How to Stop Chasing Happiness and Enjoy the Little Things in Life
I bet a hundred dollars you have heard, or even said the following line at one point in your life:
I’ll be happy when…
I Get in the top university in the country. Make 6 figures. Find my soulmate. Land that promotion. Get that dream house. Save enough money to travel the world.
You fill in the blank.
Let’s face it, when it comes to happiness, most of us have all—at one point or another—been chasing after it like a donkey running after a carrot stick.
But have you ever wondered why we do this?
Well, how can we not, when we’re constantly told by pop culture, social media, or even people in our own lives, that happiness comes from living a certain lifestyle, looking a certain way, or achieving certain things in life?
But do we really need those things to be happy?
Science says no. Research shows that being wealthy doesn’t necessarily make you happier in the long run; having good looks doesn’t always lead to a better sense of wellbeing. And being a high-achiever can actually make you less happy.
So then, how can we stop chasing this elusive idea of happiness and start being truly happy in our lives?
Start with enjoying the little things in life.
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” — Iris Murdoch
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How Enjoying the Little Things in Life Make Us Happier
If there’s one thing we can learn from the world’s happiest people, it’s that they take the time to appreciate the little things in life—things like waking up to a good cup of coffee or having a nice chat with the neighbour.
They may seem trivial when compared to things like nailing that job interview at the company you’ve always wanted to work for, or winning a free trip to the Caribbeans, but these little things create “small, but consequential differences” in people’s emotions that can promote a stronger sense of well-being over time.
But what if you’re not someone who’s good at noticing, let alone appreciating, life’s small details?
Well, it’s going to feel forced at first, I’m not going to lie. But if you keep practicing the art of appreciating the little things in life, you’ll feel a change—slowly but surely. Just like how I changed and eventually found my capacity for happiness.
Rejoice in small things and they will continue to grow. — Slaven Vujic
How to Enjoy the Little Things in Life: 7 Simple Tips
Ready to begin enjoying the little things in life, but not sure where to start? Below are some simple tips that helped me in my journey.
And if you’re looking for some words of motivation to inspire and remind you to enjoy the little things in life, check out this simple and elegant digital print from XenPrints on Etsy.
1. Slow Down
Have you ever gotten in the driver’s seat of your car after a long day of work or school, and the next thing you know, you’re home but you can’t recall how you got there? It happens often to many of us. Too often.
The truth is, you can’t appreciate the little things in life if you’re too busy, too tired, or too stressed to even notice them. And the best way to start noticing them is to slow down your pace and make a deliberate effort to notice what’s going on around you.
“I just don’t have the time!” Is that what’s going through your mind right now?
Hey I get it, you’re trying to realize a dream, or simply trying to make ends meet. Slowing down may be easier said than done. BUT here are a few questions I want you to ask yourself:
- Do I really NEED everything I say I need?
- Do I tend to take on other people’s problems as if they were my own?
- Do I spend too much time on social media or on other things that don’t produce a whole lot of value at the end of the day?
And keep this in mind: Slowing down doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and retire to the Canary Islands. Even with a genuinely hectic schedule, you can carve out a few minutes each day to slow down and reflect.
For example, instead of zipping through lunch or skipping it altogether, try to thoroughly chew your food and take mental notes about all the flavours and textures you experience. What did you like the most? Did you find anything surprising about the food? And how did it make you feel?
2. Make a List of Things That Make You Smile
We’re so caught up in life’s big moments that we often forget there are plenty of other little things that can bring us joy.
So why not list them out? Start compiling a list of all the things that make you smile. If you can’t think of a lot of things at the moment, don’t worry. You can begin with a few items now and add to the list whenever something comes to mind.
Keep the list with you either digitally on your phone or on a mini card deck like this one so you can carry it in your purse. Then make sure to go back to the list regularly so you can remind yourself of the things that make you smile.
Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things. — Frank A. Clark
3. Develop Your Own Rituals in Life
Do you have any particular rituals in your day to day life? For example, a coworker of mine goes to great lengths to prepare his coffee exactly the way he likes every day. My boss, the CEO of a dynamic national company and undoubtedly a busy woman, starts each morning with an energizing yoga session. And me? I like to lie on the bed and practice deep breathing for 15 minutes before I drift off to sleep every night.
We all have these rituals in our lives—things we do as part of our routine. But did you know that doing them can improve our sense of wellbeing?
According to Harvard professor Francesca Gino, rituals elevate our enjoyment in everyday experiences by helping us become more present.
It all makes perfect sense to me. Whenever I’m engaged in a ritual, I find myself more attentive to what I’m doing and how I’m feeling at that moment. Instead of mindlessly racing through a task, I actually pause and focus. So think about what rituals you have in your day-to-day life, and make it a goal to develop more of them!
4. Practice Seeing the World Through a Child’s Eyes
You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you. — Andy Warhol
You ever notice how kids seem to get excited over just about everything? Bugs on the ground, soft-serve ice-cream, oddly-shaped clouds in the sky—you name it. It takes very little to bring a smile to a child’s face.
Why is that? Why are children so easily satisfied with what appears to be things of little significance to us adults?
Because their minds are filled with a sense of wonder.
So where did we, along the journey we call “growing up”, lose that sense of wonder? Sure, the life of an adult is not so simple anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t retain some of that sense of wonder that makes every little thing under the sun a source of joy.
If we want to enjoy the little things in life, then we need to “re-learn” how to see the world through a child’s eyes.
But how? Start by observing the children around you—notice how curious they are, how they allow themselves to be fully engaged in whatever it is they’re doing, and how they laugh with their whole belly and heart.
Now it’s your turn. Be curious. Lose the distractions (like checking your phone all the time). And laugh more. If you practice seeing the world through a child’s eyes, you’ll find yourself enthralled by the little things in life in no time.
5. Stop Comparing
If there’s one thing that will stop you from enjoying the little things in life, it’s comparing yourself to others. When you constantly try to measure yourself—what you look like, what you own, and what you have accomplished—against others, you’ll end up feeling either like you’re never good enough, or that you have to always try to stay ahead. Neither of these emotional states will help you appreciate the small things in life.
I have a member in my extended family who just LOVES to compare. As a result, she’s always complaining about how little money her husband makes, how tiny their house is, and how utterly ordinary her child turned out to be.
“Look at so and so’s family, they’re so accomplished.” She would say with a look of envy and frustration.
Sure, this family member doesn’t have a whole lot of big things like a huge house, shiny cars, or a child who’s a doctor or a lawyer, but if only she could recognize all the wonderful things she has around her—like her devoted family and the fact that she’s living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world—she would be content with her life. Instead, she’s consumed by her incessant desire to compare she cannot bring herself appreciate much of anything, let alone the little things in life.
The lesson I learned from her? If you want to be able to enjoy the little things in life and be truly happy, you have to stop comparing.
6. Take Interest in Other People’s Lives
It’s hard to picture ourselves without a home, without access to clean water, or without knowing when we’ll have our next meal. But the sad reality is that millions of people in the world live under these conditions.
I’m not saying you have to be Mother Theresa and devote yourself entirely to charity work, but you do need to take some interest in other people—their struggles, pain, dreams, and hopes. Because taking an interest in other people—especially those who do not have all the resources and opportunities you may have—will open your eyes to the wonderful little things you have around you. Things like a hot shower or a warm toast in the morning will suddenly become a greater source of comfort and joy.
So take the time to learn about other people in your community who may need your help. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of money or time to give, your sincerity is all that matters. And in return, they will teach you how to recognize and enjoy the little things in life.
7. Seek Out Positive Influences
It’s no secret that the people in our lives play a major role in shaping our attitude and outlook on life. Jim Rohn, who’s an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker, goes as far as to say that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
So that means if we want to learn to enjoy the little things in life, we need to spend more time with people who rejoice over the little things in life. Now can you think of a person in your life who’s like that? Do you already spend a lot of time with them? If the answer is no, reach out to them and see if you can hang out more (virtually at this time of course), or even just talk more regularly.
And on the other hand, remember that you can’t enjoy the little things in life if you’re surrounded by people who reek of negativity. You know what I’m talking about, the chronic complainers, the controlling narcissists, the drama kings/queens, and the emotional vampires who just suck the light out of your day. Now ask yourself, do any of them seem like they’re having a great time relishing in the simple joys of life?
The answer is obvious. If your goal is to enjoy the little things in life, it’s time to say no to these negative influences.
Final Word on How to Enjoy the Little Things in Life
I’d like to end this post with a quote, as a reminder that in this world of many desires that seem to get bigger and more out of this world at every turn, that a happy life is more attainable than we realize. We all have the seed of happiness in us already, we just have to let it grow.
“Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.” — Marcus Aurelius
Now before you go, tell me, what’s a little thing you enjoy in your daily life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!