Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions? Like you’re adulting too hard, enjoying too little, and wondering why life isn’t more fun?
I think we all feel this way at times, and not just because we have busy lives and overwhelming responsibilities. We also have busy minds and overwhelming thoughts that keep us stressed, insecure and anxious. And we unintentionally sabotage our own happiness, thinking we need to make big changes to finally love our lives—or do something big to earn the right to enjoy it.
The tragedy is that months and years can go by while we plan and hope and wait, when all along there were things we could have done to make the most of what was right in front of us.
If you’re looking to infuse more joy into your days, these seven tips are a great start.
Each includes a link to a related post narrated by the team at Optimal Living Daily (one of my favorite podcasts—full of actionable advice from the most inspirational sites on the web, including Tiny Buddha!)
1. Imagine everyone you meet is someone you’re proud of, excited for, or rooting for.
Given the vast number of people we encounter on any given day, it’s easy to tune them out, like blurred faces in the background of our lives, or worse, see them as obstacles or enemies. But this creates a sense of separation and sometimes even hostility, leaving us guarded and defensive.
It’s a lot more fun to imagine everyone we meet is a lot like us, because the reality is, they are. When we humanize the people around us, we’re kinder, more open, more at ease, and more likely to enjoy moments of genuine connection.
The other day when I was getting a pedicure with my sister, a young girl had a total meltdown. Her mother very calmly took her outside and appeared to empathize with patience and kindness.
This touched my heart because, as a fellow mom, I know how hard it is to handle a public meltdown, and I felt proud of this woman I didn’t even know. So my sister and I clapped when she came back in, and we all shared a smile and a nod.
It’s easy to feel something for a stranger doing something admirable. But that person talking loudly on their phone in the store? Maybe they’re reconnecting with the best friend they haven’t talked to in years. And I’m excited for them! That person who was rude to the cashier and left in a huff? Maybe they’re facing deep traumas and struggling with depression. And I’m rooting for them!
The world is a friendly place when we attempt to see (and treat) everyone as a friend.
Related: One Simple Question You Should Ask Everyone You Meet by Marc Chernoff of Marc and Angel
2. Have a mini adventure every day.
Many of us live our lives in a perpetual state of routine and drudgery. Hit the alarm, hop in the shower, soon after in the car, then go to work, head home, and repeat. When life feels like a monotonous grind, we inevitably look for ways to escape. We zone out with our phones, numb at night with beer or wine, or fantasize about all the trips we hope to take.
Though we can all make changes to enjoy our lives more, most of us can’t make massive shifts overnight. We can’t instantly get a new job, or make parenting less demanding, or heal health issues that have plagued us for years. We can, however, find ways to infuse adventure into our day-to-day life.
Maybe it’s riding your bike to work. Or taking a short hike on your lunch break. Or watching the sunset instead of Netflix. Anything different can make your day more exciting, and if it’s in nature, all the better, since that can boost your mood and pull you into the now.
Related: How to Craft a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist
3. See the world like you’re on vacation.
I know I just suggested we avoid looking for escapes, but like most people, I’m happiest when I’m traveling.
When I’m traveling, I look for fun things to do, even if it’s raining outside. I see the world with a sense of excitement and wonder, appreciating the local customs and unique scenery around me. I’m also incredibly present, pulled into the moment by the novelty and adventure of it all.
The beautiful thing is we can adopt this mindset right in our own backyard. We can find new things to try just a few miles away. We can admire the architecture in our neighborhood instead of just passing buildings. We can choose to be present and open-minded, excited about what the day might bring.
The simplest way to enjoy our life more is to proactively look for things to enjoy.
Related: How to Use a Traveler’s Mindset to Create Joy in Daily Life by Kat Medina on How to Be Happy
4. Leave a little white space in your schedule.
If you’re anything like me, you might get a little rush of satisfaction when you check something off your to-do list. Every little win is a quick dopamine hit, so it feels good to get stuff done. Except when it doesn’t. When the list feels overwhelming and you’re tying your worth to all you’ve accomplished and your ego’s saying it’s never enough.
When you fill your day with tasks to complete, it leaves no room for spontaneity or serendipity and little opportunity for the type of insight or inspiration that come when your mind is still. So instead of filling your schedule with things to do, leave a little space to just be. Even write in on your to-do list if that helps—6:00-7:00: whatever! Then see where your heart pulls you. Take a walk. Make a call. Bake a cake. Do anything that might make you smile.
As a mom of two young kids with lots of needs and even more wants, I get that sometimes the list is long because it is. Because some things just have to be done. But they don’t all have to be done now, or done perfectly, or even done by me.
The less we put on our plates, the more we can savor what’s on there—without rushing to get to what’s next.
Related: The Greatest Secret to Productivity That No One is Talking About by Courtney Carver of Be More with Less
5. Take the pressure off.
The previous tip might be incredibly hard to apply if you feel like you should be doing more with your days. If you feel lost and purposeless, or your life feels meaningless, and you think you’re wasting your time.
When you feel compelled to do something important or big—especially if you’ve been trying for years—every day can feel like a pressure cooker. Like life is short and time’s running out, so you better hurry up and do something that matters. But stressing yourself out doesn’t guarantee any specific result. It just guarantees you won’t enjoy the journey.
So instead of telling yourself that your day only counts if it brings you one step closer to your goal, tell yourself your main goal is to enjoy as much of each day as you can. That you’re never “wasting time” if you’re learning or having fun.
Odds are, if you focus on learning and fun, you’ll stumble onto some way to make a difference in the world, whether that means leveraging your talents to help others or inspiring others just by being your most joyful, most present self.
Related: When You Feel Purposeless and Fear You’re Wasting Time by me
6. Practice simple little happy habits.
We often think that happiness is in the big things—the milestones, the accomplishments, the adventures. And those things can absolutely bring us meaning and satisfaction. But day-to-day happiness is more about what we do… you guessed it… day to day. And that starts with tiny habits.
Maybe it’s complimenting people on things that might go unnoticed and unappreciated. Maybe it’s starting your day jumping around to your favorite song. Or maybe it’s creating a smile-generating catchphrase, like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (“Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!”)
Make a list of tiny habits that might supercharge your joy—and other people’s. Then pepper them throughout your day. One of my favorites is playing the “running game” with my sons. Which just means we run around our living room laughing (and racking up steps) to Ghostbusters and Time Warp (or “Time Work,” as my oldest says). The endorphins from running, the infectious sound of their giggles… instant joy every time!
Related: How Simple Little Happy Habits Can Make a Huge Difference by Midge Greentree with Tiny Buddha
7. Get out of your head and into your body.
There’s a reason I love the running game—and yoga and hiking and walking barefoot on the beach. Physical activity has a way of pulling us out of our heads. So instead of dwelling on what happened yesterday or worrying about what’s coming tomorrow, we’re right in the moment. Rooted in our bodies. Releasing stress, getting endorphins pumping, maybe enjoying the rush with someone we love.
Interestingly, movement makes us feel more connected not just because it’s often a social experience. According to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, exercise changes our brain chemistry “in a way that makes it easier to connect with others and bond… It enhances social pleasures like a high five, laughing or a hug.”
So not only do we feel calmer, happier, and more present, we feel a deeper sense of love and belonging. A far better alternative to feeling stressed and alone as we sit scrolling on our couch or our bed.
Related: The Simplest Way to Create More Calm in Your Life by Jacqueline Stone with Tiny Buddha
Let’s face it: life isn’t always fun. Even the most fortunate among us have struggles, obligations, and demons to face. But we’re all presented with countless opportunities for connection and joy—if we can create space in our lives, get out of our heads, and let ourselves live in the now.
It starts with a simple choice—one tiny decision to do something differently. To try something new or say something instead of merely thinking of it or challenge a thought that might hold us back. These little choices might not change everything, but they can change how we experience everything. And maybe, for now, at least, that’s enough.
If you enjoyed the Optimal Living Daily recordings, I highly recommend subscribing (for free!) here. They hand-pick and narrate some of the best personal growth and self-development posts online, jam-packed with practical, actionable advice—including posts from Tiny Buddha!