Most people would agree it’s important to take time for happiness, but the pace of everyday life often causes us to forget this is a choice. After some year end reflection, I realized I had been looking forward to extraordinary circumstances like a milestone or vacations to have an excuse to do things “just for fun”- and I was tired of it.
Bottom line, there were things I chose to prioritize, in the name of health, work, sleep, or anything else, but pure pleasure and joy always slipped to the bottom of the list. Joy, I realized, would be something that would have to be a choice. And so in the new year, I knew I wanted to prioritize more and, most importantly, consistent joy and pleasure.
Here’s how, with just 20 minutes a day, you can prioritize yourself, your happiness, and get that warm, fuzzy glow that comes from every vacation.
Schedule 20 minutes a day for an activity you love
It’s really that simple. What do you love to do, but never do as much as you’d like to? We love vacations because they’re designated times for fun and pleasure. But there’s no reason why we can’t recreate that- even if on a smaller scale- in our daily lives.
As with all things we are serious about succeeding in, it takes intention and a plan to make it happen. Plan a consistent activity, at a non negotiable time, in a consistent place. Whether it’s reading a book that’s been on your nightstand for ages or doing a yoga flow in your living room, it’s easier to honor the commitment if it’s something you don’t have to think about. Of course, if there are days you’d like to do something different, go for it! It’s just about having a default so making a choice isn’t a barrier to joy time.
Lastly, be realistic and thoughtful about the time you’re setting aside. Can you set this time aside in the mornings? In the evenings? What will need to happen in order for this time to be honored? Whether it is waking up 20 minutes earlier or meal prepping your meals ahead of dinner, being intentional and proactive goes a long way.
Eliminate the Distractions
Ever wonder why reading a book on the beach is so much more delicious than reading it at home on your couch? On vacation, you’re away from distractions- whether it’s a buzzing phone, dinner on the stove, laundry needing to be switched…you get the picture. When you’re on the beach, it’s just you and your book in an environment you feel at peace in.
Whatever the activity is—reading, baking, playing music or making art, or anything else—focus on it solely and completely. Best case scenario, track time on an analog watch or clock or set an analog timer so you can really dive into your joy time without worrying about checking the clock. If necessary, set you alarm on your phone but leave it in a different room.
Follow what joy means to you (that will carry)
Vacations are time to enjoy what you love. We indulge, rest, or are frivolous with our time without feeling bad about it at all. That being sad, it’s okay if your joy time is for a ‘guilty’ pleasure. If it makes you happy, do it without guilt and ENJOY it. Watch that show for the millionth time- as long as that’s all you’re focusing on. No scrolling through social media, no emailing, no folding laundry. Just you and your show.
It’s also worth noting if something is bringing you joy, that joy likely extends past the 20 minute window. It’s something you will be glad you did. So if you are enjoying something in the moment but end up feeling regretful about it later, try something else. Try being creative in a way that feels good to you, or growing a new skill you’ve always wanted to have. Something like learning a new language, or learning to knit, for example, may not be instantly pleasurable at first. But if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, with 20 minutes a day you’ll grow the skills for joy that will extend throughout your whole life.
Making time for joy might feel uncomfortable and frivolous at first, but remember that’s only because you’ve spent years telling yourself other things are more important. It’s worth putting in the effort to reprogram your thinking and prioritize your happiness. Cheers to a more joyful year, and life!