Enjoyment is an incredible energizer to the human spirit -John C. Maxwell
We all want to be happier: a simple sentence, only six words long. And yet every time it crosses my mind, it’s a powerful reminder of why my job — psychologist —even exists; every patient I work with wants my help in order to enjoy their life more. These individuals come from all walks of life, and each has his or her own story, but this desire is perhaps the only thing that they have in common with each other —and, for that matter with you or me. They all want to “be happier”.
So: what’s the number one thing you can do to make that happen?
During my first meetings with them, people often suggest large, sweeping changes to their lives. I could quit my job. I could leave New York. I could get back with my ex. I could shave off my beard.
All valid ideas. But here’s my suggestion: I could try to find more enjoyment in my life as it exists right now.
It is so clear that enjoyment of life is linked to so many other positive outcomes. Some point to the possibility that enjoying exercise will lead to better performance in physical activity. But are there things that you can do practice enjoyment? What concrete behavioral changes can you make to begin your quest to enjoy your life with more vigor?
Here are three ideas for you to practice:
- Have a daily ritual around enjoyment: Upon waking, ask yourself, “What do I look forward to most today.” At the end of your day, ask yourself, “What was the most enjoyable part of my day and why?
You could actually take it one step further and document your enjoyment ritual. Each night, you could write down one thing you enjoyed about your day on a slip of paper, and drop it in a jar. A year from now, empty the jar and re-read the slips. I love this method because of its double-pronged benefit: not only do you get to dwell on your enjoyment every day, but you can relive it all at once, long after the fact.
2. Whenever you eat try to focus on the taste of your food for just one minute. What does it taste like? Try to identify the different sensations. Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour? If you are eating with someone, comment to them about each observation.
This tip comes out of the research which suggests that eating smaller portions of food with more mindfulness can increase your actual enjoyment of what you are eating. (Of course, the trick is the smaller portions – read my post on changing a behavior for that one!)
3. Put a reminder on your phone, computer or calendar that reminds you to enjoy whatever is most important in your life. I have a small cartoon sticker of a shining sun that my daughter gave me that’s on my phone case. In the midst of any stressful day, it reminds me to focus on what I can enjoy and divert my attention from the rest.