12 Little Ways To Give Yourself The Gift Of Joy Throughout Your Day

A psychotherapist shares her best tips for daily happiness.

Joyful Asian woman wearing a hat, laughing with a map by a field Patiwat-Sariya / shutterstock.com

We may be in “the season of joy" as holiday festivities buzz around us in the form of sparkling lights, eggnog drinks and Mariah Carey or Bing Crosby songs.

However, we might also be encountering a season of stressful schedules, reminders of loss or loneliness, financial strain, and funky family dynamics.

We can counter the stress with a pursuit of joy.

We often discover joy in unexpected moments and intuitive responses. We can also cultivate joy with intention and awareness.


RELATED: 4 Ways To Embrace Every Day With Joy, Despite The Sadness Around You

Inviting more joy into our lives should not be confused with “toxic positivity.”

This relatively new expression refers to constantly expecting ourselves (or those around us) to be happy and positive without honoring the variety of our emotions or the reality of our painful experiences.


Forcing ourselves to always look on the bright side regardless of the situation can have significant negative consequences.   

Cultivating joy is more about opening our eyes and being willing to receive smaller — but no less significant — moments of surprise, beauty, harmony, wonder, bliss, appreciation, and connection.

The way we experience joy is unique to each of us and requires a personalized approach. This list can help you get started on your own pursuit of daily joy.

RELATED: 3 Ways To Cope With The Trap Of Toxic Positivity

12 ways to give yourself the gift of joy throughout the day 

1. Create micro-moments of human connection

Sometimes the most meaningful interactions with others are subtle, yet sincere. When someone waves to say thank you for letting them cut ahead in traffic (or when you are that someone). Taking extra time to chat with your Starbucks barista about their weekend.


Sharing tokens of appreciation (offering a treat for your Amazon delivery person, a thank you note for the person driving the garbage truck, etc).

Giving a genuine compliment to a work colleague, a sibling, a partner, or a child. Anytime you feel understood or validated, take a moment to soak it in.

Seek ways to make someone else feel important and appreciated. No gesture is too small.

RELATED: The Most Important Ingredient For Emotional Health — And Why So Many Of Us Don't Have It

2. Absorb nature's splendor

You don’t have to be a Sierra Club member to appreciate the benefits of connecting with nature.

Something as simple as opening your windows for fresh morning air can reboot our system. If you’re an urbanite, take a detour on your commute down a tree-lined street or sip your morning coffee on a park bench.


If you want to unleash your inner tree-hugger, walk outside barefoot (grounding), take a “forest bath,” or explore a new hiking trail.

There are countless ways to experience joy through nature.

Plant an herb garden. Make a snowman. Take a walk in the rain. Watch the clouds go by.

RELATED: How Spending Time In Nature Benefits Your Mental & Physical Health

3. Indulge your five senses in simple rituals

Engaging in purposeful practices at prescribed intervals throughout your day or week can reduce anxiety and inspire hope and optimism. This effect can be further amplified by enlisting the pleasures that reside within our own bodily sensations.

  • Sight: Surround yourself with items or images that elicit playfulness, warmth, excitement, connection, and delight.
  • Smell: Experiment with essential oils like citrus, mint, and rosemary (all known for mood-boosting properties). Bake something delicious or prepare a favorite meal in the crockpot to infuse your living space with an enticing aroma.
  • Taste: Take a taste field trip. Play with flavor combinations. 
  • Sound: Tempo, tone, volume, and rhythm can have observable impacts on your mood. Experiment with how different sounds make you feel. 
  • Physical touch: Maybe now is the time to schedule that overdue massage. Or practice self-applied touch like havening, tapping or acupressure techniques.

4. Enjoy movement

Tune into your body and let it lead you. Dance, stretch, shake, run, or skip. All physical movement offers a bump in endorphins.

RELATED: The Deep Emotional Skills Kids Learn From Regular Exercise

5. Practice a generous spirit

Sharing our time, gifts/skills, or resources activate reward circuits of our brain to make us feel good.

Volunteer to read or tutor children at your neighborhood school. Make a financial contribution to a cause you believe in. Gather clothes and household items to donate to a local shelter.


6. Engage your imagination

It used to come so easily to us when we were kids, but it’s not too late to play make-believe. Take time to daydream and get lost in reverie. Engage in storytelling. Revive your fantasies.

7. Express gratitude

Reflect on what you are thankful for in your life. The big stuff is important (health, relationships, etc), but don’t overlook the simple pleasures, daily luxuries, and things we tend to take for granted.

Inventory what's going well in your life or what you appreciate when you zoom out to broaden your perspective.

RELATED: 5 Personality Traits All Grateful People Have, Even In Hard Times

8. Unleash your inner artist

Get creative. There are so many options to choose from! Learn to knit or play the harmonica.


Make a collage or vision board. Remember how it feels to finger-paint or sculpt with clay. Take on a photography challenge.

Find your flow.

9. Be an animal lover

You don’t need to have a pet to experience joy from animals. Check out a David Attenborough film and be bewildered by nature and animal life.

Take dog treats with you on your neighborhood walk — you’ll make lots of new friends! Volunteer at your local animal shelter or rescue.

Of course, if you have an animal companion, spend some extra quality cuddle time together.

RELATED: Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You

10. Talk to yourself like a friend

We are engaged in a constant internal dialogue, so it’s important to be mindful of what we are telling ourselves. Make sure your self-directed messages are kind. Design your own personal mantras or positive affirmations. Seek quotes from people who inspire you.


Write out your messages and place them where you will see them when you need a boost.

11. Fake it 'til you make it

Physical gestures can activate specific areas of our brain and reinforce certain emotions (facial feedback). Engaging the muscles we use when we smile can result in a more positive mood. Try to hold a pencil between your teeth, and notice if you experience any shift. Pretend to laugh and see if it leads to a genuine giggle.

RELATED: How To 'Fake' Your Way Into A Happier Life

12. Evoke a sense of awe

What sparks your curiosity and wonder? By embracing what’s referred to as a “beginner’s mind” we open ourselves us up to new and refreshing ways of looking at the world.


It means letting go of preconceptions. Allowing ourselves to succumb to the mysteries and phenomenons of life helps us to discover delight in the unexplainable and wisdom in asking questions.

The notion of joy (how to define it, what causes it, and its consequences, etc) continues to be the subject of ongoing research. We still have much to understand about it, but one thing seems evident: Joy requires tending.

There are many avenues to experience it, and it’s up to each of us to foster and nurture joy in our own life.

RELATED: The Natural Phenomenon Science Says May Ease Depression (& 7 Ways To Find It)

Erin Mason is a licensed psychotherapist, certified yoga instructor, and published writer. In therapeutic practice, Erin works with her clients to identify and cultivate innate resources, inspiring positive change and a more meaningful, rewarding life.