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5 Joyful 'Micro-Acts' You Can Do Daily That Truly Make Your Life Better, According To Scientists

Photo: Chermiti Mohamed / Pexels 
woman smiling by the ocean

The BIG JOY Project, a collaborative research initiative from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley and other institutions, has found that people who complete daily “micro-acts” of joy over the course of a week have a 25% increase in their emotional well-being.

The science director of the Greater Good Science Center and a BIG JOY project leader, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, stated in an NPR article that completing small, actionable measures to bring happiness helps people create “greater well-being, better coping, less stress, [and] more satisfaction with relationships."

Here are 5 joyful 'micro-acts' to do each day that will make your life better, according to scientists:

1. Write in a gratitude journal.

Keeping a list of small things you’re grateful for throughout the course of a day is a great way to take note of the brighter parts of what can be a challenging existence. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of life, with work, appointments, errands, and meetings, and lose sight of what makes us feel good. Yet taking note of what brings us happiness is a valuable way to remind ourselves of what grounds us.

daily joyful micro-acts that truly make your life betterPhoto: Zhu Peng / Pexels

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Whether you jot down your list of gratitudes while drinking your morning coffee, or think of them while walking your pup, actively reflecting on what we’re grateful for helps expand our capacity to find those moments, in general.

2. Complete a small act of kindness for a friend or a stranger.

We all have tough days, where nothing seems to move in our favor. One way to shift our perspective in hard times is to open ourselves up to the people around us and offer them a small act of kindness.

It can be as simple as shooting a “thinking of you” text to a friend, or asking the clerk at the grocery store how they’re feeling. 

daily joyful micro-acts that truly make your life better Photo : RDNE Stock Project / Pexels

By reaching out to people in our community, we take ourselves out of our own busy minds, refreshing our sense of connection.  

3. Celebrate someone else’s joy.

Another actionable way to soak up joy is to share in someone else’s happiness. By celebrating a loved one’s achievements, you’re not only showing kindness and generosity, but you’re also commemorating the sheer fact that good moments do, in fact, exist, even in times of trouble.

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4. Try self-reflection or meditation.

Centering ourselves through meditation or self-reflection is a small way to pause, breathe, and realign our intentions for the day. While meditating can seem difficult or inaccessible, there are simple techniques for meditating that make it more accessible.

You might find that practicing moments of self-reflection get easier the more you try. 

daily joyful micro-acts that truly make your life betterPhoto: Guilherme Almeida / Pexels 

Simon-Thomas equated maintaining our mental and emotional well-being to our physical health, saying, "If you want to stay physically fit, you have to keep exercising," inferring that practicing consistent mental hygiene is what keeps us feeling happy. "Part of this is intention setting," she continued.

5. Engage in positive reframing.

Even if we commit to practicing our micro-acts of joy, we’ll likely still experience bad moments on any given day or week. After all, nothing is entirely perfect at all times. Yet even low moments give us a chance to change our thinking for the better, by utilizing positive reframing techniques.

When something uncomfortable or unfortunate occurs, we can shift our perspective on the event by identifying the silver linings.  



As psychiatry professor and BIG JOY researcher Elissa Epel explained, practicing micro-acts of joy allows us to maintain “this feeling of agency” over the parts of our lives we can’t otherwise control. She said, "These very short practices are clearly having a positive residue.”

While micro-acts of joy can’t overhaul major systems of inequity or ensure that someone’s basic needs get met, that doesn't mean they are insignificant. They are small, accessible ways to recognize the moments of goodness our lives hold, which we can all benefit from noticing. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers mental health, pop culture analysis, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.