Discover Intentional Joy In Little Moments
Appreciate the little things—that flower on the sidewalk, your first sip of coffee, and the smell of rain. Research shows that we can train our brains to find joy in ordinary moments, changing our perspective and narrative of life activities that make your life worthwhile.
Savita loves her hour-long commute to work daily. Moving to a new city for a job was daunting, but she looks forward to her commute as it has a way of revealing new aspects of the city, her home for now. Whether it’s the street vendors selling their trinkets, or the gradual change in the skyline, she lives the experience. It makes her feel whole. Little things like this are what give her joy, and make her days more worthwhile.
But not everyone finds joy in these little moments, especially when seen through India’s low ranking on the World Happiness Report (136th out of 146 countries in 2022). For something that should come easily to everyone, it seems surprising that most people feel they’re unhappy.
As author Emily Dickinson says, “Forever is composed of nows,” and that's exactly the mindset you need to embrace happiness every day.
Learning to pause and finding joy by being present sets truly content people apart from the rest. However, for most people, happiness is a destination. In the pursuit of it, they are willing to sacrifice momentary contentment like the whiff of perfectly brewed coffee. But life isn’t about chasing singular goals, the happiness from this race fizzles out at the finish line.
A 2014 study, ‘A ‘Present’ for the Future: The Unexpected Value of Rediscovery’ reveals that we tend to underestimate the pleasure of ordinary moments in our lives. Participants filled up a time capsule of ordinary experiences, which was revisited a few months later. Upon opening them, they found that experiences they thought were ordinary were quite meaningful and gave them joy when revisiting them. The takeaway? Participants enjoyed ‘ordinary’ experiences after opening the time capsule, but could have experienced the same joy had they been present and appreciated it while they were experiencing these small moments.
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Find Little Things That Give Joy
Happy people think differently, it’s an undeniable fact. They engage in activities that focus on their strengths, values and interests. They have a strong social circle, and continually practise gratitude throughout. They develop healthy coping strategies to tackle life, no matter what it throws at them.
My morning doesn’t truly begin until I pour hot water into my French Press. The aroma of dark roast coffee is one of the few things in my life that give me instant satisfaction. It not only wakes me up but also helps me make my morning great. I don’t rush through moments that give me joy, and neither should you. Take your time to enjoy what you love, whether it’s linked to your faith, values or lifestyle.
Embrace finding little things that spark even a tiny bit of joy in you, even if it's just a coping mechanism for the rest of your day. It could be the twenty minutes every day that you take to make a healthy, nutritious lunch for yourself. Or the pleasure of climbing into bed after changing the sheets. Think back and reflect on your day, what were some moments that brought instant relief, joy or calm? In tough times, it can be helpful to think of these small joys to remind yourself that ‘this too shall pass’.
Waiting for monumental moments can ruin the happiness of smaller, every day actions. Each experience and moment has a different type of joy, and denying yourself the pleasure of drinking chai in the rain isn’t fair to you.
You are entitled to appreciate the joy in picking up a flower from the sidewalk. Or perhaps sharing a smile with a stranger's baby. It’s savouring and acknowledging these little things that will make your life feel meaningful and full of special experiences.
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Not all variables in life can be controlled by us, no matter how much we want it to be that way. A bird pooping on your shoulder could be bad or good (depending on your perspective). For most, it’ll ruin their outfit and their day. But a select few, who consider it good luck, it may nudge them to be more fearless and hopeful about their day.
The right perspective can significantly tilt your emotions, and happiness can come from setting the right expectations. Your next ‘happy’ moment doesn’t have to come when you’ve achieved a promotion, or passed a significant milestone. Putting on a face mask at the end of a tiring day can be your happy moment. Learning to do little things that prioritise your wellness and happiness can go a long way in redefining your expectation from life.
Berkeley Well-Being Institute suggests to cater your experiences by finding positive emotions that lead to happiness. To understand what makes you happy, reflecting on your past moments and getting to the bottom of what emotions contribute to overall happiness and positive experiences is key. For example, being calm could contribute to happiness for someone who is always stressed. Choose five emotions that help you feel happy:
Once you figure out what emotions contribute to your happiness and well-being, understand which actions help you feel them. You might feel calmer after sorting out your week in a planner. You might feel energised after working out every day. Ensure that you’re doing the little actions that can build up to a happy state of mind every day.
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Slow Down To See
Many people baulk at the idea of slowing down, and in the race to success, slowing down can seem like an obstacle. But slowing down doesn’t mean you don’t chase after your aspirations; it simply means taking the time to find joy, and using those moments to inspire and energise you. Cultivate rituals that help you appreciate the present, and provide a sense of order to your life. Don’t know where to start? Try out some of these rituals:
- Saying thank you to everyone who helped you today
- Calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Taking time to look outside, whether it’s at birds, at children, or just people walking by
- Stretching throughout the day
- Going through your phone gallery and reminiscing on happy moments
- Listening to your favourite playlist (or singer/album)
- Enjoying a long shower
- Doing something creative (writing, reading, drawing, cooking)
- Indulging in food that you’ve been craving
- Trying out a new show, a new route for your walk or drive to work.
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Welcome Joy In All Forms
In times of peace and in times of disruption, consider finding and acknowledging joyful moments. There will always be a crisis waiting for you, but understand that your well-being and happiness can build your resilience to overcome any difficulty.
A daily routine of actions that enable intentional happiness can be quite simple to inculcate in your day. Find effortless acts such as getting up and touching your toes for 20 seconds. Understand what practices make you feel connected to the present, to your happiness and well-being. Set the intention to notice and enjoy small joys in your life.
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing,” said the Impressionist Camille Pissarro. Find your own version of beauty in a chaotic and fast life. What brings you joy might not be the same for another person, but that’s what makes it so uniquely yours. Celebrate your quirks and little indulgences because these moments bring contentment and happiness into your daily life. Embrace silly things like singing in the shower to release stress. Find those little actions that make your day brighter and more pleasurable.