The Happiness Hack You Probably Never Tried — But Should

No, it doesn’t involve meditation.

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Collage photos of woman implementing practices that increase happiness and joy

As the world dives into year three of a global pandemic, one thing is certain: Everyone can use a bit more joy in their lives. Often, however, many try to find joy in things that don't actually create lasting happiness such as buying a new outfit, car, or house, or by attaining a particular relationship, says Michelle Chalfant, a licensed therapist, holistic life coach, and creator of The Adult Chair podcast. While those things can certainly contribute to a burst of joy, Chalfant emphasizes that happiness is an inside job that you must consciously cultivate. Here's the best part, though: There are lots of easy, practical things you can do to increase happiness and joy on the daily.

TZR tapped mental health experts for rituals and practices that can help sprinkle more joy into one’s life, as well as a few CEOs who have put some of these tips to practice even on their busiest days, ahead.

Go Outside

Something as simple as going outside for a walk or just stepping out for a few minutes to take some deep breaths of fresh air can be a major source of joy, especially if you've spent a lot of time living the WFH life during this pandemic. "Sunlight and fresh air can help ground you and lift your mood, and there is evidence to support that nature has both psychological and physical benefits for our wellbeing," says Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, a provider of virtual and in-person outpatient mental health care. She adds that squeezing in outside time first thing in the morning ensures that you get it in no matter how packed your schedule is thereafter.


Indulge Your Inner Child

Another way to create more joy in your life is by unleashing your inner child like Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of lingerie brand Lively. Jumping on a trampoline is her activity of choice, but it can be anything that makes you feel like a kid again. "I usually spend anywhere from five to 30 minutes bouncing," she says of her morning routine. "It really helps me let loose and disconnect. I look at the sun, feel the endorphins, and feel like I can do anything."


Here's another super easy joy-boosting habit: smiling. "Smiling — even if you have to force it — is a powerful way to increase happiness because it releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which enhance happiness naturally," Chalfant says.

Practice Saying No

Saying no to the things that don't bring you joy creates more time and space in your days for the things that do. This is why Aleena Khan, co-founder of inclusive makeup brand CTZN Cosmetics, says mastering the art of boundaries is the key to her joy. "People-pleasing and putting your own needs second genuinely drains your energy, directly impacting your mood," she says. "Women find it particularly more challenging to say no, and we often gift wrap our 'no' with layers of justifications and excuses rather than being unapologetically firm." So, the next time you don't want to partake in something, protect your joy by firmly and politely declining.

Call A Friend

While texting and DMing seem to be our primary form of communication these days, Dr. Patel-Dunn reminds us that having actual voice-to-voice conversations — whether that's in-person or via phone or Zoom— "brings a different level of connection and allows for more meaningful conversations." These enriching conversations can, in turn, help boost our spirits.

Furthermore, Chalfant points out the importance of spending time with the right people. "If you want to bring more joy and happiness into your life, examine your relationships," she says. "Are the people that you spend the most time with happy and joyful? If not, it might be time to find some new people to spend time with."

Choose to Be Kind to Yourself

"An inner dialogue of kindness is essential to maintaining a positive mood and especially a feeling of joy and happiness," Chalfant says. She adds that putting self-kindness into practice can look like taking a bath after a stressful day or celebrating big and small wins such as making your bed in the morning or landing a big deal at work.



According to Dr. Patel-Dunn, fostering a greater sense of joy also involves coping with stressful emotions, and journaling is an effective technique for that. "Writing about your feelings — both positive and negative — provides an opportunity for self-reflection and mindfulness," she says. If you don't know where to even begin with journaling, there are different types of journaling methods for mental health you can try, such as bullet journaling, journal prompts, or journaling apps, which all make the practice easier while still providing the benefits.

Practice Gratitude

Anybody who has dipped even a pinky toe into wellness and wellbeing knows the value of practicing gratitude — even research backs it up. Still, gratitude is such an effective joy-promoting practice that it bears repeating. "Each and every day, look for the good and appreciate it," Chalfant says. "Look for the simple things, like a sunset or a butterfly or the cashier that looked at you with kind eyes while you were checking out. Pause, let those moments land, and appreciate them. The more we appreciate those types of things, the more we cultivate an inner joy that resides within us." Pro tip: Chalfant recommends practicing gratitude first thing in the morning to set a happy vibe for the day.

Have A DIY Session

Again, there is something so fun and joyous about acting like a kid, and making DIY crafts on your own or with your family is another way to tap into that. For Grant, this looks like carving out time once a week to do an arts and craft activity with her children, which she finds to be a great stress reliever. "Coming together as a family to create something so long-lasting reminds me of our greatest power: love," she says. "Our most recent project — a painting full of hearts, flowers, and vibrant colors — is on display in our living room, and it instantly evokes a smile every time I walk by."

Change Up The Temperature

When it comes to joy, as the saying goes, it really is about the little things like a good shower. Both Grant and Khan recommend it as an easy ritual for a boost of joy in your day. "I have a theory that showers wash away the feels, and the key is you have to get your hair wet to truly reap the benefits," Khan says. "I always feel more energized and in a better mood after a quick shower."

For Grant, it's the temperate change that helps shift her mood and energy, so she goes in for a 60-second cold shower, even if it's the middle of the day. "The instant energy jolt makes me feel so alive and ready to conquer whatever comes my way," she says.


Create A Happiness Toolkit

All that said, everyone is different, and therefore the things that help you cultivate more joy in your life will be different from, say, your best friend’s. Maybe journaling isn't your thing, or you're not in the mood to chat with a friend, for instance. This is why Dr. Patel-Dunn recommends creating your own joy toolkit. "Essentially, this is a menu of different things or activities that bring you joy when you need it," she says, which can include simple things like cooking, exercising, listening to your favorite song, or any other activity that sparks joy. "Having a go-to list of rituals at the ready makes it easier to ensure you are consistently working these moments of joy into your daily life."

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