those who matter most to you.
If you find that one or more of the above steps has made a significant difference in your life, spread the joy by sharing these tips with your friends and family. Also, feel free to comment below so others can be encouraged by your story.
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I find it very difficult to make gratitude lists! I have many things to be grateful for, but I’m constantly paranoid that the moment I acknowledge something good in my life it will get taken away. It may be completely coincidence but this has happened several times over the years with various situations ranging from car accidents to costly home repairs to suddenly losing or breaking that cherished heirloom. Just recently someone remarked how lovely our flooring was given its age. A few months later a pipe burst flooding the house and ruining the floors. I find myself just making very vague gratitude lists in my mind. I hate the paranoia but I can’t escape it!!