People naturally feel excited during big life events – weddings, newborn babies, first homes, job promotions, and so on – and I don’t mean to diminish their importance.
However, oftentimes when we reminisce, it is the seemingly small, everyday moments that have truly made up the fabric of our lives.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
Thinking only about the big things sometimes can be detrimental.
There is both outer and inner pressure connected to these kinds of grand achievements. Being under a lot of pressure will negatively affect your mental and physical health.
Feelings of anxiety, sleep difficulties, a compromised immune system, and unexplained aches and pains are not uncommon symptoms of being overly stressed out.
Always wanting more can also lead to a very unsatisfying life if left unchecked.
While goals and dreams are certainly beneficial, an insatiable desire to have more can leave you feeling like you are less than. Constantly striving to get further will cause you to feel as though you are falling behind.
This type of mindset takes the focus off of what you have or what you have done and puts it on a place of lack. However, a grateful heart will allow you to see the good in what is currently going on in your life.
The ability to appreciate the small things can upgrade your life in a big way. There is reason to celebrate and be grateful every day with just a slight shift in perspective.
Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, who studies the science of gratitude from a background in neuroscience, says that gratitude is skill. This means anyone can begin to strengthen and flex their gratitude muscle.
Here are five simple ways enjoying the small things can make you more grateful:
1. Keep Track
Intentionally notice the things you are grateful for and keep a record of them.
You can write them out in a physical journal, type them up in a Word document, or even record them in a gratitude journal app.
My counselor suggested to me to aim for three items a day, but you can really structure it (or not structure it) however works best for you.
2. Thank Someone
When someone does something for you, big or small, recognize it.
We all go through our days wrapped up in our own lives, so it is pretty special when another person goes out of their way for you. You can simply say, “Thank you,” in the moment, or perhaps send a thank you card to them afterward.
Not only will the other person feel good about being acknowledged, you will feel good too.
3. Compliment Someone
Give a sincere compliment to a friend, family member, romantic partner, or even a stranger.
Be as specific as possible to make it more meaningful. The people around us have so many wonderful characteristics worth admiring.
You may even be surprised by just how many when you start actively seeking them out.
4. Appreciate Yourself
Don’t forget to extend this attitude of thankfulness to yourself too. Compliment yourself as well.
You work hard, you have good intentions, and you make a positive impact on the people around you.
You are worthy of love and affection, so show it to yourself whenever possible too.
5. Live in the Moment
My counselor once told me that depression is being stuck in the past, anxiety is being overly concerned about the future, but peace can be found by living in the present. Right now.
After all, our lives are created by millions of small “now” moments all strung together. You are alive, you are breathing, mostly likely at this very moment you are safe, and those are just the basics. There is a lot more to be thankful for.
“We have thousands of opportunities every day to be grateful: for having good weather, to have slept well last night, to be able to get up, to be healthy, to have enough to eat. . . There’s opportunity upon opportunity to be grateful; that’s what life is.” – David Steindl-Rast
Just as each day has its joys, each day also has its struggles. When our lives are missing gratitude for the small things, these struggles can hit us harder.
A positive and thankful mindset, however, will build up our resilience for when we are faced with the daily disappointments.
Here are ten small things to appreciate and enjoy along with a few strategies to get the most out of each of them.
Take a look around your home with fresh eyes.
Notice the sentimental objects and think about the meaning behind them.
Perhaps there are souvenirs on display from past adventures or that have been given to you as gifts by friends or family members.
Look through old photos and reminisce about the meaningful moments you have had the good fortune to experience throughout your life.
Choose a snack or meal to experience with all your senses. Think about what you’re doing while you are preparing the food and listen to the sounds.
Appreciate the amazing transformation from single ingredients into a meal. Really look at your food before you eat it and notice the colors.
Smell its delicious aroma. Put a bite into your mouth and register the temperature, mouthfeel, and combination of flavors.
Simple expressions of love between us and our friends, family or romantic partners go a long way.
Take note when your friend gives you a compliment, your mom brings over a plate of brownies, or your partner washes the dishes.
Remember to appreciate these gestures, say thank you, and show love in return.
If you have children of your own, nieces and nephews, or friends’ kids to spend time with, take note of how children play.
They epitomize living in the moment and enjoying the small things. Young children engage fully in what they are doing.
Plus, they can be as happy playing with a newfangled electronic toy as they are playing with a box or some kitchen utensils. They can certainly teach us adults a thing or two.
Get outside. We so rarely stop and smell the roses, as they say. You could go for a hike through the forest, take a stroll alongside a lake, or have a seat in a park.
Really look around you and notice the beauty there is. The blue of the sky, the formations of clouds, the vibrant plants, or the skittering animals are all pretty amazing when we actually take the time to observe.
Put on a piece of music and do nothing else while you listen.
You can even close your eyes. Notice how the melodies and harmonies intertwine. Can you pick out different instruments?
Think about the meaning behind the lyrics of a song. Depending on your choice of music, I’m betting you will get goose bumps from the experience.
This may sound a little superficial, but what we wear really can affect how we feel.
Perhaps a sharp suit helps you feel empowered. Maybe a slinky dress gives you a confidence boost.
Brightly colored shoes may radiate joy for you. Or an old, oversized sweater could bring you comfort.
Think about the way your clothing impacts your mindset and put on something that helps you feel good.
We breathe without even thinking about it, so have you realized how amazing it is?
Breathing brings oxygen to our body and its organs while removing toxins. It calms the body and mind. It releases tension and keeps us healthy by doing so much more.
Take five deep, mindful breaths and focus on all the incredible benefits you are experiencing just by doing something you automatically do.
In our digital age, the world is shrinking. From phone calls to text messages and emails to social media, there has never been so many ways to connect with one another.
For most people, their little cell phone alone can achieve all of this. All you have to do is pull it out of your pocket. Take advantage of how easy it is, and send some positive vibes to someone you love today.
There are few things that feel as good as waking up in the morning actually rested and ready to conquer the day.
Ensure you get a good night’s sleep by incorporating meditation, relaxation techniques, lavender scents, or chamomile tea beforehand.
Take time outs for yourself throughout the day as well to keep your mood and energy level lifted.
Continue to celebrate the big milestones in life – they are important as well. Just remember to enjoy the small things in your day to day life too.
With practice it will become second nature. As you focus on living in the present moment, you will more easily notice all of the simple pleasures that you used to take for granted.
As your gratitude muscle strengthens, your life will begin to feel even more satisfying and full of joy.
Grace Furman is a writer and blogger at Heartful Habits. Heartful Habits is a place of inspiration for what Grace calls living mindfully and heartfully. She loves learning and sharing about wellness tips, natural remedies, beauty DIYs, green cleaners, social issues, and more.