It is a phrase we all hear time and time again – it’s all about appreciating the little things in life. But when all the big things seem to be raining down on you, when life is not going the way you planned – does that phrase mean anything? I’m not sure any of us ever want to hear those words when we are in a little bit of a funk. It’s like “always look on the bright side of life” or the equally ridiculous “keep smiling“. I’m sure always said by well meaning people, but do they ever make us feel better?
I’ve spent a long time wondering if there is any truth behind appreciating the little things. When you are sad or stressed or busy or angry, concentrating on other things that make you happy and make you smile does indeed make a lot of sense. Are we just waiting in vain for the big things to come and sweep us off our feet?
Over the past few months I’ve been trying to concentrate less on the big life moments – the promotion I’ve always dreamed of, the kitchen I’ve been endlessly saving for and the family I just don’t know when I’m going to start, and instead tried to think about what I’ve got and all the lovely small things in my life. It worked. Here’s how I started to appreciate the little things and improved my mindset 100%.
Keeping a gratitude diary
Cliche I know, and I’m sure you’ve read about this before. I am honestly one of the most cynical people I know, and I put off doing this for a really long time. I genuinely couldn’t see the point of writing lists of small things, because when I was anxious about my life it seemed futile and pointless.
I’ve experienced my fair share of sadness and my fair share of stress. And really all I was doing was waiting for something, anything to change up in my life to make it better. Sometimes things require a big life change or one of those grand gestures. But sometimes, it really is appreciating the little things, every day things that are all around us that can lift our mood.
So I decided to give it a go – surely it couldn’t hurt? At first this was hard – it was almost impossible to remember small, awesome things that made me smile. But as I continued each day to try it, soon my pages were overflowing with lovely little things that I would have forgotten in an instant. The text message conversation with my best friends that make me laugh so hard on the tube to work that I had mascara running down my face by the time I made it to the office. The dog that I see every morning which always comes to say hello. Listening to my favourite band on a vinyl record and remembering that time I was in a 7 person group hug at the front row of their gig with sweat and joy pouring out of me. All of them made it on to the list.
And then, my mindset started to change. Whenever I was starting to feel overwhelmed or anxious, the memories of these small victories would come flooding back into my brain to push out the sadness and nervous energy. And when things were really bad, I instinctively reached for my gratitude book and remembered how lucky I am and happy I can be and felt reassured.
Try it – even if it makes you cringe, try it for a month. And then tell us if it worked!
We miss so much wonder in the world because we never bother (or rather we forget) to look up. iPhones (or your smart phone of choice) are incredible things. We have supercomputers in our pockets that connect us to the world, allow us to do anything and see anything at the swipe of click of a screen. But we also have an ENTIRE world around us too! How many times have you walked somewhere whilst looking at your phone? How many times have you mindlessly scrolled through Instagram when you could have been having a conversation with someone (raises hand)? How much have you truly missed because you didn’t look up?
It’s impossible to tell.
But what I can say with absolute certainty is that I’ve indulged more in the beauty around me when my phone has stayed in my pocket. I’ve noticed the changing leaves on the trees, the first flowers blossoming, the sound of crunchy frost under my feet and all these things make me really happy. This is a work in progress for me, but I’m slowly learning to appreciate the little things I see when I’m not looking at a screen.
Living in the moment
I always let my brain race ahead at a mile a minute without stopping for a second to think about what is happening to me right now. Writing a gratitude journal really helps me live in the moment more, but I still struggle to stay where I am instead of thinking about where next.
How terrible is it to be doing something wonderful with friends, or family or even just by yourself and to be constantly thinking about the next 500 things I have to/want to do? I settle in to watch a film and scroll through my phone. I read a book and stop after each page to do something else. Even when writing this post I’ve stopped several times to make lists of other things I’m going to do tomorrow or next month or next year. When I travel, I’m mentally planning my next trip and not fully engaging with the awesomeness right then and there.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for how you manage to stay in the moment (please pop them in the comments below). Things I’m starting to try are hiding my phone when I’m watching a film so I break that habit. Finding a cosy space for reading so I stay fully engaged in that moment of peace. And making sure I’m absolutely in the moment when spending time with my friends and not mentally curating that shopping list.
A list of little things that make me smile
There are some things which cannot help my raise the corners of my mouth into a smile. However small, these tiny things in life really do lift me to a better place when the chips are down.
- My Starbucks barista putting a smiley face on my cup
- A cool gin and tonic after a long day
- The look that Mr S gives me of recognition and understanding
- Cuddling up under a duvet with my kittens with the rain pelting outside
- Seeing the humour in every day life (like children playing next to a keep off the grass sign)
- Freshly cut flowers
Perhaps some of these are on your list? Why not try and write down the little things that bring you happiness and stick them somewhere you can see each day.
Some resources to help
Hopefully this post (and my honesty about my own struggle in appreciating the little things) has given you some ideas to get started. If you want to make a go of this or to delve more deeply, here are some things that might be able to help.
- Everything You Need You Have, book by Gerard Kite
- Gratitude Journal – £12 at Kikki.K
- StayFocused Site Blocker for Chrome (stops mindless internet surfing!)
- Photo/Adventure Journal – £18 at Debenhams
- Being Happy and Living in the Moment – TED Talk from Aisha Chaudhary (get tissues)
- Mindfulness Colouring Book – £3.85 from Amazon
This all might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of life. But maybe just taking a step back and looking at the world around us with different eyes can bring us a deeper joy than we realise.
Are you appreciating the little things? Tell us in the comments what little things make your life better!
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