Small Delights and Simple Pleasures
Waking up next to someone you love. A kitten or puppy doing what a kitten or puppy does. An unexpected phone call from a friend. An unexpected kindness witnessed in the world. All of these are a potential source of delight.
Author Ross Gay set himself a challenge: for one year he would discover at least one delight each day and write a short essay about it. Gay’s book, The Book of Delights: Essays on the Small Joys We Overlook in Our Busy Lives, is a collection of essays that was born from his self-imposed year-long challenge.
“Why are simple pleasures vital for goal progress? Modern day life is full of struggles and challenges, which erode the very psychological resources we need to make progress on our goals: Positive feelings.”Nicole Mead Ph.D.
As Nicole Mead Ph.D. discovered in a recent study, small pleasures and delights are an important source of positive feelings that improve our mindset and play a crucial role in our overall attitude.
With greater focus on small pleasures, we can increase our positivity, our motivation, and be more equipped to handle the challenges of everyday life.
(For more information, see T. Franklin Murphy’s article, Realistic Optimism)
Why We Should Focus on Small Delights
It’s no secret that modern life is full of challenges and difficulties. We stress about bills, obligations to work, family, and our community, and in this information age we are all tuned-in to every negative event in the world.
On top of that, we are distracted by technology, the future, and our plans, and our distraction causes us to miss the small pleasures we might otherwise experience.
(Check out my related article, Are You Distracted? – How to limit smartphone use, here.)
We are constantly reminded that these are uncertain, trying, and troubling times. The pandemic has upended our lives, and daily stress is on the rise. So much so, that a 2020 Gallup poll found that 60 percent of “Americans report feeling significant stress and worry on any given day.” This was a 14-percentage point increase from the prior year.
The type of chronic stress many of us live with is unhealthy. It can have real impacts on our overall mental and physical health.
For instance, the Harvard medical school points out that “chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.”
(See my related article, Accepting Death as a Part of Life)
“Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.”Harvard Medical School
How to Cultivate a Positive Mindset
Now more than ever it is important to cultivate a positive attitude by focusing on small pleasures and delights. Doing so, we can dramatically improve our lives, our ability to act, and we increase the likelihood that we will overcome the obstacles in our way.
(See my related article, Understanding Our Relationship to Suffering)
In my own life, I’ve struggled with the negative feedback loop produced by stress and negativity. I had a pessimistic outlook and interpreted the world accordingly. When we are negative, we find validation for our outlook everywhere. It becomes hard to live, to accomplish anything, and we feel exhausted all the time.
Positivity has the reverse effect. When you focus on small pleasures, you make yourself aware of moments of joy and delight throughout the day. This helps cultivate a positive, optimistic outlook. With it, you start to see the world that way. Everything becomes easier because you want to do it, because you approach problems with positivity and are more equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
Take action: try recording at least two small delights each day
To cultivate a positive mindset, try recording at least two small delights or simple pleasures each day. I recommend using a journal to record your experiences. Record each simple pleasure along with an explanation of why you found it delightful. Not only will this practice help make you more self-aware, it will also make you more focused on the positive as you become increasingly aware of the small pleasures in the world around you.
(See my related article, Epicurus on Pleasure and Desire)
For example, you might jot down the experience you had when you got a particularly good cup of coffee—perhaps it was delightful because it was just what you needed at that time. You might note when your pet does something particularly cute and adorable, reminding you to smile and enjoy the little things.
The important thing is to keep at it and cultivate a positive mindset by becoming more aware of the small pleasures and delights in your everyday life.
Cultivate a positive outlook. With positivity we see increased energy, a willingness to face life’s challenges, and an increased openness to new things.
There is no better time to start being more positive than right now.
(See my related article, Are Hobbies Important?, here.)
What was something delightful that happened to you today?
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Please check out my related articles and posts: Belief as a Noble Risk, Imagination, The Importance of Exploration and Experimentation, How to Develop Patience, the Stoic’s Way, How to Face Your Fears – 6 Simple Steps to Realize Your Goals, How to Stop Lying to Yourself – Creating Clear Goals, Thinking for Yourself – Checking in with Camus, and How to Change Your Thinking – How to Change Yourself.
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