Health & Well-Being

Expand Delight

Three ways to turn your life into a celebration

Wouldn’t we all want to brighten our lives with more delight? Aging can bring challenges, b ut it can also be our time for reflection, appreciation, and wonder. 

Delight can fuel our inspiration and hopes for the future by focusing on small pleasures and what we love. And it can add sparkle to our lives.

I discovered the first way when I was preparing for my 60th birthday. 

Option 1: Give Yourself Experiences.

When I was six, a birthday expanded my world. It meant more adventures, a later bedtime, and an allowance. But as I approached 60, my birthday felt less promising. My end-of-life horizon looked so much closer.

Rather than throw a party (which seemed like work), I gave myself a set of outings and adventures over the year. I made a list of 60 experiences sure to put a smile on my face. They could be new ones or acknowledgments of what I was already doing. Bottom line: I had to love them. 

I made a list of experiences I wanted to have, all hopefully affordable and not too caloric. Making the list felt like a celebration of my life. Then, over the next 12 months, I found joy as I implemented my special items.

Beautiful Mariah | Photo by Sally Fox

My list of pleasurable gift experiences included:

  • Walking slowly through a loamy wood.
  • Catching up with special friends over coffee.
  • Drawing with brilliantly colored markers.
  • Taking an improvisational theater class.
  • Writing (just for fun!) for two hours in my favorite chair. 
  • Planting dahlias.

I turned the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Nothing on my list of experiences seemed that extraordinary. Yet the process of making the list made my heart sing. I knew I was on to something. 

Mariahs eye W jpg
Beautiful Mariah | Photo by Sally Fox

Option 2: List What You Love.

This year, at 72, my life was filled with unexpected losses—the kind that rip your heart out, beginning with the loss of my sister. Even though I needed space to cry, I also needed a few jolts of fresh happiness to pull me through the tears. 

I needed delight.

I decided to identify 72 things that I loved. By focusing on them, I felt a wave of gratitude. I was swept along into a current of appreciation as I noticed how much I love the life I have. 

Making the list was too easy! I’d think of one item, and five more would appear, including:

  • My horse’s eye.
  • Rotting logs (I’m crazy for old wood).
  • Summer rain in the Northwest.
  • Swallowtail butterflies.
  • Figs and fresh-picked blueberries (whipped cream optional).
  • Quinacridone red acrylic paint.
  • Sunsets at the beach.
  • Woodchips in the garden.
  • Poems by John O’Donohue.

In 15 minutes, I found my gratitude despite the sorrows. By making the list, I turned an ordinary day into a celebration filled with small pleasures.

And because I’d written it, I had something to return to when feeling down.

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Eye-catching bark among the leaves. | Photo by Sally Fox

Option 3: Take a Wonder Walk. 

A third way I harvest extra joy in my life is by taking wonder walks. In just 10 minutes of wandering around the house and property, I can find tiny bits of beauty and places that fill me with awe. The goal is to move with intention and deliberately focus my attention on the unusual, beautiful, and small. I enjoy walking with my iPhone to take snapshots of what I might otherwise miss if I weren’t intentionally looking. One recent marvel I found was a gi-normous ant hill. Normally, I don’t like ants near my garden (they can bite), but on my wonder walk, I was awed by the three-foot tower they had built out of bits of wood. Then, I found a fennel plant that had just gone to seed. So many opportunities for awe opened up before me when I took the time to look.

Pay Attention to What You Give Attention.

I’ve heard it said that what we pay attention to shapes us. Focusing on experiences we desire, things in our lives that we love, and the small marvels around us expands our delight, love, and capacity for awe. Life becomes an opportunity for ongoing gratitude. Loving the ordinary turns it into the extraordinary. Any of the above three approaches can turn our birthdays or any day into real celebrations.


Sally Fox

Sally Jean Fox, Ph. D., is a writer, artist, coach, and author of “Meeting the Muse After Midlife,” a memoir about finding hope and meaning after 50 through creative expression. An expert in applying creativity and spirituality to aging, she supports midlife-plus adults to thrive by designing artful and creative lives. Learn more on her website.

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