It’s the little things. Am I right? It’s those little pockets of happiness throughout the day that make the hours that much sweeter – and I do mean the little, tiny things. Things you probably wouldn’t even notice unless you’ve got your happiness detection switch turned all the way up to full. If you’ve never made a physical list of things that make you happy throughout your average day, I really suggest doing it as a fun little experiment.
This is something I first did when I was super-duper stressed out at work, about a year ago. I’m a chaplain at a primary school and sometimes I just get so overwhelmed. At this point in time, I couldn’t even think properly because I was so anxious about everything. I would come home glum and desperate for sympathy. I’d complain to my husband, telling him what a horrible day I’d had – I was miserable and a total drag to be around. I knew I had to do something about my attitude, but everything seemed like such an effort, you know? Happiness is meant to come naturally; I didn’t want to have to try to be happy. Like, ew, so much effort.
But then I had this awesome idea (not to brag, but I’m a genius). I decided I’d make a list of all the things that made me happy for one day. I’d write everything down, no matter how small or insignificant it seemed. Ugh. So lame – I know, but it turned out to be extremely helpful.
The first time I did it, there weren’t many things on my list.
In fact, there were only seven. When I got home from work, I sank down on the couch and prepared to give my husband the usual spiel about how the world is against me and everything is so unfair and too hard, but I thought, You know what? No.
I pulled out my list and read it, and this is what was on it.
- Just had a coffee, it was amazing.
- Just got to school and a student told me my hair was pretty.
- I thought I had no money in my wallet but I actually had $4 so I bought myself a juice.
- One of the teachers baked a cake for her birthday and I ate some.
- It rained a little bit and now the air smells nice.
- Just filled up my car and petrol was only $1.11.
- Just went through the drive-through. Ordered a small coke, got a medium!
Okay, so now that we’re all finished laughing at what’s on my list, I think we can all agree there’s nothing particularly “joyful” about any of those things. But when I was reading it, slumped on the couch, eyebrows ready to frown, tongue ready to grumble, I just had this little oomph of happiness flutter through me. I scanned the list over and over, and began smiling as my eyes flicked over the messy scrawl of letters.
I remembered feeling warm when a little year-two told me my hair looked pretty, I remembered feeling grateful when a teacher served me a piece of homemade cheesecake, I remembered feeling excited about the smell of winter. As I recalled all these feelings, I felt happy, and instead of whining about how much I hated work, the first thing I said about my day was: “Today I went to maccas and ordered a small coke and they gave me a medium.” And my husband said, “What? That’s awesome!” And I said, “I know!”
These little bits of happiness seem so insignificant on their own.
But compiled into a list like this, it was impossible for me to complain. Work wasn’t as bad as I thought. I mean, my day wasn’t perfect – I still felt anxious and I would have rather been at home in my pajamas – but I couldn’t say the day was a total disaster. Because it wasn’t. I got cheap fuel and found $4 in my wallet. The list helped me be more attentive to things that make me happy. It helped me realise that even in times of hardship, I always have something to smile about. I was choosing happiness.
This is something I still do whenever I hit a bit of a slump and start having a “woe-is-me” moment. Each time I’ve done it, it’s been easier for me to notice the things that make me happy. Sometimes my lists have five pockets of happiness and sometimes they have 30. Either way, almost all of them are just everyday, unimportant aspects of life, like: the lawnmower man will come today and the lawn will look nice, just washed my hair and now it smells amazing, put new sheets on the bed today, a friend texted me just to say hello. So, if you want to try choosing happiness, here are my two tips:
Make It A Physical List
A list in your head is easy to forget so I’d avoid making mental notes. An electronic list is okay, but something that you’ve physically written and can hold just feels so much more authentic.
Literally anything (you saw how ridiculous my list was, right?). Write whatever gives you even the slightest tickle of happiness – no matter how silly it may sound.
I wish you all the best with your happiness endeavors, and encourage you to look for the little pockets of happiness in your own life – you might be surprised at what ends up on your list.
Want more posts like this? Check out our happiness series: