THE BLOG
05/12/2011 09:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Life Out Loud: 7 Secrets to a More Joyful Existence

1) Celebrate!

As life coach Amy Martinez Wong puts it, "Why shouldn't you throw a party every night?" Celebrate everyone and everything as much as possible.

Most importantly, celebrate yourself. Put on your power anthem -- whether it's Nikki Minaj's "Moment 4 Life" or Abba's "Dancing Queen" -- and do a victory dance around your living room when you accomplish a task, no matter how small. Heck, you can even celebrate that delicious bite of almond butter toast you just had for breakfast. Don't wait for an excuse.

Celebrate others, too: Be delighted by their success. Help them spread the good news by offering to take them out for a cocktail or high tea and posting to your Facebook Page about it. Cultivate an infectious enthusiasm for life, and others will be attracted to you like bees to honey. Your joy will multiply exponentially.

2) Strive to be awestruck.

Awe is one of my favorite emotions. It's the reason why I have gone to Burning Man for nine out of the past 10 years. I walk around the temporary city that arises out of the desert landscape with my jaw dragging across the dusty earth for an entire week. Wonderstruck. People's costumes, the art cars, the music, the performances and then the actual art itself -- they make me say, "Wow. OMG, did you see that? Wow!"

Awe, for me, is when God is most present on this plane of existence. I feel as though I can reach out and touch the divine. Awe restores my faith in humanity by reminding me what we're capable of creating.

You might experience awe in the presence of nature, something I do, as well. If that's the case, get yourself out into the mountains for a bike ride, to the beach for a walk, to the forest to commune with the trees. Make saying "That's awesome" a priority in your life.

3) Make friends.

Start with an open heart and mind whenever you approach someone new. Even if you don't like her at first, give her a chance. The way I do this is by thinking, "We all have at least one good book in us: The story of our life." If you can ask the right questions to get the person to share his story, you will make a friend.

I make friends at events, but also on Facebook and Twitter with people I've never met face-to-face. I find all of these relationships rewarding. I don't necessarily have any intention to connect with these people in the future -- I just want to move through life feeling as though I've made the world a little bit smaller, brighter and more loving. We're all still kids on the playground at heart, just longing to belong.

4) Be generous.

At my lowest moment last year, after ending my tumultuous relationship of five years because my boyfriend broke off our engagement, I was devastated at the thought of starting over. I realized that the only way out of my mess of tangled emotions was to give. I raised $4,000 and took that money to Haiti, where I worked with my inspirational friend Alison Thompson in the tent villages, offering counseling, hugs and love. When I returned to San Francisco just 10 days later, I felt transformed: filled with gratitude for the many blessings in my life, and lifted up by the love the Haitians had poured out in the midst of their anguish.

Be generous not just with your time and money, but also with your praise of others. You can never tell those around you too much or too often how fabulous they are.

5) Lead with your vulnerability.

Listen to this: "Hi, I'm MeiMei. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford. I published my first book at age 27..." Annoying, right? Makes you want to throw a cream pie in my face?

Now try this: "Hi, I'm MeiMei. I'm delighted to meet you. You know, I often get intimidated at events like these and as a result, I start rattling off my résumé. But that's no fun. I'm really just a geek at heart. Tell me about you."

In any social situation, if you start off with a list of your accomplishments, you're bound to elicit judgment from the other person. The moment you let down your guard, admit to a flaw and show people your scars, they begin to see you as a fellow human being who is dealing with the same struggles they're facing. You instantly move to a deeper level of communication and trust.

6) Don't be afraid to get sloppy.

I was raised to put on a good show. To be the perfect daughter who shows up at the dinner party in her sundress and greets the guests with a smile, no matter her mood. This is a valuable skill to have in life, without a doubt, and I thank my parents for it.

But in the past decade or so, I've found that the greatest moments of joyful connection to myself and others occur when I'm being authentic rather than polished and perfect. Just be real. Tell it like it is. People will love you for it. (You can read my previous post, "Where Spirituality Gets Sloppy," to learn more about how I take this approach to life.)

7) Love the Universe.

During my long dark night of the soul, my aunt Linda gave me an incredible book by Byron Katie called "A Thousand Names for Joy," in which she shares this mantra: "I am a lover of what is." When I read that line, it made perfect sense. Why struggle against what is so? Why not, as the Buddha instructs, view every challenging event and person you encounter as your perfect teacher?

Adopting this mantra worked. I stopped judging myself so harshly for being a single woman over 35 who had "failed" at having a family of her own. Instead I asked, "What can I do that my friends with kids can't do?" I took off for four months on a round-the-world adventure exploring critical water issues with Jacques Cousteau's granddaughter Alexandra as the Expedition Writer. I moved to Costa Rica for three months and learned to surf. I led a yoga retreat where we did daily volunteer service. I made the most of being unencumbered.

Here's what I think manifesting joy really boils down to: The more you love the Universe, the more it loves you. You can sulk, mope and despair about what's not right in your life, or you can look at what you do have and find something there to value and appreciate. Changing your attitude changes everything.

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