20 Tools for Finding Joy From Hanna Matt Part II - Rancho La Puerta Learn about our health and safety protocols.

20 Tools for Finding Joy From Hanna Matt Part II

We can rewire our brains by our thoughts and actions. Cultivate more joy in your life this year with help from 20 Tips For Joy from guest presenter Hanna Matt. Using recent neuroscience research, she shared how we can create joy and influence the happiness we experience every day.  This is part II and you can see Part I here.

  1. Listen to music and sing. This one’s super easy. Put on music and sing along. Let your freak flag fly when you shower or during your commute. Music releases endorphins and surges dopamine which produces happiness.

  2. Creative expression. Creativity and art aren’t just for professionals. Writing, dance, singing, or drawing will elevate and open the floodgates for the seven joy chemicals. Use your imagination and sense of wonder for inspiration. Any form of creative expression will be therapeutic and uplifting. Not sure how to get started? Why not take a drawing class or music lessons?

  3. Cultivate mindfulness. Observe your unpleasant feelings with nonjudgmental awareness to develop a practice of mindfulness. You don’t need a diet of cheerfulness while stuffing down your darker emotions to be healthy. Watch your unpleasant feelings with curiosity and attention without judging them or labeling them as good or bad. Anger, sadness, envy, and fear all have their place in our lives. Acknowledging your emotions and letting them in without suppressing or fighting them will help make it easier to process and move through them and come back to joy. Be in the moment with undivided attention and awareness.

  4. Bring more humor into your life and thoughts. Laughter and humor build new endorphin circuits and stimulates their release. In a funk? Find a funny book, movie, or friend and spend time together to get your daily laughs. Get free from your momentary condition and discover a sense of freedom through humor. Humor gives us a bigger perspective and helps shape our larger identity giving us depth as people.

  5. Light therapy.  Light therapy affects mood and sleep patterns. Get 30 minutes of sunshine everyday. If you can’t get outside and experience nature, get a full spectrum light box and release those joy chemicals. Your insurance may cover the expense of a lightbox since it’s so important for your health. We’re wired for light.

  6. Practice deep, elongated, and slow breathing. Long slow abdominal breathing activates your vagus nerve, the tenth cranial and the automatic part of your nervous system that controls your heart, lungs and digestive tract. Big, important organs that you can influence through deep breathing. A good way to do this is called four by four breathing. Inhale a long deep breath for four counts, allowing your stomach and chest to expand, then slowly exhale for four counts pulling your stomach in. Doing this 20 times acts like an icebreaker through a sea of stress, helping free you from anxiety and allowing you to move on with your thoughts.

  7. Happiness habit. Happier people have healthy boundaries and better internal control of their emotions. Become your own best friend and listen to your boundaries, they’re rooted in the things you treasure. It’s good to say “no” and establish healthy boundaries at work, at home, and in life. Say no to people who are energy suckers and protect yourself. Part of the Happiness Habit is to let go of resentments. When resentments do pop up, use empathy and understanding of yourself to learn and then redirect yourself with a new activity. Reset your thoughts by going for a walk or another activity if you need it.

  8. Eat to produce joy. Refuel the brain tank with a healthy diet that includes 20 grams of protein with each meal. It should fit in an adult’s palm and fill about 1/3 of a dinner plate. Proteins contain tryptophan, an important building block for serotonin, which influences mood, sexual desire, sleep, memory, and learning. Symptoms of low serotonin are negativity, depression, worry, anxiety, low self-esteem, low energy, lack of enthusiasm, irritability, sleeplessness, or becoming a night owl, and fear. The other 2/3’s of your plate should be a rainbow of colored vegetables. Healthy eating provides the basic ingredients for your brain to create serotonin.

  9. Spirituality. Move out of the smaller isolated ego of self and into a broader more open self with more depth. Our egos have limited resources to help open up the treasure chest of joy chemicals. We all need help. Being open to the world, nature, silence, and inspiration will help you tap into the prefrontal cortex, the happiness area of your brain. Connect with spirit and soul in whatever way works for you. Awaken awe, wonder, and amazement for your life and all that you encounter.

See more mindfulness activities and tips.

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