It’s officially a new year! And if you’re anything like me, that new year comes with new lists of things we want to accomplish and achieve in 2018.
The thing is, when our to-do lists go on for pages and our mind can’t stop running through the next day’s activities, it’s easy to get completely lost in the busy-ness.
How often do we stop to appreciate the small things? To take in the preciousness of that mischievous smile on our toddler’s face, or the way the leaves shimmer in the wind just so?
I’ll start with my personal experience and say, “Not often enough!”
It takes work to enjoy the little things, because we naturally focus on what’s coming next rather than where we are right now. We plan and prepare and sometimes worry… but from time to time we need to also stop and smell the roses and just appreciate the little blessings G-d has put in our lives so that we can balance a bright future with a healthy present.
Fortunately, the work we need to do to get that appreciation for the small stuff isn’t *hard*, it just takes consistency. So without further ado, here are 7 ways to enjoy the little things in life, starting right now.
#1 – Stop and take a picture
Not only do pictures last longer, but the very act of stopping to take a picture imprints the significance of the thing on your brain and transfers it to your long-term memory. A pretty flower that you might have passed by will instead become a memory of a beautiful walk you took with your spouse or child.
Even better, if you set a goal to take at least one picture of something that makes you smile each day, you’ll actually train your brain to look for the beautiful things in life instead of the not-so-beautiful things! We did this as a “30 Day Challenge” in the Simcha Sisterhood group and really saw some incredible perspective changes happen over the course of a month!
#2 – Set a “smell the roses” alarm
Open your phone and set a repeating alarm for the same time each day for a week. When the alarm goes off, pause whatever you’re doing right that moment (so don’t set your alarm to go off in the middle of getting the kids ready for school or cooking dinner). Close your eyes for just a moment and then:
- Take a deep breath and draw your attention to the present moment. What sights, sounds, smells do you notice?
- Take another deep breath and allow yourself to bask in a sense of pride at your personal accomplishments today.
- One last deep breath and enjoy the sense of pleasure you feel in response to these reflections.
Try this for just a week and see how it goes, but make sure it’s a full week so you get a chance to make it part of your daily schedule! Once the week is up, consider how your “roses alarm” impacted your mood each day, and then you can decide whether or not to continue doing it or try something else.
One of my favorite experiences with the roses alarm was pausing during the middle of working from a coffee shop. Taking a moment to breathe deeply and actually notice (and enjoy!) the smell of the fresh coffee, the hum of the espresso machine, and the clanking of glasses was a refreshing wake up call. Top that off with the fact that I really had gotten some good work done that morning, and I felt way more confident and refreshed after just three breaths. Not bad!
#3 – Take a daily vacation
Need some time to yourself, but you can’t really get away? Instead, commit to taking a “daily vacation” every day for seven days. Choose a different short vacation activity every day. Maybe you’ll go for a scenic walk, eat out instead of making dinner at home, chat with a friend at a coffee shop, treat yourself to a hot bath… the possibilities are endless. Just make sure it’s something *you* truly enjoy.
While on your little vacation, make sure to really be in the present moment and experience what’s happening. Take time to notice the sensations that come and go, how you’re feeling, and how your emotions ebb and flow with change of scenery. Then at the end of every day, take just a minute or two to think back and smile about the mini-vacation you took that day.
Once your week of daily vacations is up, reflect on how the week as a whole went. Was it better than normal? Did you feel more yourself, more positive?
#4 – Slow it down a bit
This one takes a bit of practice, but try slowing down some of the things you do every day. Here are some examples to get you started:
- Say (even just) one line of your morning prayers slowly and with conscious focus on each word. Think about how that line relates to your every day life.
- Take the first 5 bites of every meal way slower than norma, and chew them thoughtfully while you thank G-d for the food on your plate.
- Walk slower from your house to your car, or from your car to the store. See what you can notice that you normally pass by.
- Make bedtime with your little ones last a little longer one night. Read an extra story, give an extra hug, and notice how they react to the added attention.
It’s really amazing how just slowing down in this crazy “go, go, go” world can make a huge difference in how much we can enjoy the present moment. My husband likes to playfully tease me for walking slower than he does… I take it as a compliment 🙂
#5 – Make a memory box
Ever since we got married, my husband and I have tossed little items from fun outings and vacations into a plastic bin. We call it our “memory box” and it serves as a physical reminder of a ton of amazing times we’ve had together. As our kids are getting older, they’re starting their own little memory boxes. The trinkets can be small… an admission ticket, a cork from a nice bottle of celebratory wine, a photobooth snapshot… anything that brought a smile to your face.
The best thing about the memory box is that whenever I’m having a rough moment (or day.. or week…) I can crack open that box and be sure to find a handful of things that will bring a smile to my face no matter what kind of mood I’m in. And my son loves learning about all of the little things in our box from before he was born too, so it’s turned into a family activity also!
#6 – Do a random reach-out
If you’re like me, there are probably quite a few people in your life that you’re grateful for on a regular basis that don’t always hear explicit gratitude from you. It could be a parent or sibling of yours, or your work bestie, or even that cashier at the grocery store that it so unbearably nice that you can’t help but smile even though your toddler is screaming about the treat you said “no” to.
If that sounds familiar at all, try doing a “random reach-out” once a day. Send an email, a text message, or even a small word in person to let someone know how much you really do appreciate that thing they always help you with. Get specific with it, and send the good feelings they give you back their way!
#7 – Write in an old-school physical journal
Remember that thing called paper? Maybe you even have a pen laying around? Try turning them into a daily gratitude journal!
This is one of the most well-known ways to enjoy the little things in life. Every night (or morning, if that’s your thing) try to think of three things that happened during your day that you’re grateful for. Three little blessings that made your day better. Maybe that stroke of Divine Providence that got you your perfect parking spot when you were running late? Or G-d’s magnificent artwork in tonight’s sunset? Or your spouse making you a coffee in the morning?
They don’t have to be big, they just have to be something that someone (either a person or G-d) did for you today that made your day better than it would have been without that thing.
What some people with families find even more meaningful is doing this all together as part of a family dinner. There’s nothing cuter than asking a three-year-old what they’re grateful for and having them say, “bikes and firetrucks and my friend SDB*!” every. single. time. (*Initials for privacy reasons, but this is a true statement my son makes on a regular basis 😍)
Now it’s your turn!
So there you have it! Seven easy and quick ways to enjoy the little things in life in 2018. And not only are they quick and easy, they’re scientifically proven to actually be effective. (Want sources? Feel free to comment below!) So now I’m curious…
Do you already do any of these things? Are you going to try some of them? Maybe you have something different that you do to savor the moment? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!
(And by the way, if you’re looking for even more ways to bring a little more Simcha into your life this year, make sure to click on the download in the sidebar on the right for my free 10-page workbook called “How to Live a Life of Simcha”! I think you’ll love it 🙂 )