You were not born dreaming of fancy food and fast cars. The status associated with the finer things in life has been drilled into you by a capitalist society. When we strip away all that we think we need and focus on what we actually need, we may be surprised at the simplicity of it all.
Sure, stuff is nice, but even the sparkliest of diamonds can lose its shine. The trick is to create joy internally instead of relying on external factors to provide joy. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. In fact, in this digital era of instant gratification, I’d suggest that we are becoming less and less able to create our own joy.
Join me in exploring what we mean by the little things in the context of joy. Once we have a solid understanding of this, we will discuss five tips for finding joy in the little things.
What do we mean by the little things?
There’s a song about how important the little things are. All the Small Things by Blink182 may not be lyrically genius, but it does touch on the tiny little gestures that bring joy to a relationship.
I think of the little things as glimmers. Glimmers are the opposite of triggers. They are different for all of us.
I’m not a showy person. Materialism gives me the heebie-jeebies. Just as well, really, as my husband doesn’t do grand gestures. There are no flowers or surprise dates. But what he does do is kiss me every morning. He listens to what I say. He is quick to apologize and slow to blame. He notices if I’m weary and steps up to relieve my burden.
Each little thing my husband does adds a glimmer of love and positivity to my life. These glimmers make me feel loved and safe; no grand gesture could ever do that.
How do we discern joy?
Ah, joy. That wonderful feeling of weightless exuberance. Like we are floating in the wind. Sunrays in our stomachs and rainbows in our hearts. Is joy the most desired but often the most elusive of emotions?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”
I summarise joy as having the combination of the absence of negative emotions and having good health, purpose, and having our needs met.
Remember, joy is not a constant state. Our emotions are in regular flux. But if we pay close attention to life, we will find the little speckles of joy interspersed in all the stress and mayhem.
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5 ways to find joy in the little things
If you are feeling a little stuck and struggling to find any joy in your life, here are a few easy ways to help you uncover the joy in your life. I promise it is there, we just need to learn how to look for it.
1. Seek perspective
I’ve heard it said before that the happiest people in the world are those who have the least, certainly in terms of material wealth.
Happiness is not found in the car we drive or the fancy gadgets we constantly upgrade. Yet the capitalist world will try to convince you otherwise. So don’t look for sustainable joy in luxury possessions.
The truth is real joy is already within you. You just need to find a way to tap into it. A great way is to find perspective.
Yesterday, I received a passive-aggressive text from a colleague. I started catastrophizing, and I was all set to let it ruin my day. Then I sat down, had an herbal tea, and breathed.
That herbal tea was the catalyst for tapping into joy. A stark reminder of my privilege. I have my health and my freedom, and sadly, in this current climate, these riches aren’t guaranteed.
When you find your mind spiraling, seek perspective.
2. Be more dog
As I type this, I am watching my dog snoozing in his bed. He’s a rescue and came to me with a few quirks. And yet, he does not dwell on his past.
My dog doesn’t care how much money I have, who I associate with, or what my education level is. My dog simply wants to spend time with me. He wants cuddles and food and trips to the beach.
Dogs are truly in-the-moment animals. They don’t dwell on the past or dread the future. While experts suggest they see the world in limited colors, I’d say they figuratively see the world in more hues than we do.
Take a cue from the great dogs of this world, learn to live in the moment, and take comfort in the simple necessities of life.
3. Slow down
I’m a recovering busy person. I look back on my previous life, and I can’t believe I fit as much into it as I did. But I wasn’t happy. I was so preoccupied with being productive that I didn’t notice the world around me.
Remember that wonderfully poignant quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
“I've said it before and I'll say it again, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it!”
It’s cliche to suggest we take time to smell the flowers. But I am going to embrace this cliche. Please, walk through the woods and smell the earth. Ground yourself by touching the bark of the trees and pay attention to how the trunks of the different types of trees feel. Watch a river flow and listen to the constant, reassuring noise of the water.
Look at your environment with new eyes. Pay attention. When we start to do this, we notice things we may have never seen before. And slowly but surely we feel little bubbles of joy arise within us.
4. It shouldn’t take a near miss
They say people who have skirted with death have a greater appreciation for life. In fact, many people who have experienced near-death experiences describe them as transformational.
My brother almost died in a car crash. It changed him. For a man who was once so career-driven, suddenly, his job was not the showpiece of his life.
The world is riddled with war and social unrest. Natural disasters are happening more frequently, and COVID-19 touched every corner of the earth.
When we understand the impermanence of life, we often lose patience for irrelevance.
I had a terrifying ordeal at the top of a cold, wet Irish mountain. I’ve never enjoyed a hot shower, steaming mug of coffee, and dry clothes quite so much as I did immediately after that experience.
If everything was taken away from you, what would you miss the most? That’s a great place to recognize your joy.
5. Practice loving-kindness meditation
You knew this one was going to feature. We can’t talk about finding joy in the little things and not mention meditation, specifically loving kindness.
Think of negative thoughts as a thick layer of dust all over your house. Loving-kindness meditation effectively cleans up all the dust and adds sparkle and shine to the everyday. If we can’t see the little things, how can we find joy in them?
Loving-kindness meditation helps clear the way for us to see and appreciate the little things.
One of my writing friends is an expert on meditation and a qualified mindfulness coach. I follow her guidance for loving-kindness meditation. You can find her on substack if you are interested.
With her encouragement, I focus on the following mantra.
May I be well
May I be healthy
May I be happy
I then use this mantra in relation to someone I’m close to, and then eventually, we can use this mantra on someone we harbor hostility toward.
Spending 10 minutes a day on loving-kindness meditation helps me clear out my mind cobwebs.
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If we are so busy looking around to see what everyone else has, we will miss what’s right under our noses. Tap into your soul and carve out your own happiness by learning to find joy in the little things.
Don’t forget our five tips.
- Seek perspective.
- Be more dog.
- Slow down.
- It shouldn’t take a near miss.
- Practice loving-kindness meditation.
Have you got any tips to help others find joy in the little things? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!