Try this Fun Little Phrase to Immediately Boost Your Joy


“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” ~Karl Barth

I had no way of knowing when I went to visit my brother’s family that summer in 2019 that my three-year-old niece would say seven words that would forever change my relationship with joy.

It was July and predictably steamy in Georgia where his family lives. I was visiting to meet my newborn nephew, and the stifling heat kept us all inside for most of my stay.

The second morning after I arrived, I was spending time with my younger niece and keeping her entertained. My older niece was at a playdate, my sister-in-law was with the baby, and my brother was running an errand, so she and I had some bonding time to ourselves.

We sat in the living room playing her new favorite make-believe game, Girl’s Club. The game of Girl’s Club was simple: speaking out loud, describe Girl’s Club, the idyllic imaginary place where the girls who were in could come hang out, and it was now my turn.

“Hmmmm, let’s see.” I started. “Well, there’s a fountain outside with mermaids swimming in it.”

My niece’s round blue eyes became enormous. “I knew it would be like this!” she said. I laughed; it was so cute, and her glee was contagious.

I continued my turn. “And inside, there is a ceiling painted to look like a rainbow.”

Again, a deep inhalation and, “I knew it would be like this!” This time she clapped her hands.

I couldn’t stop smiling as I went on describing. Girl’s Club was clearly being channeled from my own inner four-year old, so my niece and I were on the same page.

“And there is an enormous golden chandelier…and pink velvet couches!”

My tiny three-year-old niece jumped up and down and flung her entire body onto the couch, rocking back and forth, unable to contain her excitement. “I KNEW it would be like this!”

It was the biggest exclamation yet. Our back and forth continued just like this, with me sharing more details, and my niece affirming that not only was this fabulous, but it was exactly what she expected—and now it was here.

I was struck by her response. Her joy was palpable, literally bursting from her small body in motion and energy. And she never got tired of exclaiming over and over, “I knew it would be like this!” I noticed several things about my niece on this particular morning:

1. She is aware of what she loves, of what feels fun and good to her.

2. She expects that things will be good and delightful to her. Of COURSE the couches are pink velvet, exactly like she imagined.

3. Her recognition that the goodness she anticipated and knew would be coming was now here and should be celebrated.

4. Her complete embodied joy.

When was the last time I had embodied joy like this? I couldn’t say for sure, but here was my niece, easily accessing it on a Thursday morning in the living room of her house simply by having a conversation about imaginary things.

I had a meditation practice and did yoga, and I was pretty good at tapping into calm. But I realized that calm is very different from joy, and while I often allowed myself this muted sense of peace, could I let myself really let go into the full-bodied exuberance of joy?

As adults, we can protect ourselves by expecting the worst. “I don’t want to get my hopes up,” or “If I think it’s going to turn out well that might mean something bad will happen,” or having the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop when things are really good. Having something good is vulnerable, because then we have something to lose.

Embodied joy is one of the gifts of childhood. We haven’t yet learned to be too cautious, to temper expectations, to feel the weight of responsibility creeping in to tense our shoulders. Of course, in some childhoods, responsibility or hardship comes early, with the loss of such exuberance a heartbreaking addition to whatever difficult circumstances have arrived.

Ideally in a happy, healthy childhood where you are cared for and your needs are met, all you have to do is receive. Receive the meals made for you with love, receive play time with a sibling or friend, receive the vivid magic of your imagination, receive the tuck-in and goodnight kiss from a parent. Receiving the goodness here in this moment was exactly what my niece was showing me.

Completely charmed, I shared the story with my brother and sister-in-law, and we laughed. I shared it again with my husband, with my parents, with friends. Each person I shared it with had the same reaction: laughter, genuine delight, and the recognition of an obvious catchphrase that could maximize the impact of a joyful moment immediately.

What happened next unfolded like clockwork: everyone who heard the story wanted to use the phrase too. At home on a Friday night with my husband making homemade pizza: “I knew it would be like this!”

At the beach with friends watching the sunset from the deck and laughing: “I knew it would be like this!”

Hugs between siblings reuniting after a long time apart: “I knew it would be like this!”

Sitting alone, snuggling on the couch with a blanket and some tea, the dog lying companionably next to me with her silly snore: “I knew it would be like this!”

The trick is to notice the moment in the first place and really receive it by saying the magic words. Saying the words feels like a way of savoring, of giving permission for the goodness of life to fully arrive. Using this phrase works wonders when alone, and when used with others, it becomes a celebration.

You can try it when you snag a parking spot in a crowded lot, when toasting a friend at happy hour, gazing up at the moon and stars, hearing your favorite song come on the radio.

Just remember, the first step is noticing that these moments are already present in small or big ways. Be curious about the little things already in your life that could be welcomed even more, establishing a more joyful and familiar relationship with goodness. Your happiness gets a boost when you consciously let it in, savor, and even celebrate.

Grant yourself permission to receive, to know that good things are for YOU and that they’re already here, to celebrate little moments of happiness and in doing so amplify the joy in your life. Using this phrase is so easy—even a child can do it. I knew it would be like this!

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