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How to Find Joy Every Day (A Step-By-Step Guide)

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Ardith Stephanson

9 min read

After the excitement of the holiday season, it’s easy to slip into the doldrums of January. 

If you’re looking ahead to a long month without many exciting activities, you may be wondering: how can I find joy every day? Life is so much more than the big events, like celebrating New Year’s Eve and looking ahead to a summer vacation. 

There’s that brilliant full moon on a cold night, or the laughter of your kids learning to bake the cookies like grandma taught them over the holiday season.

It’s important to look for the special moments that bring you happiness, in between the big occasions that get all our attention.

We’re here to help! Here are some tips on how to find joy every day, including a step-by-step guide for Joy in January in particular.

1. Begin the Day with a Quiet Routine

Instead of jumping out of bed and into the shower, or onto your smartphone, consider giving yourself “five minutes in the morning after you are fully awake in total silence.”

Even if it means setting the alarm to get up 20 minutes earlier than everyone else in the house, there are benefits to starting the day sitting quietly (with a cup of coffee, of course!) Leave the gadgets and distractions behind, and just be: think good thoughts about the day ahead. 

Here’s why silence in your life brings you joy:

  • Provides opportunity for self-reflection and daydreaming that activates the brain in positive ways. 

  • Increases your awareness of what matters most.

  • Cultivates mindfulness and an appreciation of the present moment.

2. Exercise

I don’t think we need to spend much time talking about the benefits of exercise, since they are well documented. Even some gentle stretching after your five minutes spent waking up, or a short walk on your lunch break, will improve your mental health.

Study after study shows the benefits of staying active. For instance, in a look at  three different age groups it was found that “participants with high and moderate activity levels had significantly higher life satisfaction and happiness than those with a low activity level across the total population and the three age groups.”

If physical activity is related to life satisfaction and happiness at any age, it’s worth adding an activity you enjoy into your routine. It doesn’t have to be a trip to the gym, either. 

Playing catch with the kids, enjoying some street hockey, or getting into a bocce ball game in the yard are all fun ways to stay active. How about a rousing game of Twister indoors on a cold day? Combining activities you love with the people you love will certainly bring joy.

3. Get Outside

Here’s another activity that brings joy: being outside in nature. We don’t need science to tell us how good it feels to walk in the park, sit on a beach, or go for a skate on a frozen pond.

But research does in fact back up those positive feelings we experience when in the great outdoors. 

Here’s one example, a conclusion that “spending less time outdoors was associated with higher depression and anxiety scores…Results suggest that physical activity and time outdoors is associated with better mental health.”

Being in nature activates your senses too, from breathing in all the scents in the forest to listening for grasshoppers in summer wheat fields or marveling at winter sun dogs. Time outside helps improve your mood, relax you, and reduce feelings of stress or anger, a sure path to finding joy.

4. Meditate

Finding calm at any point in a hectic day can also help increase your feelings of joy. Those who practice meditation, even for a few minutes a day, attest to its benefits. 

The Mindworks practice explains how meditation leads to joy: 

“Meditation allows us to access, recognize and enhance the positive qualities of mind…The more we can do this, the less we need to rely on external situations for our happiness and the more we can rely on the natural, positive qualities of mind: love, contentment, well-being and peace.”

We can unlock the “happy” that exists in our minds by turning our focus inward, rather than looking for external sources of happiness, like money or status. 

And nobody needs to tell me that a few moments alone, combined with deep breathing, can help improve my overall mood at any time. From personal growth to reducing anxiety, more people than ever are turning to meditation to help them find joy.


5. Be Mindful of Time on Technology

We all spend time on computers, smartphones and tablets, for work and for play. But if you find yourself feeling down every time you log in, maybe you’re spending too much time on technology.

Social media, for instance, is linked in some instances to feelings of isolation, disruption of sleep, and even depression. Funny cat videos or a picture of your friend’s new baby are fun to see, but be mindful of how you feel when you’re scrolling through your timeline.

That doesn’t mean giving up on your favourite platforms. But consider monitoring your behaviour to see how its use impacts you, and maybe replace some time on social with time spent on yourself. Put the phone down and look out the window, go for a walk, or practice a few minutes of meditation.

6. Start a Gratitude Journal

Taking time each day to express gratitude has been shown to have multiple benefits, not the least of which is an increase in happiness. It has been said that “Gratitude heals, energizes, and transforms lives.”

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, either. You can combine your five minutes of quiet in the morning with a reflection of why you feel grateful. You can also end your evening by jotting a few notes in a journal, expressing gratitude for a few events of the day. Maybe it’s the fact you have hot water in the shower each day, a luxury of our modern times; an enjoyable outing with friends; a promotion that makes you feel proud.

Try this for one week: write down three things that went well every day. This helps you “notice, remember and savour the better things in life.” That’s because when you “tune into the sources of goodness in your life…It's a habit that can change the emotional tone of your life, energizing you with positive feelings of gratitude - which may be why this practice is associated with significant increases in happiness.”

Another option is to show your gratitude to others. Writing gratitude letters to others was used in a study with people struggling with mental health concerns. They showed improvement in their mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended, suggesting that gratitude may actually change your brain. 

“When you write about how grateful you are to others and how much other people have blessed your life, it might become considerably harder for you to ruminate on your negative experiences.” That was true even if the gratitude letters weren’t actually sent. 

Researchers concluded: 

“Simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain..practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.”

Saying thank you really does bring joy.

7. Build a Time Capsule of “Everyday” Events

Start a practice of documenting daily moments that bring you joy. It can be as simple as a photo of your cup of coffee in the morning, to a note about the kind store clerk who helped you carry bags to your car. 

Those simple moments that make up the time between big events are what makes up most of our lives, and it’s worth reflecting on them to bring us joy.

Think of it as a digital gratitude journal. Your time capsule can be in a notebook or on a computer. Jot notes about your everyday life, from fun social events to the name of your favourite song this month. In three months, take time to revisit your time capsule. 

Here’s why this is a practice that builds joy.
We document big milestones, like a new baby, a wedding or a graduation. Of course we want to remember all those moments, but Greater Good in Action says that revisiting “ordinary, everyday experiences can bring us more joy than we might expect.” 

They conclude:

“What seems ordinary in the moment can take on unexpected significance down the road as we take the time to appreciate a simple moment of contentment, a slice of our life that has come and gone.” 

A Step-by-Step Guide for Joy in January (and all year long)

Using a digital platform like memoryKPR, it’s easy to build a practice of joy. Take the month of January and give it a try.

Here’s how:

  • Set up a free account.

  • Spend a month uploading a daily picture, video, text or voice memo that brought you joy. 

  • When the month is over, reflect on your time capsule and you’ll be able to see what truly brings you joy. 

As the big events happen, you can use memoryKPR to create storybooks, like at graduation time. You can build a time capsule for your new baby.

But it’s important to reflect on those everyday moments of joy too. Capture a photo of that walk in the park, or a video of the kids skating on the pond. Add notes from your gratitude journal. Include the workout routine you’ve committed to for the month. Jot down the new recipe you tried and enjoyed. 

As stated by Berkeley University’s Greater Good in Action

“We tend not to document ordinary events because we underestimate the pleasure of revisiting them - and because we overestimate our ability to remember them. By intentionally keeping a record of these kinds of events, we create opportunities for our future selves to experience boosts in happiness.”

You may not feel the need to document every detail, and you’ll likely miss a day here and there. But taking a few minutes once in a while to note what’s going on in your “everyday” life has benefits.

It’s a powerful way to find joy every day.


Life is stressful and busy at times; it can also be lonely and sad. Life circumstances change, and so do our emotions. 

While we look forward to and celebrate the big events that bring us joy, like a wedding day, there are many small moments in between that also provide happiness. It’s important to reflect and remember those too.
By choosing a few simple practices on how to find joy every day, you may find your days filled with more gratitude for what once seemed mundane. 

Ardith Stephanson is a freelance writer and journalist who shares some of her own stories at

Jan 7, 2022

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