In a short article about compassion and happiness, I mentioned that happiness is a process. Part of the process, I think, is finding how little things can make you happier.
We must consider happiness as something that should (and will) happen throughout the day. If we’re pushing ourselves with the belief that happiness comes at the end of a project or when we find success in something, then chances are it will be different than we expect. Likely, the feeling of happiness will be fleeting.
The Little Things
I can’t say if finding little things to make everyone happier is universally true. I only know that it’s true for me. I believe we have cues and signals that steer us toward a specific mood. Our moods are likely habitual, and cues trigger habits. Actively seeking out little things to make me smile can act as a signal for contentment.
While I’ve always enjoyed finding silly things to put a smile on my face, I never really considered them as a part of something significant. It was only last summer when I finally found and purchased a peacock lawn ornament like the one in the picture I understood the connection. The decoration is silly and a bit ugly, but it makes me chuckle.
I placed it in an unassuming corner of my deck where no one usually looked. The peacock looked to be hiding. It wasn’t something I would see all the time. I would forget that it was on the deck. So, when I came face to face with it, I’d be pleasantly surprised, and I couldn’t stop the smirk.
It still took a while for the connection to sink in that this peacock was bringing me more happiness than a fifty-dollar hunk of metal should. Having silly things in the right places reminded me to smile more.
More Little Things, Please!
Now, I’m looking for little things that make me smile more often to place in each room of my house. For example, one of my sons made a little lego guy who is now hiding in a plant in the living room. In one rarely used drawer in my bedroom, I put a rubber spider that freaks me out whenever I find it. One day my wife will see it — I’m not sure how that will go, but I’m eager to find out.
Eventually, I want to include one little thing in each room to hide. Maybe it’s the hidden part that I like the most, but whatever it is, I enjoy having these “Easter eggs” around.
Taking it to the "Real World"
Recently, I read a book called The Science of Happiness, written by Stephen Klein. In it, Klein suggests ways of turning annoying situations into happiness opportunities. For example, he says that if you are a commuter that must frequently endure traffic jams, use that time to listen to an audiobook, or find something else that makes you happy. That way, you could potentially look forward to traffic jams instead of being annoyed and stressed.
And that’s the point, I think. It is finding ways to make your environment happiness-friendly. It doesn’t matter where or what it is. We need to:
- Identify the annoying situation.
- If you can avoid it, do so.
- If it cannot be avoided, figure out how to change the situation into something positive, something that you can enjoy.
- Refine it so that it’s something you look forward to. Imagine changing a situation you once hated into something you hope will happen!
Little things can make you happier. They add up to big things. I suspect that many things about happiness are triggered by everyday cues, most of which we are unaware. These signals are part of a pattern that triggers feelings of joy or annoyance. We want to embed our day with more cues for happiness. If we work on that, I’m confident we’ll find that these small moments of happiness add up quickly!