Recognizing Joy in the Small Moments

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

My day to day life is pretty ordinary and often consists of fixing food, cleaning up the house, running errands, playing with my kids and other household tasks.  At a glance, it doesn’t feel very glamorous and there are days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can turn the kids over to him while I escape to the bathroom by myself or go for a short walk around the block.  A break from everything I have to manage and be responsible for.  Does anyone else hear themselves in my words?

Even though they lack a lot of excitement, most days are good.  The laundry, the dishes, the chauffeuring kids back and forth to school and other activities, homework, chores, fixing meals, buying the second pair of shoes in as many months because kids grow so fast.

But if I stop and take a look at the moments in between, what do I see?  My kids pretending to be a baby animal, laughter at made up knock-knock jokes, my daughter getting me a yogurt out of the fridge for breakfast before getting her own bowl out for cereal, a hug from my son for no reason other than he just wanted to.

I think there is a difference between the real life that is essential to every day living and the real life that is in the small moments in between.  The ones that we just might miss if we’re not looking for them.

I will be the first to admit that I lean more towards being a realist.  But I don’t think being a realist excludes me from being optimistic about what’s around me and seeing the good in people and situations.  Over the last few months, I’ve implemented two small practices into my daily life that help me recognize the small moments: a joy journal and a phone app.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

A little over a month ago, I started a joy journal with the sole purpose being to write down at least three things every day that brought me joy.  It might be something to do with my kids, my husband, something I saw that made me laugh, a personal success and so on.  One of the benefits of this journal in my life is being able to take a step back and see what’s happening in the in between moments of life.  I have started looking for things to write down in my joy journal each night that my kids or husband do or say.  I look for the positive aspect of a negative situation and focus on that.  I work to create joy in my life, my family’s lives and those I associate with, rather than just expecting it to be there.  Overall, I am becoming a happier person.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

In February of this year, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook where she had compiled a short video of one second clips of each day of her life for the previous month.  Many of them were similar, some were out of the ordinary, but all of them together brought a smile to my face.  Right then, I downloaded the app she used to create her video called 1 Second Everyday. (It’s free!  Download from the Google Play Store or iTunes.)  Since I have my phone with me most of the time, all I have to do is pull it out and take a video.  Then I open the app, select the day and choose which part of the clip I want to represent that day.  And at the end of the month, I had a short video of clips from my family’s lives.  (If you’re interested, you can watch a TED Talk from the creator of this app on why he created it.) 

Having these two things–a joy journal and the 1 Second Everyday app–have become wonderful tools for me because they capture the little moments of joy in every day life and reminds me that my life, ordinary as it may seem, is pretty darn good.

How do you find joy in the small moments of your life?  Do you write them down?  Take a picture or video?  I’d love to hear what benefits you’ve experienced from focusing on joy.

Why You Should Start A Joy Journal

Why should you start a joy journal?  Joy and gratitude are connected and our focus on one will always bring the other.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m caught in a rut.  The day to day routine of life has been getting to me.  My kids have been driving me up the wall and I find myself annoyed by my own voice some days.  By the time my husband comes home, all I want to do is push the kids towards him and lock myself in a room.  Little things the kids do that might have been funny if I were in a better mood just come across as irritating.  I haven’t liked the grumpy person that’s been taking over my life and I came to the realization the other day that I needed to do something to stop the cycle.  No one else was going to be able to change my attitude.

Chances are, you’ve heard of a gratitude journal.  Maybe you even have one.  Or maybe you started one a while back and haven’t written in it in a while.  As for me, I have one that I started a few years ago, did great for a while, stopped for a bit, picked it back up again, stopped, and the cycle continues.  Over and over I’ve heard the benefits of writing down the things you’re grateful for and how it helps you become more grateful.  But in my case, trying to write down 3-5 things I’m grateful for each day felt more like a chore.  It felt repetitive.  Even in the times that I had a whole list of things to choose from to write down, it still felt a little insincere to simply write a few words to try and convey my gratitude. 

Why should you start a joy journal?  Joy and gratitude are connected and our focus on one will always bring the other.

To help improve my overall attitude, I thought about picking up my gratitude journal again, but it just didn’t feel like quite the right solution, especially knowing how my attempts to maintain a gratitude journal never seemed to stick.  That’s when the thought came to me that I needed to focus on joy rather than gratitude.  Both are connected to each other, but I felt that by focusing on joy that I would be better able to focus on moments of my day that brought me joy.  As many of you can probably agree, the days where everything is wonderful and full of happiness and joy are few and far between.  Most days are just normal days with sunshine scattered throughout it.  Those pieces of sunshine are what I wanted to think about.  At the end of the day, I wanted to write down those moments that brought me joy.

When I was at the store earlier this week, I happened to pass by a little aisle stand that had some journals on it.  One that caught my eye said “Make something good today”.  I picked it up and put it in my cart.  That night before climbing into bed, I wrote a little paragraph on the first page about the purpose of the journal and what I hoped to gain from it.  Earlier that day, I’d found a quote that said, “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”  I knew that if I could commit myself to writing at least three things each day that brought me joy and why I was thankful for those things, that eventually I would feel more gratitude and my overall attitude would improve.

Why should you start a joy journal?  Joy and gratitude are connected and our focus on one will always bring the other.

I’m only on day 3 of writing in my joy journal, but I can already tell that it’s making a difference.  By treating each moment of joy as a separate experience in the day, I can basically write a mini-story about each joyful moment.  This is so much more effective for me than simply writing a list of what I’m grateful for.  I get to share a piece of my day with a focus on joy, which in turn, makes me feel more grateful.  Additionally, I’m either looking for joyful things during the day to include in my joy journal, or I make an effort to create joy so that I have something to write about.

So why should you start a joy journal?  Or maybe the better question is, what do you have to lose by starting a joy journal?  I don’t care who you are, you will have days, weeks, months or maybe even longer when life just isn’t going the way you wanted or hoped it would.  The only thing you have control over is your attitude and what you choose to focus on. 

I encourage you to take a few minutes at some point during your day and just pause.  Think about what has brought you joy and write it down.  Write it in a journal.  Send someone a card or leave a note.  Write down and record the joy and on the days when you need a little boost, go back to the things you’ve written down and read them.  Take a step back from whatever hard thing you are facing and remember the joy.  Use it to encourage and uplift you and those around you.  Joy is meant to be shared.  And don’t we all need a little more joy in our lives?