Joyful Daily

Credit: File

Credit: File

Joyful Daily offers ideas for improving mindfulness and actively seeking joy every day. The column publishes weekdays online and Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays in the Living section of the print edition.

March 23 — Cycles and seasons

The world around us operates in seasons and cycles. In Atlanta, we’re noticing signs of spring. Flowers are blossoming. The weather is warming. There’s more daylight.

Just as the seasons cycle throughout the year, we cycle through our own seasons as human beings. When we honor these cycles and learn to operate within them, we enjoy more peace and happiness.

Sometimes life seems to be slowing down. Perhaps things aren’t happening as fast as you’d like. Maybe you’re not getting the results you want. As humans, we tend to want to push forward anyway. However, this may be a sign to slow down, collect yourself, and prepare for next steps. Action taken for action’s sake alone can be detrimental. Pushing the river can create self-imposed obstacles. Instead, learning to flow with the river can help you experience better timing and connect you to greater ideas and inspiration.

At other times, life seems to be speeding up, requiring more of your energy and attention. This is the time to put your foot on the gas pedal, and go for it! This season of life often leaves you feeling elevated and energized. You may even feel invincible and unstoppable. Enjoy the trajectory of positivity this cycle brings.

Seasons are impermanent and transitory. When you learn to find your rhythm within each one, you’ll enjoy a feeling of calm, balance and surefootedness.

March 22 — Discipline

When people consider the word discipline and what it means, they often have a sense of dread. Many people associate this with arduousness and suffering. While discipline does require focus and delayed gratification, the results can change your life. You do have to get out of your comfort zone and sacrifice sometimes, but it’s worth it when you reach your goals.

How do you relate to discipline? Do you consider yourself a disciplined person? What feedback would your friends and family offer? When you set goals, do you trust yourself to follow through and stay on track?

Some strategies that can help with discipline if really want to achieve your goals include:

- Remember your “why.” Keep the endgame in mind. How do you want to feel? What do you want to experience?

- Who are you doing this for? Is it for yourself or others? If you’re doing something that others think you should do but you’re not personally invested, it likely won’t stick.

- Manage your stress. If you are in an acutely stressful period like a divorce or job loss, it’s much harder to practice discipline. Address your mental and emotional needs first before setting goals.

- Get support. Are there people who have achieved these goals already? What did they do? What worked? How did they navigate setbacks? Trust that people want to help and see you succeed.

One caveat about discipline is that any strength overdone becomes a liability. Rigidity around goals can cause suffering for you and those around you. Only you can determine this. Check in with yourself to see if the discipline you’ve chosen to implement is uplifting you or not.

March 21 — Mental models

Have you ever had the expectation of what a person should look like or act like only to be surprised by how they presented themselves?

Our society has historically put forth many “shoulds,” like how a mom should behave or a professor should dress. When you get caught up in these mental models that are grounded in limiting assumptions and experiences, you might be robbing yourself of the richness and fullness of humanity.

People come in all types of packages, preferences and personalities.

We remember the first time we walked into our therapist’s office to find him in jeans, a leather jacket and combat boots. He certainly looked different than we expected. Initially, it threw us off. We weren’t used to that attire for a therapist. Luckily, we didn’t let that deter us because he was one of the best clinicians we’ve ever encountered. If we had been put off by his dress, we would have missed out on one of the richest experiences of our lives.

In what ways might you be allowing mental models to limit your experience of others or yourself? Are you overly compromising yourself to fit the model others think you should have? Do you have rigid expectations of how others need to show up? How can you open your mind and be more flexible in your position and perspective?

Years of conditioning may be a part of your mental model construct. Give yourself grace as you begin to unravel fixated views that you’ve been accustomed to from your past.

March 20 — Finding happiness

The International Day of Happiness is celebrated throughout the world on March 20.

When we ask clients what they most desire, most answer that they want to be happy. For many people, happiness seems elusive, like an unobtainable, unrealistic goal. Perhaps they’ve tried repeatedly to find happiness in a variety of ways, including relationships, special vacations, self-help books and other pursuits. Still, they just plainly don’t feel happy.

So maybe a shift in focus is in order. What if you could find reasonable happiness today? And what if you could then water those seeds for greater contentment and pleasure? Well, it seems that the people of Finland have done just that.

For five years in a row, Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report. One Finnish psychologist, Frank Martela, states that there are three things that Finnish people don’t do:

  • They don’t compare themselves to their neighbors
  • They don’t overlook the benefits of nature
  • They don’t break the community circle of trust

It probably helps that they also tend to take four weeks in the summer to vacation. They often use this time to be in nature and away from work. They truly vacation.

Here are some tips based on the Finnish happiness quotient:

  • Focus on what makes you happy without comparing yourself to others.
  • Spend time in nature as often as you can. Enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and greenery.
  • Look at how you can build trust in your world through small acts. Those acts may be as simple as giving up your seat on the train or paying for someone else’s cup of coffee.

You can find happiness immediately by being present and feeling satisfied as often as possible.

March 17 — Connect with your heritage

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, we are reminded about our ancestry.

Our people were both largely from Ireland. We had the delight of visiting the homeland of our ancestors a few years ago. We felt the magic of the people, the breathtaking land, the soulful music and the ancient history. As we walked on the clay of our lineage, we were viscerally in touch with times gone by.

Humans long for connection. They want to know who their forefathers were and where they came from. There is a deep-seated, inexplicable desire to respect the mark of our predecessors and to leave our own legacy. This connection, though mainly invisible, can be palpably felt as you hear old stories of your kin. You appreciate the struggles of those who came before you and how they paved the way for you.

Would you like to connect more deeply with your heritage? Here are a few strategies to connect with your roots:

– Talk to the elders in your family. Some people interview family members to capture their history on video or audiotape.

– Read historical fiction and non-fiction to learn more about your ancestry.

– Visit the lands of your ancestors. If you can’t travel, watch documentaries and virtual tours.

– Learn about some of the rituals of your ancestors and incorporate those into your life.

As you learn more about your past, you may find yourself feeling more gratitude for the lives of your family of old and the many generations it took for you to be here. It may also instill in you a deeper desire to expand and improve life for your sake and those who will come after you.

March 16 — Posture and mental health

Have you ever noticed that how you are standing or sitting affects your mental health? It’s true. In fact, a study by Harvard University found that sitting up straight improved symptoms of anxiety, low self-esteem, stress, and depression.

People who walk or sit in a slouched position tend to have greater feelings of unhappiness. The neuroreceptors in the body send a signal to the brain that things are not going well. In psychology, this is called Embodied Cognition. EC is a form of communication between your mind and body. The opposite is true, too. When you sit or stand with good posture, studies show that confidence, self-esteem, and positivity increase.

You may have a habit of slouching due to years of practicing this posture. Many people are unaware that they’re doing this. There are some simple, yet profound strategies to help improve your posture:

  • Be more mindful and aware of your posture. Catch your reflection in the mirror to check on it throughout the day.
  • Create a body memory of what good posture feels like so you can practice throughout the day. Practice makes perfect.
  • Strengthen your core through exercise. Often compromised posture comes from lack of strength in this area of the body.
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to give you feedback on your posture when they notice it — both positively and not.

Some people were born with spinal defects or are suffering with chronic back issues. For these people, specialized medical help is most likely needed. When possible and medically appropriate, be intentional and practice this way of being in the world to create better mental and physical health.

March 15 — How you dress

The way you dress can affect your emotional state.

During the early days of the pandemic, some people who were mostly housebound wore pajamas all day. It was fun and freeing. Eventually, though, they realized they were not showing up as their best self – and the wardrobe had a lot to do with it. When they dressed for the day, they felt better.

People searching for a new job may experience a similar boost when they dress professionally. It puts them in a confident work state of mind that is projected to prospective employers in interviews, emails and other aspects of the job search process.

When you dress intentionally for the activity you are participating in, it conveys self-respect and signals to others how you are choosing to show up in the world and the impact you want to have.

Think about the times when you have experienced a positive mood shift based on the clothes you were wearing. The material, color, fit and style all probably felt authentically you – and right for the occasion whether you were going to the gym, office, a restaurant, or special celebration.

Scan the current clothes and shoes in your closet. How do you feel about each item? Are some ill-fitting or worn out? Is the style reflective of your current style?

If your wardrobe no longer reflects your personal values, maybe it’s time for a refresh.

Even small changes can make a difference. Our clients always report that they feel much better when they replace ripped clothing. Even if it’s just a new T-shirt, they have more pep in their step.

Dressing in a way that is authentically you doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on designer clothes. Thrift stores and consignment shops have many wonderful options.

What will you choose to wear today to feel and perform at your best?

March 14 — Harness the Power of 10

Do you have projects you’d like to complete but don’t know where to begin? Do you have deadlines looming but feel overwhelmed thinking about the task at hand?

When a project seems daunting, people tend to procrastinate. It doesn’t have to be that way.

One productivity method, known as the Power of 10, requires breaking a project down into more manageable tasks and regularly dedicating small chunks of time toward completing those tasks.

Are you ready to chip away at a project 10 minutes at a time? Here’s how to harness the Power of 10:

  • Identify your top 2-3 projects to prioritize.
  • Put the other projects in a “someday” file to review once your prioritized projects have been completed.
  • Break the identified projects into tasks.
  • Schedule your tasks in a calendar in 10-minute segments.
  • Set a timer during these 10-minute work sessions.
  • Do not allow yourself to go over allotted time as this is what tends to overwhelm people.
  • Be clear with yourself about what “finished” looks like.
  • Once a project is completed, you can move a new project from the “someday” file to the priority file.

This system has helped so people complete an array of projects. They’ve written books, cleaned out closets and sold their homes. They’ve started an exercise program, gone back to school and finished their taxes on time.

No matter what you want to accomplish, the Power of 10 provides a structure of small, consistent steps that will help you achieve your goals without feeling overwhelmed.

March 13 — Overcome adversity

Have you ever felt like life was coming at you from all directions? Can you recall a time when it seemed as if everything that could go wrong did go wrong?

When people are bombarded with negatives, they react in a variety of ways, some helpful and some not. Some people think there’s something wrong with them because things aren’t going well. They personalize the situation. Others fall into a blame-and-victim mode. They blame everything and everyone for what’s happening and feel that they’ve been victimized by a cruel world.

Everyone has experienced adversity at some point. Sometimes it’s on a large scale. Other times, it’s a bunch of little things that add up. Either way, it causes suffering. How much you suffer, though, is in your control. You can’t control the pain that life delivers, but you can reduce the self-imposed suffering that stems from adversity. In mindfulness, we often say that you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

When bad things happen, take a breath and a step back. Pay attention to how you’re explaining things to yourself and whether that explanation is serving you well. In psychology, we call this your “explanatory style.” Check your narrative. Practice self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Ask for help from others. You might need a hug, a compassionate ear or professional help to take your next best steps.

Learn to respond to difficulties rather than react to them. When you respond in a manner that is deliberate and grounded rather than impulsive and rash, you put yourself in a position of power and clarity to realize workable remedies.

March 10 — Variety is the spice of life

Do you find that you’re doing the same thing every day? Driving the same streets? Talking to the same people? It’s easy to get into a rut. While routine can be grounding, too much of a good thing becomes a liability.

What would it be like to change some of the simple things in your life? What if you altered your route to work, visited a different grocery store or changed the types of clothes you wear? You might notice a bit more pep in your step when you alter some of the basics.

By making simple changes, you will most likely feel a sense of renewal in your life. After making some simple shifts, you may find that you’re inspired to move on to larger ones.

What would it be like to travel somewhere new? Perhaps you’d like to move to a different neighborhood or city. Is it time to expand your circle of friends and broaden your activities? Consciously cultivating variety is a wonderful way to learn more about yourself and the world around you. Allow yourself a sense of fun and adventure as you change some things up -- and expect some delight along the way.

March 9 — Resist making assumptions

We can recall times in our lives when we made assumptions about people or situations and eventually were proven wrong. Can you remember when you were incorrect in your assumptions? Perhaps there were serious consequences or at least a feeling of embarrassment.

Assumptions are incomplete notions by their nature. They are the mind’s way of controlling ambiguity by filling in the blanks. Those notions are the result of a mental attempt to gain certainty over the uncertain. These notions are beliefs based on a conjured premise. Sometimes, you can be utterly convinced of those assumptive beliefs only to be mistaken.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions? One strategy is to realize that it’s OK not to know all the answers. We all need clarification. You can ask a question for further information. You can restate your understanding with another person to gain additional insight. Perhaps you can simply bring awareness to your mind that you are in the throes of making incomplete speculations.

What gets in the way sometimes is making snap judgments. The mind is a meaning-making mechanism; therefore, it can work too quickly in guessing the reasons why people and events are as they seem. Appearances, you may have learned, can be very deceiving. We’ve seen in corporate culture how some people suffer greatly because of mistaken ideas they have about their future employment, colleagues and bosses. Assumptions can frequently lead to self-sabotage in the workplace and beyond.

When you do your best to resist assumptions and clarify when you can, you have greater enjoyment and suffer less.

March 8 — Learn to say no

Saying yes when you mean no can be painful. It puts you in awkward positions. It may even drain your energy. While it’s fun to be a yes person, it’s not always appropriate to agree to something that others are asking of you.

It’s OK to say no. You are well within your rights as a human being with your own life force energy to decline invitations or projects. And more importantly, you must give yourself permission to say no without guilt or stress. You may feel that declining something is a flat-out rejection but it’s not. It may be bad timing or simply something that is not for you. It may even be something you’ve outgrown.

Sometimes saying no to others is saying yes to yourself. This is your precious life, and you deserve to say yes to yourself when that is what you need to do. You may want more time to yourself or to focus on a different project. You may need a change from what you’ve been doing previously in your life. You get to choose how you use your time, energy and brain power. Priorities and desires change as we grow and evolve.

If you’re not used to saying no, it may take some practice. Over time, it becomes woven into the fabric of who you are and ultimately brings your greater peace and fulfillment in your life.

March 7 — Transform worry and anxiety

Have you ever been paralyzed by an ongoing sense of dread and persistent worry? If so, you’re certainly not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 13% of Americans struggle with some kind of anxiety disorder.

There are many clinical approaches to anxiety, including medication. You may want to consult your physician for an assessment. There are also complementary approaches that have been proven helpful in lowering worry such as meditation and certain research-based supplements among others.

One innovative way to transform this issue is based on the idea that worry, anxiety and fear are experienced in the body, not the head. The mind is where the ruminating thoughts persevere, but the body experiences the alarm of the mind-body loop of anxiety. And therein lies a solution: to use the body to shift worry patterns. The mind can flood you with thoughts like an out-of-control train. To slow the thought train down, try mindfully attending to your body.

Medical professionals such as Drs. J.A. Armour, Russell Kennedy (author of “Anxiety Rx”) and others contend that consciously connecting with the heart and body as an anchor can transform those worrisome thought patterns.

Among many approaches, here is one effective way to soothe worrisome thoughts:

  • Become aware of the sense of alarm in the body that occurs in tandem with worry thought loops.
  • Focus on -- and even place your hand(s) -- on the place where you feel it most.
  • Tune in to the emotion(s). Allow the worry, anxiety and/or fear to organically move and morph without an inner commentary.
  • Simply experience the emotion(s) as you breathe slowly and deliberately through it.

March 6 — Bring out the best in others

Do you remember a time when someone saw the best in you and encouraged you in your life? It felt so good, didn’t it? Are you someone who makes it a point to do this for others? In our busy modern-day world, it can be so easy to slip into complacency in our relationships. We don’t always take the time to let others know what they’re doing well. You might even find yourself criticizing others more than praising them in the name of process improvement.

Catching someone doing something right is never a mistake. Shining the spotlight on what you appreciate in others is a win-win for everyone.

Consider the people in your life. Who could use your encouragement? Sometimes it’s not the people you would typically expect to need some care. Some people seem to be doing quite well and to have it all together. However, these people may be suffering on the inside while projecting positivity outwardly.

You can create a joyful habit for yourself by selecting a person each day to cheerlead. Shine the spotlight on the positives. Cheer people on. Applaud them for their accomplishments, qualities and efforts. Be the voice of kindness and upliftment. Compassion is definitely the new cool, and it feels good to be a lighthouse for those around you.

March 3 — Balancing hard with easy

It’s tempting to procrastinate doing the hard things in life. We often put tasks that feel tedious, scary or overwhelming to us on the back burner. The problem with this strategy is that putting things off usually makes it harder when it is necessary to do them.

The brain slams on the emergency brake when you are attempting to step out of your comfort zone. It thinks you might fail, look foolish or experience discomfort. The truth is that you are stronger and more capable than you might think. You can manage discomfort. Consider what you’ve already accomplished in your life. If you need guidance in an area you’re not familiar with, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Avoiding the hard stuff prevents you from making progress toward reaching your goals in life.

You don’t always want to be doing hard things though. If you do, you will eventually burn out. Make time for the easy, fun things in life, too. Read. Take a bath. Go out with friends. Watch television. Find daily ways to create pleasure for yourself. Some people actually need to schedule pleasurable activities or they will keep procrastinating those!

A good rule of thumb to balance hard with easy is to attend to the more difficult things when you have more energy and motivation. Then, schedule fun and relaxing activities when you’re naturally ready to unwind. This pattern of living will set you up for success.

March 2 — Service

How are you called to serve the world? In our previous columns, we’ve emphasized the essential foundation of good self-care and compassion. Once self-care is firmly established, that care and compassion can then be skillfully shared with others.

What comes to mind when you think of service to others? Perhaps you think of a clothing drive. Maybe you consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Possibly you become involved with animal rescue. We have friends who raise money for various causes and foundations using their talents, including dancing.

Look at who or what is in your immediate purview. Is there a family member or a neighbor who is struggling? Sometimes people ask for help, but often they don’t. Perceiving a need in others and then asking if you can help them in some way, is a deeply meaningful act. Others may appreciate a nicely prepared meal. It may just be a phone call that is needed. Sharing your time, which is such a valuable commodity, may be of greatest value to them.

When you extend yourself in service to others something magical happens between you and the recipient. The substance and symbolism of your action convey heartfelt care to that person.

And there is another impactful benefit that often occurs. There can be a rush of “feel good” neurotransmitters like oxytocin, endorphin and serotonin. These happy hormones improve the mood and health of both the giver and the receiver of your actions. That makes service a win-win for everyone.

March 1 — Mindful words in self-dialogue

Words have an impact. There is power in words. Consider times when you were verbally encouraged and how that made you feel. Conversely, recall how you felt when you received demeaning words. Most of us can remember when we boosted someone with our words or caused them emotional pain by unkind ones. The selection of the words themselves as well as the tone of voice and body language used makes a difference in the message.

In his book “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz shares the importance of editing your words. In fact, his first agreement is “Be impeccable with your word.” Ruiz suggests that you commit to being integritous with your words as a starting point for freeing yourself from self-limiting beliefs that may rob you of joy and create needless suffering in your life. But perhaps most interesting is his encouragement to examine how you speak to yourself mentally and verbally.

Your words to yourself can be a blessing or bane. Are you a friend or foe in your inner dialogue? Being mindful in your communication with others starts with your self-talk. In our work, people have revealed to us horrible assessments of themselves. Their recycling of negative words internally causes them immense pain and physical symptoms.

Being able to be kind and compassionate to others starts with you doing the same to yourself. So, practice being quick to select positive words toward yourself. Resist opportunities to berate yourself in your head or in front of others. Make concerted efforts to swiftly forgive yourself for mistakes and move forward.

Feb. 28 — Using your voice

Speaking to others with purpose, responsibility and compassion requires clarity and confidence. This is true especially when the topic or situation being discussed is difficult. If you’re not used to using your voice in this way, it may initially feel awkward. You may make mistakes. This doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track. Practice makes progress.

Do you find it tough or scary to be direct with others in conversations? If so, you may have been taught over the years that it’s not appropriate to state your needs and preferences. This new way of speaking will require that you access courage.

Do you find it challenging to speak gently with compassion? You may have been conditioned to think that the only way to be heard is to be loud and forceful. You will need to soften your tone and edit your word choices as a potential growth point.

In our work, we often observe that learning to speak up for yourself in general is a communication challenge. When people are scared to ask for what they really need and desire, they may soft-pedal the message, and it goes unheard. When people are too aggressive in their messaging, they shut others down and don’t get their needs met. If they are overly emotional when communicating, the message can also get lost.

Rehearsal writing is a powerful strategy to help you practice what you want to say before the actual conversation. It also helps you process your emotions prior to communicating with others. Prepare in advance for optimal results.

Feb. 27 — Choices

Are your choices congruent and aligned with your core values? Do you say what you think? And do what you say? When we don’t align our thoughts, words and actions, it can create stress and a lack of clarity.

Once you are aligned in all three dimensions, you can make better choices for yourself and those around you. Some people have a hard time making choices or decisions. They become paralyzed by indecision, what we call “analysis paralysis.” If you find that you’re experiencing this, take time to explore whether your thoughts, words, actions — and ultimately choices — are congruent.

Other people may make hasty choices to move forward more quickly than warranted. It’s more difficult to reverse a decision than it is to give the appropriate time needed to make a thorough one. If you find that you lean towards this dynamic, try giving yourself more time than you think you need. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll enjoy the benefits of making a more thoughtful choice.

The exciting news is that you do have choices. Choices give you freedom to create your life in a way that you prefer. Research in positive psychology shows that having choices is related to happiness. Interestingly, that research also points out that if you are given too many choices, you become less happy. The sweet spot is usually two to three alternative on any one topic.

What choices will you make today for your highest and greatest good?

Feb. 24 — The power of patience

Do you consider yourself a patient person? Would those around you characterize you that way? Do you have specific triggers that ignite impatience? Traffic? Technology? People?

Your mind will try to justify impatience. But even if you think you’re justified in feeling aggravated with a person or situation, it’s not in your best interest to visit this state of mind frequently.

Some people have a propensity to reside in this mental-emotional state. Everything seems to trigger them. This way of living has been called the “hurry sickness,” and people with Type A personalities who are overly ambitious and driven exhibit this behavior pattern, which is characterized by chronic rushing and anxiousness. In the 1950s, cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman found that these types of personalities are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than the general population.

Put simply, it’s just not worth it. Your health and well-being are far more important. If you think about it, impatience does not feel good to your mind and body anyway. You can also damage your relationships if you lean in this direction. If you’re naturally predisposed to this temperament, consider the strategies below to develop a more patient response to life’s challenges.

In mindfulness, patience is defined as a gentling of the spirit. It’s a healthier way to live on all levels. Take these steps:

  • Acknowledge impatience when it arises.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Pause before reacting.
  • Edit yourself as needed.
  • Try to redirect your focus to something more pleasant.

Feb. 23 — Be a lifelong learner

Research shows that lifelong learning increases your longevity and improves the quality of your health. You can approach learning in many ways.

According to cognitive neuropsychologists, simply reading for 6 minutes can lower your stress levels. And when you stress less, you feel, perform and live at your best. Shift things up sometimes. Try reading beyond the typical genres to expand your understanding of various aspects of the world. It doesn’t have to be an entire book. It might just be an article. You may decide to take a formal education class to explore new areas. In Georgia, residents 62 and older can sign up for courses at any of the 31 colleges and universities in the state system and attend without paying tuition (although some nominal fees may apply).

You can also challenge yourself to learn a new activity. This may be new dance steps, a foreign language or the latest technology trend. This leads to expansion of wisdom, a sense of vitality and youthfulness, and robust interests that you can share with others.

Learning new things is not only good for your mental and physical health, it provides a pathway for a better social life. You are a more interesting person when you are committed to your own growth and evolution. People want to spend time with you. And you have an opportunity to meet others who are interested in similar ideas and activities.

Learning is to brain health as exercise is to physical health. Your brain, through neuroplasticity, can continue to grow until the end of your life. Continuous learning can prevent and/or delay cognitive decline in later years, so we encourage you to continue to seek out new ways to learn and nourish your brain.

Feb. 22 — Optimal stimulation level

Everyone has an optimal level of stimulation that provides well-being. Do you know what yours is? And are you living your life according to that level?

Some people need a high activity level. When that need isn’t being met, they can be stressed and unhappy. Others need less activity and engagement. When they have surpassed their limits, they are not at their best.

When you operate outside of your optimal level for more than a day or two, you may find that you’re more irritable, less energized and not feeling your best. Over time, operating outside of your optimal level can lead to mental, emotional and physical ailments.

You may be someone who needs more quiet than you are currently experiencing in your life. If so, look for ways to step back from engagement. People around you may not understand your preference to spend more time alone than usual, especially if their optimal level of stimulation is higher than yours. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and ask for what you need from those around you.

You might be someone who needs more engagement than you’re currently experiencing. If so, seek out other active like-minded people who want to do some of the things you’re interested in and are willing to explore new activities. Don’t wait for those closest to you to participate; they may have a lower level of stimulation.

Keep in mind that these levels change over time and often depend on many factors in your current reality.

Feb. 21 — Think big, start small

Consider a dream or goal that you have. Maybe you want to take an extended trip, lose weight or obtain financial security. There’s a fair chance that you really want to see that come to fruition. Perhaps you’ve had that dream or goal in your mind and heart for a while. How can the result you desire come to fruition?

In our work, we have encountered many clients who have struggled to make their dreams come true. Some are exasperated that their efforts have not yielded what they want. Whether they yearn for a loving relationship, better health or a new home, they can’t seem to find a way to realize their goals. Some have fallen into self-sabotage due to their beliefs or behavior.

We look at the “how” instead of the “why” of their process. How you approach your dreams makes all the difference. Have you ever started the process of accomplishing a goal, had some initial success followed by failure, and then given up? Many of us have.

Rather than give up, we encourage you to think big but start small. This means to set and hold your goal in mind. Perhaps create visual reminders about it. Maybe create a vision board. Then take daily, bite-sized steps toward the goal. Perhaps one day you reach out to someone who has had success in that area. Maybe you create specific ways to do it like designing a budget, securing a trainer or speaking to a travel agent.

Know this: it’s not too late. Own your dream and take inspired action steps. Taking small, steady steps will help you attain those well-deserved dreams.

Feb. 20 — Age well

Did you know that you can influence both the quality and quantity of your life? Chronological and biological age can be very different numbers. The anti-aging industry is a billion dollar field. Some chalk this up to vanity, but others believe that it’s because people are ultimately concerned about losing their independence, well-being and dignity as they grow older. The good news is that there are many strategies to help prevent that from happening.

Research shows that centenarians around the world who have lived a high quality and quantity of life participate in several activities regularly. A few elements that have been identified include daily movement, eating well, having a sense of purpose and enjoying a daily indulgence.

Meditation, exercise and biofeedback (methods to control some body functions like your heart rate) are classic biohacking techniques. Research in biohacking strategies also shows promise in cutting-edge strategies for aging well. Cryotherapy, sometimes known as cold therapy, is treatment that uses low temperatures. It has received a lot of attention for its health benefits. We choose to practice this regularly ourselves and have noticed the sensations of feel-good hormones being released as well as quick muscle recovery. Using an infrared sauna, in your home or at a center that specializes in it, is relaxing and supports healing. lt addresses a variety of ailments while also boosting mood and immune system functioning. Supplementation is another biohack that has grown in popularity. A good integrative, functional physician can be of great help in identifying the appropriate supplements that will support your unique system and needs.

Find the strategies that appeal to you and create consistency in those health habits for best results.

Feb. 17 — Lost and found

Recently we saw a T-shirt that read “Sometimes we feel lost, and that’s okay.” The wording speaks to a challenging emotion that you can sometimes experience in life: feeling lost.

Cultural expectations and conditioning can cause you to feel that you need to be on top of your game at all times — to always have a plan. But sometimes you aren’t and don’t. Welcome to Humanity 101.

Do you ever feel like you don’t know who you are, what you are supposed to be doing or where you’re headed? It can happen to the best of us!

On any given day, you can only do your best. To expect that you can always “have your act together” is unrealistic, and that mindset causes unnecessary suffering. You are a human, not a machine. Being able to transform that mental suffering and emotional unrest into a more compassionate response to yourself starts with giving yourself grace.

Keeping your expectations in check can help. Understand that life brings unexpected challenges. When you feel lost, remind yourself that this is a normal part of your humanity. Mindfulness teaches you to accept that tough times are a temporary condition. The same holds true with emotions. They are impermanent and subject to change.

When you feel confused or insecure, find activities to ground your mind and body. Different strategies work for different people. Movement is usually an effective strategy. Once you feel settled, you can take the next best step for yourself.

Feb. 16 — Find your flow

In positive psychology, flow is defined as a mental state in which a person is immersed in what they are doing. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created the term. Flow crosses a wide range of fields and activities.

When you think of someone being in the flow, you may associate them as being “in the zone,” very focused in the moment with their talents and interests. Perhaps athletes, actors, musicians, or motivational speakers come to mind. But this flow state is available to everyone, including you.

Think of a time you were totally engrossed in an activity, feeling energized and excited. That’s the flow state! Csikszentmihalyi discovered that those who could tap into a flow state more regularly were happier and more joyful.

What can often prevent this fluid, pleasant zone are distractions and stress. But you don’t have to wait until the challenges dissipate to feel the flow. Letting go of any resistance creates an opening for the flow state to occur.

It begins in the present moment where all of your power lies. You can approach nearly any activity or interest with a singular focus and a relaxed demeanor and initiate flow. Becoming skillful in mindfulness helps you find flow more frequently.

Most feel, perform, and live better when flowing. We suggest making time for those activities or even tasks that trigger positive mental and emotional states. When you commit to this way of being more often, you’ll enjoy deep fulfillment and gratification.

Feb. 15 — Navigating grief

One of the toughest emotions that human beings experience is grief. The emotional and psychological upheaval associated with grief can vary in its intensity and unpredictability. Whether the issue is death, divorce, a health issue, an accident, or other event, grief hits people at their very core.

We certainly understand it professionally. And, perhaps even more importantly, we know it personally. Not so long ago we lost four close family members in a three-year period. We know the palpable feeling of shock and panic and an unspeakable sense of loss and sadness.

While the five stages of grief (shock, emotions, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) were established by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross decades ago, not everyone follows that process the same. In fact, without support, some people can find themselves stuck in specific parts of grief, such as anger.

Understand that as a human being, grief is unavoidable for a plethora of reasons, including mortality. However, you can learn to skillfully navigate the process. While you cannot control the form or the life of grief itself, you can arm yourself with information and understanding.

We suggest connecting with others and not isolating. We all need support and often others can step forward to help if you allow them. Share your emotions but only with people you trust. Beware of those who discount your emotions. Sometimes to help, some people do more harm than good through judgment, cliches, and even shaming the affected person. Not everyone can be skillful in being present and caring in a way that is helpful. So be selective with whom you share your grief. Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings and ask for support when you need it.

Feb. 14 — Honoring, loving and celebrating yourself

Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day in the month of February. Traditionally, this holiday sets the stage for sharing your love with your significant other, family and friends. While that is very important to your health and well-being, extending that love to yourself should take priority.

Your relationship with yourself affects all other aspects of your life, including how you love others. What does it mean to you to honor, love,and celebrate yourself? What are some ways you can become your own best ally and advocate? Below are some strategies that will help you strengthen your relationship with you.

  • Spend time alone doing what you find satisfying. It may mean not doing anything, or it may mean doing something that no one else is interested in doing. Stop compromising yourself based on others’ preferences.
  • Take yourself out on a date. Indulge in the movie, art show or restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Learn to like the company you keep.
  • Speak well of yourself — in your own mind and to others. Be proud of who you are and how far you’ve come in your life.
  • Shine the spotlight on your successes. Take time to celebrate even the small wins in whatever way is meaningful to you. Make sure you don’t diminish yourself or dim your light in any way in order to prevent others from feeling insecure around you.

We often look to others to honor, love and celebrate us. Sometimes that goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. When you do it for yourself consistently, you enjoy the benefits of self-reliance.

Feb. 13 — Love languages

Loving others is an innate quality that comes naturally for most people. It’s also a skillset that can be developed. There are multiple avenues to show love to one another, and everyone’s preferred avenues are different. This is why some people feel like their attempts at loving are not being received well or they are not getting the love they desire.

Gary Chapman discusses five different love languages in his book, “The Five Love Languages.” Do you know your love language and that of those around you? See if you can identify them below.

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Shared activity
  • Physical affection
  • Gift giving

It’s important to convey to people around you how you prefer to be cared for and appreciated. You may think they should already know, but if you haven’t clarified, it may be a misfiring in communication. Also, ask your loved ones how they prefer to be loved and appreciated. In our work, we have observed people in long-term relationships being surprised at their family and friends’ answers.

If your friend or family member prefers a strategy that doesn’t come naturally to you, know that you can strengthen your ability to meet their need. Write reminder notes to yourself at first. Eventually it will become more natural, and they will appreciate your intentions and efforts.

Feb. 10 — Your environment

Your environment plays a major role in your mental, emotional and physical well-being. This aspect of health can often get overlooked. Where you live, how you live, and who you live with can help promote your joy or be an impediment.

Survey the landscape of your life and assess how satisfied you are. Are you enjoying the aesthetics of your home? Is it time for new colors or textures? You can select one room to focus on as a first step.

Do you enjoy the community you’re living in? Are you getting your needs met? Are there other places you’ve dreamed of living but haven’t yet researched steps to make that a reality? Would you like to be closer to friends or family? Many people feel isolated in our nomadic modern society. It wasn’t that long ago that we lived more in villages with multiple generations of relatives nearby.

Perhaps it’s time to get organized, de-clutter and rearrange in the home or office where you spend much of your time. Taking these steps can have such a positive impact on your mindset and finding clarity. Feng shui, an ancient practice, suggests that the spatial arrangement of items and colors has a favorable or unfavorable effect on our psychology.

Look around and make some choices to support your environmental health and well-being, so you can have greater joy in your daily life!

Feb. 9 — Time

Time is one of your most precious commodities. Many people suffer from several aspects around time: feeling there is not enough time, feeling time pressured, feeling that they’re running out of time. In our work with many people over the years, we have found that the perception you have of time can be experienced as a chronic struggle or a liberating opportunity.

How do you perceive time? What is your relationship like with it? Are you aware of how you’re spending your time? When we ask people to record how they’re spending their time each day, they are often surprised at how much time is wasted on activities that are not meaningful to them.

We encourage you to try this exercise for yourself. Commit to recording how you’re spending your time for seven days. Write everything down from commuting to screen time to work to errands, etc. After seven days, review how you’re spending each day. See if there are some changes you’d like to make to enjoy more time doing the things that are important to you.

This exercise rarely fails in helping people feel like they got their time, and thus their lives, back. We are all given the same 24:7, and we’re each making choices, whether we’re aware or not, about what we’re doing with that time. This realization can be enlightening and empowering. The experience of having an abundance of time is a catalyst for greater joy!

Feb. 8 — Mindfulness

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed impressive results for anxious people. The study revealed that mindfulness training decreased anxiety levels equal to certain anti-anxiety medications.

The simple definition of mindfulness is being fully aware and focused in the present moment while practicing non-judgment and acceptance of what is occurring. This ancient practice, which began about 2500 years ago, is a great training for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression in modern day times.

Stress hijacks you from truly being present in everyday life. Perhaps your roles and responsibilities impact your concentration abilities. Maybe your phone has become a regular source of distraction with its constant beckoning and its “bells and whistles.”

Some people are confused about what mindfulness is. This is a combination of practices (like meditation) and principles (ways of being in the world). When you train your brain and nervous system to be more mindful through practices and principles, you will feel greater ease, peace and joy in your life. Research shows that it also strengthens resilience, builds confidence and energizes you. It also enhances your immune system functioning.

You don’t have to live in a cave or visit a mountaintop to practice. You don’t even need to practice for hours at a time. Just a few minutes each day will allow you to gain traction. Connecting to your breath, body and the present moment is the practice. When you do this consistently, you experience profound results. Before you know it, you will be mindful without conscious effort and enjoy the immense benefits it offers.

Feb. 7 — Forest Bathing

You may have bathed in nature and not even realized it. Few can dispute the benefits of taking a relaxing walk in the woods. Many people find a refreshed feeling after spending time in nature as if they’ve been bathed. In Japan, the practice of forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku, is highly-acclaimed as a way to enjoy both mindfulness and the benefits of nature.

Dr. Qing Li of the Nippon Medical School and other researchers have documented its impressive health benefits. Among them are:

  • Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves the quality and quantity of natural killer cells in the immune system which protect against disease
  • Triggers the parasympathetic nervous system causing relaxation
  • Reduces cortisol which prevents or slows down disease
  • Helps with sleep
  • Supports PTSD recovery
  • Improves mood and lowers psychological symptoms

Part of the mechanism that produces these benefits is a substance trees emit call phytocides. Those are airborne, anti-microbial substances that you breathe when you’re in the woods. Another reason forest bathing is beneficial has to do with practicing being present in the time spent there. Being mindful in nature seems to encourage a shift in perception and an appreciation for the miracle of nature itself.

The benefits we mentioned can be obtained by merely 20 minutes in the woods a few times a week. Imagine the pleasant feelings you will enjoy by simply spending time in nature. It is generally accessible and often free of charge. In the Atlanta area, look into Kennesaw Mountain (Cobb), the East Palisades bamboo forest (Fulton/Dekalb), Island Ford Trail (Roswell) or Arabia Mountain Park (Lithonia) among many others. We encourage you to step into the woods when you can and relish the benefits!

Feb. 6 — Complaining and criticizing

When you allow your thoughts to go on autopilot, research shows that they tend to go to the negative. You’ll notice if you observe your thoughts, much of that negativity is tied up in complaining and criticizing. Even though you may not be verbalizing your complaints and criticisms, it still blocks your joy.

We suggest to clients that they go on a “complaining and criticizing diet” for a week. When they practice this, they realize just how often they are engaging in negative thoughts — about themselves, others and the world. Experiment with this for yourself. For the next seven days, make a commitment to refrain from complaining and criticizing in your mind, even if you feel justified in your thoughts. Many people do! Whether those thoughts are justified or not, they still cause you harm when practiced repeatedly. For many, it becomes an unconscious habit that robs them of greater happiness and joy. It’s just not worth it.

If you notice that your mind continues to wander to negatives, simply say to yourself “not now” or “switch” as soon as you observe the pattern. You can even count down from five to one to create a gap between stimulus and response. After you’ve disrupted the thought, you can also replace it with something more positive like gratitude. You’ll notice how much better you feel when you make this mental shift!

Feb. 3 — Friendships

Friendships are incredibly important to sustain mental and physical well-being.

Adults are sometimes challenged to make new friends. When your children leave the home for good or you retire from the workforce, there can be fewer organic opportunities to meet people.

Many people don’t actively pursue new friendships, thinking that should happen naturally. Unfortunately, this leaves them feeling alone and isolated.

It takes time and effort to make new friends. Some people know that they’re feeling lonely but are unsure how to begin the process. Here are a few suggestions to expand your circle of friends:

- Participate in activities and events where you might meet like-minded people.

- Explore new activities and events that you haven’t previously tried.

- Be willing to initiate conversations. Perhaps prepare a list of conversation starter questions.

- Be present and engaging when you participate in activities and events. Start by putting your phone away.

- When you connect with someone new, ask for that person’s contact information and be deliberate about following up.

- Be consistent in the above suggestions to gain traction.

Adults also often neglect to nurture current friendships because they are so busy. Friendship may take the back-burner to careers, raising children and other adult responsibilities. Try to spend quality time with the friends that bring you joy and love and accept you unconditionally.

There’s nothing quite like having a confidante to connect with, sharing a belly laugh or spending time with someone who enjoys activities similar to those that bring you joy.

Feb. 2 — People-pleasing

People-pleasing is a compulsive, reflexive drive to meet the preferences of others. Put bluntly, pleasing other people means trying to manipulate outcomes through performative action and is an indication of over-functioning in relationships.

This pattern often begins at a young age and is typically associated with codependency. Think about it. When you were a child, you likely wanted to please those in authority. You probably wanted to please them because your survival depended on it! Those established patterns are frequently carried into adulthood. Unfortunately, the pattern of trying to please others can have negative consequences. This often results not getting your own needs met.

You can mindfully focus on what you really desire and begin the change process immediately. Start by clarifying your needs. How often to do you care for your those? What would it be like to please yourself first? You are not meant to be a needless, want-less machine.

Visualize how you would like to alter that old, familiar pattern of over-functioning for others. You can choose to respond slower to requests. You can cut unpleasant conversations shorter. You can avoid overly demanding people who trigger you.

Be willing to ask for what you need from others. Reduce your level of overworking yourself with others when you can. Realize you can’t fix anyone’s life but your own. You are not responsible for their joy. Meeting your own needs more regularly allows you to experience greater joy!

Feb. 1 — Vagus Vacation

The vagus nerve is the longest one in the body. This wandering nerve winds itself through the body and regulates various functions of the heart, lungs and gut.

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic branch of the central nervous system which is responsible for restorative functions in the body. Among the restorative functions of the vagus nerve is that of triggering the relaxation response. Our heart rate slows down. So does our breath. Our blood pressure lowers. Even our digestion improves.

Relaxation is one of the results you seek when you go on vacation. While you can’t necessarily go to the beach or mountains all the time, you can elicit that same desired state of relaxation regularly.

Relaxation feels good but there’s another reason for seeking it. According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, “When the body is relaxed, the body’s natural repair mechanisms are enabled.” Translation: relaxing is good for the body and the spirit!

Here are some activities to support the vagus nerve and enhance relaxation:

  • Exercise
  • Massage
  • Deep, slow belly breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Cold immersion or cold water face splashes
  • Singing, humming or chanting
  • Socializing and laughter

Beyond trying these suggestions, think what makes you feel good. Perhaps you enjoy reading a book, soaking in a hot bathtub, or watching a comedy show. Usually when you feel good, you are relaxed. Pay attention to what makes you feel good and indulge in those things often. When you allow yourself to relax, you not only heal the body, but you also experience joy.

Jan. 31 — Multitasking

How many tasks can you effectively focus on at one time?

Research indicates the answer is one.

While that may be true, it doesn’t seem realistic in today’s world, does it? With so many responsibilities and unexpected occurrences, how can you take care of them all? You cannot.

Multitasking is defined as performing multiple tasks simultaneously or in rapid succession. As a human being, you can only focus on one item at a time.

The expectation that everything is of equal priority and urgency is part of the problem. You are limited in what you can accomplish in any day and at any moment.

Besides managing your expectations, it is important to regulate competing priorities. Although you may deeply desire to juggle everything skillfully, emerging research shows that you can’t. In fact, multitasking results in cognitive overload, decreased memory, less productivity and a lower IQ.

Multitasking is little more than toggling between thoughts or activities. As you focus back and forth, you lose time and mental energy. You get a false sense of efficiency. The results are suboptimal — the opposite of what you intended.

Here are ways to avoid multitasking:

  • Commit to mindfully perform one task at a time
  • Do your best to prioritize and stick to that order
  • Eliminate distractions in your purview
  • Bundle similar tasks
  • Schedule time to answer emails and phone calls
  • Slow down and ask for help when needed

Jan. 30 — Perfectionism: Perfectionists tend to hold themselves to unrealistically high standards. They often see this as a form of excellence, but it is not. It can quickly derail excellence and compromise performance. It can also become a path to anxiety, toxic stress and depression.

Perfectionists often live with the obsessive thought of “not enough” or “never good enough.” They are afraid of making mistakes and being judged by others. Sometimes this develops from being highly pressured in childhood and young adulthood to live up to unrealistic expectations or rigid standards.

These people are often very self-critical and find themselves coming up short most of the time even though that’s an illusion. They often think they must prove themselves to be worthy of what they desire in life, be it love or success.

Perfectionism robs people of joy in their lives, but it can be ameliorated with practice. You can achieve at a high level without sacrificing your well-being along the way. Allowing for mistakes is an effective strategy. All humans make mistakes. Practicing self-compassion is another. Releasing the tendency to compare yourself to others is helpful. So is lightening up on self-imposed pressure.

Surround yourself with people who allow you to express your full humanity and accept you when you’re not perfect. Remind yourself that your inherent goodness isn’t connected with achievement. Take time to engage in activities that bring you joy, help you refuel, and aren’t associated with performance.

Jan. 27 — Honor all your feelings: Having a broad array of emotions is a part of your humanity. In our work, we often observe people trying to avoid certain emotions because they don’t know how to process them. It feels wonderful to feel happy. Unfortunately, you can’t live in a perpetual state of happiness.

Many people were not taught how to manage and navigate challenging emotions like despair, shame and anger. Some people fear these emotions because they think they might cause them to do something bad or that the unwanted feeling won’t go away.

Learning how to process your emotions in a healthy way is an important life skill. This involves self-soothing and self-regulation once you’ve identified the feeling. These two skills will help you trust in your ability to feel something uncomfortable and know how to move beyond it without causing damage to yourself or others. The research is clear that denying or sublimating emotions can cause psychological, relational and physical problems.

Journaling is a wonderful strategy to learn to identify and express your emotions. You can also find feelings charts and wheels on the internet to help you. After you’ve taken this first step, ask yourself what you need to feel better – from yourself or others.

Emotions are information. When you honor all your emotions – even the challenging ones, you gain clarity about the steps you need to take to support yourself and ultimately, have more joy in your life.

Jan. 26 — Mindful consumption: Consider what you are consuming regularly – food and drink, media, social media, conversations, advertisements and more. Being mindful about your consumption allows you to increase your awareness of how these activities and items impact you. Do they help you feel and perform at your best? Do they detract from living your best life?

Once you’ve assessed the impact, you can make decisions that will help you move forward in the best way possible. Sometimes, you can get complacent and stuck in a comfort zone that no longer serves you. Perhaps it never did! Once you’ve raised your level of awareness, you can begin to make changes.

Are there habits of consumption you’d like to alter or stop altogether? Are there new habits that you’re ready to create? Lastly, are there things you’re consuming that you’d like to continue? Answering these questions will help you identify what’s working and what’s not. Then you can get some clarity about next best steps.

For example, you might decide it’s time to be more consistent with hydration and healthy eating. You might decide it’s time to decrease or eliminate time spent with certain people or groups of people. Setting boundaries with yourself and others is an essential behavior in mindful consumption. We encourage you to start small and then build on your successes.

If you’re feeling hesitant about getting started, find the appropriate support. Perhaps working in a group with others with similar goals could prove helpful. Another strategy is to read about someone who has accomplished what you’re focusing on. Consider sharing your goal with someone you trust because that helps with accountability. Having support will help you stay on track to raise your joy quotient.

Jan. 25 — Generosity: Getting outside of yourself can lift your mind and heart tremendously. When we work professionally with people who seem stuck in negative thought and behavioral patterns, we suggest the practice of generosity. This may seem counterintuitive, especially when you’re not feeling your best, but being of help to others is incredibly empowering and uplifting.

Ask yourself how you can be of service to others. How can you be of help? What do you have to offer? It may be as simple as a smile or kind word. It could be more complex like using your time, talents and gifts to help someone on a project.

You don’t have to look far to find someone who is suffering. Sometimes you’ll never even know a person is having struggles because they don’t disclose them to you. Being generous with others is rarely a misstep if it doesn’t cause harm to yourself.

Think outside the box when it comes to generosity. Some people will always give money but never their time. Some are happy to offer a friendly smile but never money. What patterns do you have? Are there ways to broaden your generosity toolbox to explore other ways of expressing this part of yourself?

Less tangible forms of generosity are also quite powerful. Being generous in your assessment of others is an example. Allowing others to share the spotlight is an act of generosity. Actively seeking ways to express your generous nature will increase your happiness levels significantly. How can you make a difference today?

Jan. 24 — Balance: So many of our clients and audiences struggle to find balance in their lives. Perhaps you do as well. You may find that your best intentions to gain balance in specific areas of your life can be easier said than done. External forces like home and work responsibilities often compete and can quickly shift your life out of balance.

Taking control can be challenging, as change is difficult. You may be a creature of habit. You may have habituated to the notion that a high degree of stress is expected, normal, or even noble. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, for true balance to occur.

Often, when people seek balance, they think in extremes. The tendency may be to attempt to overhaul aspects of their lives suddenly and unrealistically. Have you ever done that? The result is often stress, overwhelm, and defeat.

Our suggestion is to start small and remember that consistency is key. Realistically focus on one aspect at a time. The areas needing balance improvement may be subjects like health, parenting, personal and professional boundaries, relationships or money. Just pick one at a time to work on.

Once you’ve decided the item you most want to work on, have a daily, disciplined but compassionate approach. There is only so much you can do on any given day, including today. Just keep your sights on your goals, hold them loosely, and do your best as you can. Most of all, allow yourself to experience the joy in the journey!

Jan. 23 — Sleep

Sleep is a state of rest in which you are unconscious and unaware of your surroundings. Volumes have been written on this topic, so let’s keep it simple.

Sleep is required for both the body and the mind to work effectively. Restoration of the body takes place. Mental activity slows considerably, and the mind integrates information. If sleep is compromised, particularly over a period, well-being and performance decline.

How much sleep do you need? Previously, eight hours per night was the standard. But new recommendations suggest that it depends on individual needs. One size does not fit all.

Quality over quantity is a key concept to remember. Quality is marked by various factors, including sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene allows you to fall asleep more easily and rest more comfortably through the night. That process begins long before bedtime. Sleep experts, such as Dr. Rubin Naiman, emphasize the idea of slowing down well before you lie down, much like a plane making a slow, gradual descent.

Our suggestions include:

  • Turn down the lights in your surroundings hours ahead of sleep time.
  • Read material or watch entertainment that is more peaceful and less intense in content.
  • Take a warm epsom or bubble bath.
  • Do some stretching or light yoga.
  • Write or recall a gratitude list of at least five items.

If you have trouble falling asleep, try a body scan meditation, visualization or simply count backwards from three hundred.

Take a gentle approach and relax. We encourage you to experiment with some of our suggestions tonight. Have sweet, joyful dreams!

Jan. 21 — Laughter

Laughter directly opens a channel to joy. Think about it. Consider the times you’ve laughed intensely, maybe even hysterically. Didn’t you find yourself transported to a feeling of exhilaration? Your cares likely melted away in those deeply humorous moments. You may have experienced a high followed by a “glow’,” a delicious feeling of well-being. You were joyful!

Sadly, much of today’s world is consumed with stress and fear. Instead of living in a consistent happy mood, the tendency is to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and threatened by real or imagined happenings. You might find yourself operating with great intensity and an impending sense of doom. That’s no way to live. You deserve to feel good. By feeling good, you enjoy your life more, and you can better help those around you. Taking a lighter perspective and laughing as often as you can equals good self-care.

When you laugh, you not only create a better mood, but you initiate a healthy cascade throughout your body. Studies show that laughter produces endorphins, increases circulation, and stimulates serotonin uptake. So, when you indulge in laughter, you feel uplifted, and you directly influence your health and mindset!

Jan. 19 — Perspective

Perspective is how you see the world. Perspective develops through life experiences, state of mind, exposure to certain ideas, and much more.

Consider how your own perspective of life has changed over the years. What you believed in your teens is probably quite different from your viewpoint now.

Most people move through the world assuming their perspective is the correct one. It feels like reality. This can present challenges. If everyone has this stance, disagreement can be frequent and even volatile at times. Learning to be curious about other perspectives while honoring your own is the key to collaboration, and ultimately joyful growth.

Seeking and understanding diverse perspectives can be a joyful process if you are willing to bring curiosity to the dynamic. It would be quite a dull world if everyone had the same outlook or opinion. This can be difficult, though, when everyone is passionate about a topic or situation. Dynamics can become intense quickly.

Mindfulness can help. When you mindfully take the time to slow down, step back and breathe, you have a far better chance of being able to truly listen to others even when their perspective is different from your own. Through listening with an open mind and being willing to be influenced, you might even find that your perspective shifts or broadens to include others.

Jan. 18 — Practice gratitude

Gratitude is often overlooked on the path to activating joy. The mind often wants to complain and criticize, which makes people feel angry and depressed. You can uplift yourself quickly by identifying what makes you feel grateful.

Many people start and end the day with gratitude. You can reflect on it. Write it. Speak it. And feel it. Some people default towards thinking about gratitude but don’t really feel it. When you practice feeling it, you release endorphins in your body that make you happy.

Research shows that sending gratitude or appreciation notes to different people for 30 consecutive days significantly raises your happiness level. You can do this through email or text messages. You get extra points if you handwrite the notes, which are appreciated by recipients.

Notes can be sent to people from your past and your present, including colleagues in your workplace. When we work with corporate clients, we often encourage them to create a gratitude challenge within their companies or departments. We bring notecards and distribute them to participants to get them started. The workplace culture thrives when employees share the energy of gratitude.

Sometimes we even take gratitude walks. On these walks, we are only allowed to voice our appreciations. We always feel uplifted by the time we return from the walk.

There are so many ways to practice gratitude. Choose what works best for you.

Jan. 17 — Amplify the good

The brain often scans the environment to identify what’s wrong now, to analyze what went wrong in the past, or to predict what could go wrong in the future.

This compulsion toward the negative blocks you from joy. This thought pattern is rooted in the desire to endure and protect yourself. The brain is conditioned to think that if it can fend off any negatives, it will survive. That’s an illusion and is no way to live!

Amplifying the good strengthens your resilience and helps build internal resources to navigate challenges. It’s analogous to making deposits and withdrawals in your bank account. You don’t want to be in the red — financially or mentally and emotionally.

Here are a few strategies to amplify the good:

Focus on what is going well in your current environment. It can be as simple as enjoying a cup of tea, a sunny day or a constructive meeting.

Remember what has gone well in the past. Think about previous positive experiences. Reflect on your accomplishments. Place a mental spotlight on all that’s been good.

Anticipate positive things for the future. These might be expected or unexpected events and outcomes.

When you amplify the good, you will feel and perform at your best.

Jan. 16 — Nurture your brain

The human brain is the control center of the body. The average adult brain only comprises 2% of body mass and weighs a mere 3 pounds, but its complexity cannot be emphasized enough.

Keeping your brain healthy enables you to maintain mental agility and enjoy a good quality of life. Without a highly functioning brain, the mind and body suffer tremendously.

The physical structure of the brain can grow and improve throughout your life. This quality of “neuroplasticity” means that the brain can adapt and operate more effectively through specific focus and care. You can directly support the health of your brain by your intentionality and health practices.

Physically, the brain can be nurtured through proper hydration, a balanced diet, exercise and sufficient sleep. A deficit in any of these areas can make a marked difference in how you think, feel and operate. Can you adjust your behavior to obtain better results mentally, emotionally, and physically?

Besides physical nurturance, one of the best strategies for brain health is meditation. When you meditate, you encourage your mind and brain to let go of stress and experience more clarity. You tend to enjoy better memory and a calmer response to whatever is occurring.

Today is the perfect day to make healthier decisions for your brain health.

Jan. 13, 2023 — Express your creativity

Human beings are designed to be creative.

Creativity looks different for different people. One person might make art. Another might cook a delicious meal. Even organizing can be a form of creativity.

In what ways do you like to express your creativity? When was the last time you enjoyed your creative side? Are you creative on a consistent basis?

Adults can find themselves busy with so many responsibilities that they forget to express their creativity. Being overly task-oriented can kill the spark of joy within. It may sound strange, but scheduling your creative time may be necessary. If you wait until all the “work” is done, you may never get to enjoy this inherent process of creativity. Bonus: When you allow space in your schedule for creativity, you will be able to return to the tasks at hand feeling refreshed.

Another way you can express your creative nature is by designing your life intentionally. If you get into a slump or start running on autopilot, the spark gets stamped out. Ask yourself these important questions:

What do I really want to experience in my life?

What is holding me back from moving forward?

What kind of support or help do I need?

When you live deliberately, you feel empowered and alive. Your creative spark is illuminated, and you’re filled with a sense of vitality. Make consistent dates with yourself to survey the landscape of your life and ensure you’re on track with your vision for yourself.

Jan. 12, 2023 — Let go of control

Life is in a constant state of flux. Our brains try to make sense of change by predicting and controlling, but that can lead to attachment.

Ultimately, attachment to people, places and objects can result in self-imposed suffering. Many people find themselves stressed, anxious and frustrated when they can’t control people and situations. The need to control is usually rooted in fear, and the truth is you can’t control anything outside of yourself. It’s a hard truth but one that can be liberating once you befriend it.

The starting point to practicing nonattachment is acceptance. This does not mean resignation. It means “seeing things as they are” and having compassion for yourself and others if those observations are uncomfortable. Viewing things from a place of clarity enables you to choose to take productive action or let things be. Continuing to symbolically bang your head against the wall in situations where you find yourself powerless to change things only perpetuates the pain that you and others may be experiencing. This dynamic especially emerges when you try to control those closest to you.

Sometimes, letting go of control and expectations is the wisest action to experience inner peace and joy. When you let go, you can return to your natural state of caring without the need to control. Releasing and letting things be can be a challenge, but when practiced consistently, it can be the key to your personal freedom!

Jan. 12, 2023 (extra) — Meet Angela and Dennis Buttimer

Our Joyful Daily columnists joined us for this week’s Go Atlanta podcast to talk about the new column. Listen below.

Jan. 11, 2023 — Improve your mindset

Mindset is your starting point for how you feel and behave. All else flows from this point.

Your beliefs about yourself and life dictate how you behave. Your beliefs are basically thoughts you’ve been thinking over and over.

Many people allow their thoughts to be automatic without ever truly examining them. Neuroscience tells us that these automatic thoughts tend to be negative and repetitive. If your mind is on autopilot, you may be enduring a negative mindset, which doesn’t allow you the experiences or results you desire for your life.

You can put your hands on the steering wheel of your mind to focus more positively right now. When you do, you create new patterns in the brain that help you strengthen positivity. The more often you do this, the more positive your mindset becomes.

Positivity researcher and psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term “growth mindset.” People who adopt this type of mindset believe in positive possibilities for themselves. They believe they can grow and expand. They believe they can face challenges and develop resources to navigate them. On the other hand, people with a “fixed mindset” are closed to possibilities and find themselves resigned to what life is delivering to them.

You can strengthen your mindset by feeding yourself positive thoughts more often and limiting the self-defeating ones. Grab a journal and write some statements that feel uplifting and energizing to you. Write them each day, and soon you’ll be enjoying an elevated, joyful mindset.

Jan. 10, 2023 — Practice self-compassion

People tend to be hardest on themselves mentally. The tendency to engage in self-criticism, self-negativity and self-loathing makes it nearly impossible to experience joy. Are you your own worst enemy in how you view yourself?

How you frame your mistakes, missteps and miscalculations can deeply impact your daily life. Are your words harsh and your tone intolerant? Be aware of your self-talk, the storylines you tell yourself.

Joyful people cultivate the habit of self-compassion. They learn that self-condemnation does little to move them forward. Instead, they are quick to forgive themselves. They don’t waste time and focus on self-recrimination. They don’t indulge in negatives like unworthiness and inadequacy. Rather, they embrace lessons and use those lessons to move forward constructively.

If you haven’t been treating yourself with compassion, we have some wonderful news: it’s only a pattern and it’s not too late!

Can you take a kinder and more gentle approach with yourself? Can you soften the critical, internal voice? Perhaps, you can be quicker to forgive yourself when you think you fall short. One strategy is to regularly write down and affirm your positive characteristics. Joyful people emphasize what they do well. Putting those wonderful traits in writing can be a tangible reminder and affirmation of your self-worth.

By adopting a more compassionate view of yourself, you can feel good more often. Own your basic goodness despite your shortcomings, which are a part of your humanity. As you create a habit of self-compassion, you’ll experience more joy than ever before.

Jan. 9, 2023 — Utilize your breath

Working with your breath is simple yet profound. In fact, check in with your breathing right now. What do you notice about how you’re breathing in this moment?

Many people tend to breathe shallowly into the chest or hold their breath. This happens mostly out of habit and especially when people get stressed or focused. When you breathe this way, it ignites the sympathetic nervous system, which quickly creates stress and tension in the mind and body and blocks your ability to experience joy.



Instead, practice deep belly breathing. Breathe in through your nose all the way down into the belly. Make a balloon belly. No holding in the tummy for this! Then exhale through the nose fully. Many people often don’t fully exhale either. When you breathe this way, you engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes you and allows greater access to the experience of joy.

Put a reminder on a couple of sticky notes so you can remember to do this breathing exercise. We encourage people to place those notes in highly frequented places like your desk, the car and the mirror.

To really master this technique, you want to set an intention each day and then practice. Practice creates progress. The good news is if you forget, you can course correct at any moment. Eventually, you won’t need to think about it anymore. You will have trained your mind and body to breathe in a more joyful way!

Angela Buttimer and Dennis Buttimer are psychology experts and the founders of Atlanta Center for Mindfulness and Well-Being. Learn more about their work at Send questions or comments about Joyful Daily to