Happiness made simple

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Often we associate happiness with the big things that happen in our lives. Happiness comes as the result of booking that badly-needed holiday, sealing the deal on a new car or getting that wonderful new job. But these big events are sporadic – they don’t happen every day and anyone who was been away on a fab holiday will know the depressing ‘back to real life’ slump that occurs when we return to our normal daily routines a week or two weeks later. We all want to be happy and we all deserve to be happy, so the question is how do we stay happy on a daily basis when we don’t have these big events? The answer is simple – we focus on the small things.

THE SMALL THINGS
The small things are exactly that. They’re those every day moments that have the potential to lead to big happiness if we notice them. So often we live our lives in a cloud of stress and we rush around trying to accomplish everything we need to get done. Therefore these simple pleasures regularly go unnoticed, which is why we need to rely on the big events for happiness. But what if we made a promise to ourselves to start noticing (and really enjoying) these simple pleasures every day? What would our lives look like then? Acknowledging simple pleasures on a daily basis not only feels good and makes us happier, it also encourages feelings of gratitude, which in turn cultivate more good feelings and happiness. It’s a positivity-fuelled cycle which can make us feel incredible and give us all of those health and wellbeing benefits associated with happiness such as lower blood pressure, a brighter mood, more confidence and more empathy towards others.

TAKE NOTICE
The most important thing that we can start doing for our mental health and wellbeing is to start noticing these simple pleasures. It’s important to note that no two people will have the exact same simple pleasures, and that’s perfectly okay. A simple pleasure for you might be going for a long walk while another person might favour switching off with their favourite TV show. Simple pleasures are completely individual.
The first step in starting to notice our simple pleasures is to slow down ever so slightly. When we slow our pace, we open up space which gives us the time to actively notice what’s going on around us. Some people slow down by practicing meditation or mindfulness, which are both great methods.
Another way to slow down is to take five minutes at the end of your day and simply sit down. Think back over your day and ‘see’ each moment unfolding in your mind’s eye. Did anything lovely happen today that you couldn’t give much attention? Maybe someone gave you their seat on the bus? Or maybe the rain held off so you could walk the dog without worrying about getting soaked. As you remember each of these good things, allow yourself to feel true appreciation for them. Chances are you’ll notice your mood lifting in a matter of minutes.

WAKING UP
By slowing down and trying the above practice you’re priming your mind to notice simple pleasures. Eventually you’ll find yourself ‘waking up’ to these things and actively enjoying these moments as they happen without having to reflect on them at a later stage. This is a process that takes a little practice, but the good news is that it’s a nice thing to do and it feels good, so this usually encourages people to stick with it.
When you find yourself noticing these moments as they happen, why not take it one step further and actively bring these moments into your life? If one of your simple pleasures is enjoying a punnet of fresh strawberries, why not start sprinkling them on your morning porridge to make you smile? Likewise if getting a hug from your partner makes you feel amazing, why not have a weekly ‘cuddle date’ where you get cosy and watch a film or do something else together?
It’s important to remember that happiness doesn’t have to be a lovely thing that happens every once in a while. By taking some small steps and focussing on everything that lights us up inside, we’re cultivating a more sustainable sense of happiness that will be more consistent in the long run.

Examples of simple pleasures

·    Reading in bed

·    Taking a walk in the rain

·    Lighting a fire

·    Making a home cooked meal

·    Spending quality time with loved ones

·    Engaging in a hobby

·    Singing along to the radio

·    The smell of lavender oil

·    Having fresh flowers in the house

·    Clean bed sheets

·    Playing with a pet

·    Reading to your child

·    Treating yourself to something lovely

Catherine Devane