Joyful Daily

Joyful Daily is a new column that 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.

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.

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

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 pathtobestself.com. Send questions or comments about Joyful Daily to joyfuldailyajc@gmail.com.