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05.15 - May

5 steps to more joy
In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.
— W.H. Auden

Family enjoying a golf game What's your joyful noise? A whisper of gratitude for a stunning sunset? A belly laugh at a child's sweet silliness? A "Yes!" for a challenge mastered?

No matter how you express it, you deserve and need joy in your life. And whatever its source — from a drowsy pup on your lap to a parchment diploma in your hand — it doesn't just feel fabulous. Blissful moments can also give your well-being a boost.

What's joy got to do with it?
Many activities that create feelings of happiness — being lively, joking around, helping others — can also have physical benefits, such as:
  • Lower risk of illness
  • Improved circulation and heart health
  • A rise in feel-good endorphins
  • Relief from stress and depression
So for health and happiness, try these five tips for experiencing greater joy:

1. Chortle, snicker or snort. Laughter that is hearty is healthy too. In fact, it's good for your heart health — and can relax muscles and reduce pain. So video chat with that friend who always makes you laugh. Chuckle over the Sunday comics. Giggle through a comedy clip. Or maybe even try a laughter yoga class or DVD. (Yes, there is such a thing!)

2. Delight in play dates. From racquetball with your best buddy to hopscotch with the neighborhood kids, being playful can kick up your mood and confidence. And when your activity gets you moving, you're getting good exercise to boot!

3. Slow down too. In the rush of our busy lives, moments of quiet joy can pass us by. Whether you relax by sitting in the evening shade, listening to sweet harmonies or doing tai chi in the park, be a regular in the pursuit of peace.

4. Savor with your senses. Dew on lush, green grass … the earthy scent of fresh rosemary … a crunchy bite of a deep-purple plum that bursts with juice. Make it a practice to relish the joy in small things.

5. Be generous. Whether you give time or money, big or small, generosity is a proven source of happiness. So leave a kind comment on a blog, pay someone's toll, donate blood, thank your bus driver or let someone merge into your lane.

Finally, share your joyful noise. Talking about happy events brings pleasant memories. And since positive feelings are contagious, when you share them, others might follow in your footsteps toward greater joy — and better health.

Expert advice
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When joy seems out of reach

If you've lost interest in things you once enjoyed or have lingering sadness, talk with your doctor. These can be signs of depression — a highly treatable condition. Your doctor may suggest counseling, medication or both. Check your benefits plan to see what services may be covered.