How to Cultivate Joy

Turn that frown into a smile!

Silhouette of joyful woman on a swing with sunset background

(Tom Wang /

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Although difficulties come along, you can create a life that feels joyful. But it takes work. It means waking up each day with the intention of choosing happiness. It means developing emotional awareness and a mindset that focuses on joy and gratitude. 

It means taking actions that align with your purpose. With a little practice, you can turn your life into a joyful experience. Discover these practices and learn how to cultivate joy.

Carve out a moment of joy every day

When you focus too much on what’s bad in the world, you lose sight of all the amazing miracles happening right before your eyes. An awe a day keeps the sadness away: A bright sunrise, a cool breeze, the feeling of the grass between your toes, a moment spent with someone you love. When you pause and think about it, you can experience incredible beauty around you each and every day. So make a goal of appreciating one moment of “awe” a day that inspires joy in you.

Little girl watering a houseplant with care

(Switlana Sonyashna /

Care for your physical health

You probably associate healthy habits with feeling good physically. But, taking care of your body has a big impact on your mental health, too. According to research published in Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, exercise has all kinds of mental health benefits, like balancing your mood and reducing feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. You can also feel good mentally by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced, nutritious diet, according to Mind. 

Healthy, appetizing breakfast

(nadianb /

Build positive emotional muscle memory

The human experience involves a whole range of emotions. When an emotion comes up, it can feel fast and uncontrollable, sometimes downright unpleasant and overwhelming. The good news: psychologists have found it’s possible to cultivate the emotional responses you want to have in the future. 

According to KQED, the brain has emotional muscle memory. You can influence positive emotions through awareness and actively choosing uplifting emotions. Let’s say visiting the doctor triggers feelings of fear or anxiety. The next time you find yourself in this situation, focus on the joyful side of the experience, for instance: gratitude that you have the opportunity to receive quality medical care. Over time, your brain will actually rewire and begin to associate a doctor’s appointment with uplifting emotions.

Happy woman covering her eyes with flowers

(gpointstudio /

Do what you love

It sounds so simple, but if you want to feel joyful, do the things that evoke feelings of joy. And do them often. Busy lives mean people prioritize obligations like work and the things they love to do fall by the wayside. Whether it’s reading a good book, going for a walk in nature, or sitting underneath the stars, don’t forget to carve out a little time each day for those things that make you smile. 

Teenager enjoying playing the guitar

(silverblackstock /

Find your purpose

Everyone has a unique passion that makes life feel meaningful. Finding your purpose means recognizing what makes you shine from within and including that passion in your life. What brings meaning in your life is unique and personal. What’s your passion in life? Take the time to discover your passion, whether it means showing up for your family, building a better community, or just a hobby, like writing or playing music. When you practice your passion regularly, you create a life of purpose and joy. 

Idyllic image of hot air balloon and birds soaring to signify purpose

(IgorZh /