1. Wake up early.
The little window between 5 and 9am is incredibly peaceful and substantially joyful. While the rest of the world idles in deep sleep, you rest in the quiet comfort of morning stillness. Reap the benefits of a few uninterrupted hours, knowing that your cell phone can stay tranquilly tucked away, and your mind can contentedly latch onto your latest project. No distractions—just you, productive work, a steaming mug of coffee, and the rising sun.
2. Fuel your body with the good stuff.
Growing up in San Diego, I couldn’t help but slip into the wonders of organic produce, farmers’ markets, and cold-pressed juices as well as the heavenly call of Whole Foods, Jimbo’s, and Sprouts. While in Texas, peers say that I’m “so Cali” for the way I eat (side note: I will cringe if you say the word Cali), but I’m simply dedicated to treating my body the way it deserves to be treated! Daily meals of chicken fried steak and butter-infested mashed potatoes are just not the answer for me. When I’m feeding my body kindly with dark leafy greens, gluten-free super seeds like Quinoa (yes, friends, it’s a seed and not a grain), and the pure goodness of a tall bottle of Suja Juice, I feel healthy, happy, and motivated to take on the day. Spilling with incredible fruits and vegetables, Suja Juice is a San Diego-based company that cold-presses their ingredients, resulting in crisp and clean goodness. While I’m a firm believer in juice cleanses (more on that later, perhaps?), I love to drink Suja as a snack or meal to replenish my body and soul and replenish vital nutrients. My favorite is Fiji: 2 apples, 6 celery stalks, ½ of a cucumber, a handful of spinach, 3 collard greens, 3 kale leaves, a squeeze of lemon and a hint of ginger. How sweet is that?
3. Walk somewhere.
I’m an explorer. I crave a constant change of surroundings, and thus can be infected with fidgety, squirmy, cabin fever,where all I can think to do is lace up my running shoes and get out. Especially on a college campus, I find so much comfort in neighborhoods—walking through them, running through them, or just playing football in their little parks. Exploring the pockets of southern mansions and college cottages brings me so much joy. Plus, there is something about being in touch with the world and under the stretch of sky that both refreshes and inspires my soul. My best thinking is done while walking. Get up, lace up, and get out.
4. Drink water continuously.
While my intent is not to be motherly, drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is a complete game-changer for me. I drink water like it’s nobody’s business. While I’m not so bold as to carry a giant jug, my Camelbak goes with me everywhere. Like a baby blanket to a child, I feel lost without my water and refuse to go anywhere without my tall, blue, plastic container of wonderful. Your health will thank you, your skin will love you, and your mood will improve. Water cures much.
5. Keep the bed sacred.
Living in the dorms last year, my bed became my life. If I wasn’t at my desk, I was tucked into bed at any and all times of the day. It was my eating spot, my homework cocoon, and just my complete dwelling place. In a dorm, you don’t have much choice—unless you enjoy being glued to your rolling chair at all hours of the day, the bed is the only other spot that’s completely yours. As a sophomore in my own apartment, I began this year with the same mindset—the bed is a lifestyle. I quickly learned that not only am I incredibly lazy and unproductive in bed, hanging out in the depths of the fuzzy covers was majorly affecting my sleep at night. I had confused my body. No longer did curling up in bed in the evening signal to my mind that it was time to unwind; since I was constantly chillin’ in the covers, my internal clock had no idea when to settle down and sleep deeply. Since this bittersweet realization, I’ve kissed my comforter goodbye and now make my bed as soon as I wake up. As a slight (AKA major) perfectionist, once my bed is made up to fluffy excellence, I cannot even bring myself to wrinkle the flawless cloud of cozy. Thus, going to bed at night is extra special and peaceful, and I sleep like a little baby : ) .
6. Pray like it’s a conversation.
So often I slip into the droning familiarity of, “Thank you for ___, help me with ___,” and I tune out of my own prayers. When I was little, I would pray with my mom every single night, repeating, “Dear Lord, please put your shield of love and care around us.” I repeated the phrase so many times that after a while I didn’t even process the request. Now since I live alone, I love to talk to myself (confessions...), sing constantly, and read out loud. I’ve recently begun praying aloud in the style of how I would speak if I were on the phone with my mom or dad. I just update Him on life, talk to Him about my day, and speak about my fears, joys, trials, and triumphs. I feel so much more invested in my relationship with Christ when I speak out loud, and the contrast of the complete stillness after my prayer is absolutely amazing. Sitting in complete quiet after I talk to Him blankets me in noiseless peace; I can hear His voice more clearly and differentiate it from my rambling thoughts.
7. Pay for the person behind you.
I’m smiling as I write this. Once at In’N’Out, I drove up to pay for my meal (hamburger, cut in half, + Neapolitan shake—always), only to hear that the sweet man in front of me paid for my meal already. It was such a complete delight. Although I could have easily spared $5, the joy stemming from his kindness meant so much to me, I swear I cried a little. I haven’t gone out to eat since it happened (refer to #2), but I am itching to pass it along. The little things are the best things.
8. Tuck love notes around your city.
I have a massive crush on More Love Letters. (Is it possible to be in love with an organization?) MLL is an amazing group that inspires people to write encouraging and uplifting notes and scatter them around their city. The notes aren’t the mushy “Notebook-esque” love letters (which kind of make me want to vom), but are just raw, positive, inspiring notes scripted with careful thought. Although I’ve never found one of my own, I can visualize the overwhelming joy I would feel from reading that a stranger thinks I am valued, wonderful, smart, and enough. I like to do this in airports, leaving them tucked away in the restroom. No one can resist an envelope labeled, “for you: yes, you!” The organization has a list of do’s and don’ts of letter writing, and asks that their URL be scripted on the envelope so the receiver can read up on the concept. It’s such a beautiful way to love on everyone and to gently shake the world (thanks, Ghandi).
9. Indulge in an old, favorite book
Oh my. I cannot even tell you the number of times that I’ve happily revisited any given Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, or Callahan Cousin book. These texts are so dear to me, and cracking them open is like revisiting another world to which I belong. The characters are my friends, and Hogwarts, River Heights, and Gull Island are each my home. It’s so wonderful to melt away into an old favorite for a while.
10. Turn off your phone.
If you’ve been reading The Little English Girl for the past two years or even just this month, you’re probably noticing my not-so-subtle love for keeping my phone off. In a world so focused on constant texts and calls, coupled with the importance of responding only moments later, it can seem radical to advocate going cell-phone-free for even five little minutes. However, this does wonders for my productivity. Completely powering off my little white rectangle of iOS7 innovation is the only way I can really tune into whatever project I’m working on, or new business I’m dreaming up at the moment (ah, the joys of entrepreneurship), thus leaving me inspired and joyful. Radical.
11. Buy yourself a little somethin’.
Retail therapy is the sometimes-answer; when done in moderation, buying a little something can absolutely generate happier mood, even if it's a tiny, steaming cup of coffee. My favorite purchase recently was from Amanda Catherine Designs on Etsy—lovely pencils white pencils with gold engraving (She has charm. She has wit. She has gumption).
12. Dream bigger.
I was talking with a friend over coffee the other day, and she spoke to how she’s been dreaming too small. We fantasize about finding the perfect job, husband, or little house, when we could have that and shake the world. Dream bigger. Stop limiting yourself with picket fences and tire swings and aim for what you daydream about. Think back to those scenarios you play in your mind as you fall asleep (we all do it). What is the heart of what you want out of life? Chase after it. Don’t stop running until you’ve reached the path for success, and even then keep pushing forward. If you want something out of life, then give this life something of you—your time, energy, effort, heart, and passion.
13. Expand your horizons, friend-wise.
I love networking. One of the greatest joys in life is friendship, but I would be willing to argue that the happiness cultivated by meeting new friends and pouring out into them is just as sweet as continuing to invest in an already-tight-knit group. I’ve been really tested by this concept this year, and am beginning to find that my closest friends are scattered all over campus—no longer am I solely looking within my dorm or sorority or major to provide me with a group. It’s a combined effort. My most satisfying friendships are with people in different sororities, clubs, majors, and teams. Variety is truly the spice of life, for each of these people bring something different to the table. Little groups can be a safe harbor, but if you solely stick to “your people,” you may be at risk for missing out on a lot of other really wonderful friendships.
14. Be a light.
Lastly, I truly feel that the most foolproof way to have a joyful day is to focus on allowing God’s love to shine through you. Approach the day with a servant’s heart, ready and willing to be a light to the world. Seek first the Kingdom, eager to please the Lord with your actions and words. Harvest joy by delighting in Him.