The Small Stuff of Happiness

Think about the Little Things that contribute most to your wellbeing and happiness. They’re little, yes, but this is big.

Although I like to get all deep and write about profound concepts like knowing you’re good enough, accepting reality, not complaining, self-love, being present and mindful…the truth is, real day-to-day happiness is often in the Small Stuff.

The Little Things contribute as much or more to daily happiness levels as the big things.

What Little Things? Each person has their own unique set of Little Things, so you’ll have to come up with your own list. And to come up with your list, you have to study yourself.

(Tip: Don’t simply trust your assumptions about what’s on your list because our assumptions are usually wrong. They’re based on what most people do and they have absolutely nothing to do with you.)

Be a researcher in your life and experiment a little; observe a lot. Try things, take notes, test theories, and draw some conclusions about what impacts your daily happiness most.

After much time spent studying the strange species called Me, here’s my personal list of Little Things:

Sleep. Oh. So. Boring. I know, but sleep is the number one basic thing that I absolutely must prioritize in order to be as happy as I can be. It’s not just common sense or pop wisdom…I’ve experienced that, for me, sleep impacts everything else on my list of happiness triggers.

Here’s where your own careful research comes in. Examine the impact of sleep on your life on a daily basis, not generally. For example, 2010 has been the happiest year of my life thus far—it’s also been the year I’ve gotten the least sleep. But on a day-to-day basis, getting at least 7 hours of sleep impacts my happiness levels more than anything else I do.

Food. Okay, this is even more boring than sleep. I’ve fought against this my whole life (see warning, below), but I think I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m hungry slightly more often than most people and I get very grumpy when I’m hungry. Now that I know, I can go forth and gobble.

(I’ve also studied the effects of carbs and sugar and protein on my happiness but I’ll spare you the mind-numbing details. Suffice it to say, I know that I need to eat something every few hours and I know what I should chose to maximize happiness. Doesn’t mean I do it, but at least I know).

Exercise. Yep. I’ve read it in all the journals and I know the research on happiness and exercise. And I still don’t believe that it makes the list for everyone. But for me, it’s a must. I’m like a puppy with a lot of pent up energy. My husband knows all too well…no exercise means that energy is coming out somehow and it aint gonna be pretty.

Solitude. According to come definitions I’ve heard, extraverts get energy from other people (meaning, they feel more energized with others) whereas introverts feel their energy drained when they’re with other people at length. If that’s true, I’m an introvert. I need some degree of solitude and silence in my day to be at my happiest.

Connection. Too much solitude = no good. I also need some degree of connection and social interaction in my day, preferably with people I know very well and am comfortable with.

Self-expression/Being ‘Heard’. For me, this usually looks like writing or talking to a group (e.g., teaching or leading a teleseminar). I’m happiest when part of my day is spent being ‘on’ or doing something where I take a leadership position and get to be noticed and listened to.

Making Lists and/or writing Morning Pages. Perfect example of how personal your Little Things list will be. Kind of like the puppy thing, too much stuff floating around in my head is a recipe for frustration, confusion, and a major energy shortage. I need to get that stuff out of my head and on paper. So I make lists. Kind of like this one, actually.

Music. Days I do more singing, dancing, and listening to good music are happy, happy days.

Word of Warning: Please don’t fall into the trap of judging your list of Little Things. 

I spent most of my life wanting to be a true extravert. Years of denying Who I Really Am and forcing myself into situations that made me less happy than I could have been.

It’s taken me until about last week to admit that I seem to need a little protein more often than I’d like. It’s so much cooler, and more productive, and easier, to just write all day at a coffee shop without needing to bring my own little stash of almonds and protein bars and fruit. But alas, I am that lady with a purse full of food. I’m much happier with it than I was denying that I wanted it.

So…what are some of the Little Things on your list? Please share!

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