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As much as humans aren’t fans of being reminded of our mortality, we all know that though certain parts feel like they drag on forever, life is actually really short. Since we only have one shot at this, we might as well try to enjoy ourselves and find ways to experience happiness and joy — even in the middle of a global pandemic that has isolated us from the rest of the world. But anyone who has had a bad day — or lives with any sort of mental health condition like anxiety or depression — knows, that’s easier said than done. Though there is not one single secret to happiness, enjoying life (if only!), or getting out of a slump. However, there are active steps we can each take to make our day-to-day lives a little more pleasant. Here are four ways to enjoy life.
Figure Out What You Like
Yes, this sounds super basic, but in order to know what’s going to help you enjoy life, you first have to pause and reflect on what, exactly, brings you joy. Which activities, people, and places do you especially like? Of course, your preferences change from day-to-day, so build a daily ritual around enjoyment. “Upon waking, ask yourself, ‘What do I look forward to most today,’” Dr. Jonathan Fader writes on Psychology Today. “At the end of your day, ask yourself, ‘What was the most enjoyable part of my day and why?’”
It may seem like people throw around words like “meditation” and “mindfulness” a lot, and you may think that you’re not the type of person who is able to get anything out of it. But in actuality, being mindful is simply being aware of your surroundings and acknowledging them. Let’s use food and eating as an example. Research has shown that being mindful as you eat allows you to enjoy the food more. “Whenever you eat try to focus on the taste of your food for just one minute. What does it taste like?” Fader writes. “Try to identify the different sensations. Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour? If you are eating with someone, comment to them about each observation.” And it goes far beyond food. The next time you’re outside, take a minute to look around. Being aware of your surroundings — especially when nature is involved — can help you appreciate the world around you and enjoy it more.
Be Kind to Yourself
You could be on your dream vacation, doing an activity you’ve looked forward to your entire life, but if you’re beating yourself up about something — like things not going according to plan — it’s not going to make the experience enjoyable. Instead, practice self-compassion and self-care. But for a lot of people, that’s easier said than done. “Many of us have to teach ourselves how to be self-compassionate. It feels that foreign, that far away. And that’s OK,” Margarita Tartakovsky writes at PsychCentral. “Because self-compassion is actually a skill we can sharpen—whether we’ve bashed ourselves for years or not. The more you practice, the more you act with kindness, the more natural it becomes.”
Get Some Sleep
If you’re constantly exhausted, it’s hard to enjoy anything — even activities you usually love. Ensuring you’re sleeping well (or at least giving yourself the chance to do so) is an important aspect of self-care. Research out of Harvard University shows that sleep and the quality of your mood are closely connected — and if you don’t catch enough ZZZs, you may be irritable and stressed, which can make enjoying life much harder. And according to the Sleep Health Foundation, “if we are able to get a few good nights of sleep, our mood will improve. Healthy sleep is important for our well-being and quality of life.”