Finding Joy in Little Things

In the midst of dreaming big, setting up a goal, planning, and implementing it, we often tend to overlook the happiness that we can seek from the little things around us. Finding happiness in little things can refresh your mind. It can also help you to release stress from your mind.

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odourless but all together perfume the air.

Georges Bernanos

Danny Wallace, a British comedian transformed his life through the accumulation of small joys. He believes that it is by getting out of your comfort zone and saying yes more often that you can access these small joys that life has to offer.

He wrote a book about how this saying yes process improved his life — ‘Yes Man’ — the inspiration behind the 2008 film of the same name.

The film is more concerned with trying to make you laugh than providing you with life advice. We can turn to Wallace’s book when we want to gain insight into how the ‘saying yes’ philosophy can positively impact our lives:

  • ‘Sometimes the little opportunities that fly at us each day can have the biggest impact.’
  • ‘The closed mind is a disease. You need to have an open mind; otherwise, life will just pass you by…’
  • ‘Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.’

In my experience, when life does not go according to plan there are ways to find happiness in the smallest details. Here are a few:

1. Expect Less
Studies show happy people value contentment as their primary motivation. If you are satisfied, you are likely to be happy. Working towards realistic goals is sure to cultivate happiness since you pursue that which brings you joy. 

2. Enjoy Your Work
Happy people enjoy their work. They don’t pursue it for the money or fame but for the satisfaction it brings. Those stuck in an unfulfilled job that pays well, soon find it is not the way to happiness. Whilst it is rewarding being remunerated for your skills, money is just one aspect of job satisfaction. Pursue a job or career you enjoy. If you are not respected at work, find a satisfying job you enjoy; I assure you they exist. Many people waste their best years making money for their families while putting their passion on hold. However, your happiness is a priority too.

3. Live for Today
Avoid being fixated on your earlier failures. What’s gone is gone and to ruminate on the future only invites added stress and worry. You don’t know what will happen next, let alone predict your next step. So what is the point of worrying? Live in the present moment and enjoy it while you can. There is much to be gained with your focus on the present moment, such as taking in the beauty of life and reduced stress.

In short, happiness doesn’t come from making happiness the goal — it comes from being able to appreciate the journey, particularly the present-moment experience of our life.

Ezra Bayda, The Authentic Life: Zen Wisdom for Living Free from Complacency and Fear

4. Be Social
Humans are social creatures. It is wired into our DNA to connect with others. A region of the brain called mirror neurons allows us to recognise and mirror the behaviour of other people. That is why yawning is contagious because scientist believe it is a sign of unconscious social bonding. Happiness and love flourish in the company of others and are important for your health and well-being. If you isolate yourself, negative emotions are likely to arise. In this time of technological connectedness, people are more isolated and lonely than ever, giving rise to mental health issues. Cherish those important to you via regular social contact.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself
Whilst it’s fine to be ambitious, envy will only make you unhappy. Comparison to others has its limitations. We can become too invested in the lives of others and lose track of our journey. Everyone’s circumstances differ. To compare yourself to others will lead you towards emptiness and misery. Whilst other people’s lives may look perfect from the outside, there is a hidden story we are unware of. Whilst it helps to learn from them, too much competition can ruin your peace of mind. Focus on your dreams and goals and enjoy your achievements and success. Savour them instead of being competitive.

I end with Adyashanti’s wisdom: “There’s no way to become happy. We simply need to stop doing the things that make us unhappy.”

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