My experience so far has been that practice is like slowly waking up from a dull, drowsy state. Before, I would haul my ass out of bed then barely be aware of what I was doing for a good hour or two. Now, I do a gatha as soon as I wake up, and it's like a whole part of my life has uncovered itself... the shape of my lamp on the dimly lit ceiling, the feel of first gaining my balance after sleep, how a hot shower changes the feeling of the skin. Just paying attention brings such richness, joy, and gratitude.
There's so much we never notice because we think we already know all about everything. All we have is our collection of flat photographs. Spontaneous delight at small things, at just being alive like you said, has been one of the greatest gifts of Buddhist practice
Remember, joy is one of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment.