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Want More Joy in Life? Prioritize Things You Enjoy Doing

“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” ~Joseph Campbell

Because I am self-employed, I often find that my work is my life. There is no off switch when the day is over. Some days I get so caught up in the busyness that I completely forget myself.

While my work is immensely meaningful and enjoyable, I believe it’s important to have other activities outside of work that bring us joy so we can live even fuller lives.

When I get too caught up in my work of helping others, I forget the other things that are important to me. This makes me feel that I lack the balance of a multifaceted life.

One day I realized that I was so caught up in helping other people that I completely forgot to help myself. As an introvert, it’s important to recharge my batteries by pursuing activities that recharge the soul.

So I sat down with a pen and paper and did what most busy people do: I wrote a list.

This was a list with a difference.

I wrote down every single activity I enjoy. I wrote down every single activity I hadn’t tried but wanted to. And I wrote down every single place I wanted to visit.

This was the beginning of actively creating joy in life. You can make of life what you will. Personally, I choose happiness.

In positive psychology, a method for finding happiness and joy is being in a state of flow. You already know this feeling. It’s when you are completely tied up in what you are doing and you lose track of time because you are so engaged and stimulated in your activity.

Often, activities that put us in a state of flow are creative—things like painting, playing music, cooking, sewing, reading, writing, and doing arts and crafts.

Other activities that often put us in this flow state are physical. This could be gardening, hiking, bike riding, yoga, golf, and any other physical activities we enjoy.

For ultimate happiness and health, I believe it’s important to pursue both creative and physical activities. Stimulating your mind and body leads to greater intelligence and a heightened state of awareness.

Some might say to get into a state of flow you need to get a hobby. I think perhaps this is true. When was the last time you heard someone say they have a hobby?

Hobbies seem to be something of the past. Today we are so busy. We get so caught up in work, family, relationships, pleasing other people, and technology that we forget to do the things we enjoy for ourselves.

This is where my list came into play. It ended up being a multi-page list of every hobby I ever had, every activity I enjoy, and every activity I wanted to try. I then made it a priority to do at least one “happiness activity” every week.

Taking time out of our regular day-to-day work and finding new ways to enjoy life is essential to our happiness and well-being.

If your life is very busy, do not be fooled into thinking you have no time for hobbies. Everyone has fifteen minutes available, even if it cuts into your sleep or email time.

Although fifteen minutes may not feel like enough time to get into a state of flow, it is enough time to feel joy and happiness. With a bit of practice, you might find you get into such a state of flow that fifteen minutes turns into an hour. Over time, you may find that these pursuits of happiness overtake the importance of busyness.

If you think you have no hobbies now, the best way to find out what you enjoy is to remind yourself what you enjoyed as a child. Did you previously enjoy baking? Or drawing, or playing music, or playing football?

Write yourself a list of every activity you ever enjoyed and every activity you’d like to try but haven’t yet. Pick one thing that you previously enjoyed immensely, and set yourself an appointment to give it a go again. When you are ready, set an appointment for one new activity you have never tried before.

Your life could be transformed by this one simple act: making it a priority to do the things you enjoy.

Ideally, you want to set time for this daily. I completely understand that this is difficult to do. At a bare minimum, you want to schedule it in weekly.

Personally, I like to set aside one day every week to go for a hike. But sometimes if I don’t have time for that, I like to pick up my flute and improvise. If I only have a spare fifteen minutes to do this, I find the time just flies by, and it only feels like five minutes.

Doing something like this is so good for my soul. I find that if I don’t schedule flow time, then I feel tired and overwhelmed with life. It is so important to me that I actually write it down in my diary and stick to it like any other important appointment.

We can all experience more joy in our lives. We just need to consciously choose to create it.

About Anna Papij Shelley

Anna Papij Shelley is a sports coach, mindset coach and musician. When she is not training other people's bodies and minds to be the best they can, she can be seen pursuing various sports such as running and powerlifting, where she is working on improving her own body and mind. Visit her at wildfitness.com.au and annapapij.com.au.

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  • I really enjoyed reading this. It’s so true that we must take time to do the things we enjoy outside of our obligatory and “busy” activities to recharge our batteries. You mentioned this is part of the “flow” in pursuit of a happy life; however, I noticed you failed to mention that rest and just being in the moment for a while is also essential in this “flow.” Although physical and creative activities are absolutely essential in living a balanced and happy life, I think the state of absolute stillness is also essential to our well-being. The idea that we feel we must always be “doing something” — feeling productive and purposeful overshadows the importance of rest too. I know this is especially true for myself. I always feel there is so much to do and experience in this life that who has time to rest, right? Anyways, this was a great read and a great reminder to continue finding and experiencing my passions.

  • Talya Price

    I always start my day with meditation. Throughout the day I write in my journal. I believe that taking time out for yourself is the best thing you can do for you. This was a great read.

  • April Ballew-Harrell

    love this! great reminder that we all need to hear frequently! thank you!!!!

  • We definitely need to rest and be still more often. I was talking about “flow” as a word of terminology, and providing ideas for that.

    You are so right though – being still is essential to inner peace.

  • And thank you for reminding me that meditation is on my list for this week 🙂

  • This is great Anna. I always remind myself every day to take some time off for myself, devoid of all communications from the outside world. I find it best when I’m working out in the gym because there’s zero distractions at all and 45 minutes a day makes a whole difference.

  • That’s awesome, Aqilah 🙂 I find the gym is a great opportunity for this too. If it’s a tough session you are not even capable of thinking of anything else other than the task at hand.

  • Diana Foree

    Sometimes we lose track of time and we just keep working. There is a point when we need to get up from our work table, relax and let our minds rest for a bit. Liked this article!

  • So important. Happiness Boosters – even like you said once a week, can make a difference. Something is always better than nothing. And we cannot wait for the ‘right’ amount of time or when… the kids grown up or …… Life will always be in the way, so to speak so the time is Now to infuse our day/week with things we enjoy. We will have that much more positive energy to give out to all our must-do tasks. We spend awful amounts of time on social media; put it down and take 15 minutes a day for something that brings you pleasure – even sitting down with your hands holding that pretty mug of hot chocolate (or your drink of choice) while starring off or reading a page or two of a book/magazine. And Breathing in the down-time of the moment. Taking it in and feeling it can give us that bit of restorative energy we need to continue on in our day. Who knows, you might then look to schedule in that once-a-week dance class that you wish you had time for. There is time. It’s what we choose to do with it.

  • Kishan Joshi

    This was really refreshing to read and gave a new perspective of looking at life. It made me realize all that I had been missing having been caught up in the busy life.

  • Deanna Piercy

    This post inspired me to do a favorite activity I hadn’t done in a long time (coloring). It also inspired a blog post on this subject. http://teawithdee.blogspot.com/2014/02/what-makes-you-happy.html Thank you so much!

  • This makes me so happy! I am really glad you have been inspired to take up colouring again 🙂

  • Nicole Liloia

    It’s so true that we don’t spend enough time doing things we enjoy and if we are doing them, we are often so stressed and disconnected that we aren’t even appreciating it!

  • JiEun Lee

    thank you for your post. I admire your love and passion for your work as well as taking good care of yourself. It may sounds really stupid but I had hard time coming up with a list of activities I “enjoy”. Even listening to music is something I do when I don’t want to study (I’m pharmacy studnet and most, if not all, of my time goes to studying and doing assignments.)
    do you have any advice for this helpless person (aka me) ?
    thank you again for your post.

  • Hey JiEun, What kind of things did you used to enjoy when you were younger? Did you enjoy baking cookies, painting, reading, writing, swimming, sewing, playing basketball, planting flowers, going to galleries, visiting flea markets, relaxing by the beach, tarot cards, collecting coins or playing frisbee? Even if some of your previous interests seem a bit silly to you now, it’s worth giving them a go again to see if you still enjoy them.

    I’d love to know how you go 🙂

  • Spencer

    Thank you Anna for your well written article. I have just written out my lists and plan to incorporate more physical activities that I enjoy doing to get me away from the computer.