How Tiny Pleasures Can Radically Change Your Day
January 23, 2019
This quote is on a mug given to me by my friend Danielle. On the rare mornings that I drink out of it, I am struck by its simplicity and optimism.
It makes my day better in the most subtle way. But I rarely get the simple pleasure of drinking out of it; usually I'm running late to work, or it's dirty in the dishwasher I forgot to turn on the night before. And when I wake up in the morning, I don't immediately think, "I can't wait to read my mug!" But maybe I should.
So often, traditional thinking goes that we need to achieve great things in order to live a great life. But there’s a reason why drinking coffee out of your favorite mug and reflecting in the morning gives you such a boost—and why that warm fuzzy feeling extends far beyond that fleeting moment.
Research bears this out. A study of 122 people asked each person what they wanted to accomplish during the day, and then they were checked in on at various points during the day and asked whether they were experiencing a “simple pleasure,” a “small annoyance,” or neither.
The results were major.
“On days when people experienced very few simple pleasures, the minor irritations that characterize everyday life ate away at their goal progress,” according to researchers. But on days when people experienced more simple pleasures, they stuck to their goals. (Um, talk about a big win.)
The conclusion was that “experiencing simple pleasures can buffer the harmful effects of small annoyances for goal progress.” Not only do simple pleasures provide boosts for your day-to-day, but research shows that they move you toward your life goals.
Now that you know these fleeting moments serve a greater purpose—helping you get more stuff done—it’s time to double down on very small experiences with very big positive consequences.
Here’s how to spot, cultivate, and savor more simple pleasures in your daily life.
Set a Reminder
Start by taking a cue from the people monitored in the survey. You can set a timer to go off on your phone at random times during the day—say at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and after dinner, and use it as a remind to ask yourself: “Am I experiencing a simple pleasure right now?” Look around and see if there's anything you can find joy in—and keep track of your responses.
Learning what gives you small moments of joy can help you recreate the people, experiences, and routines that bring you delight more often.
Be On the Lookout
Guess what? Your eyesight can be improved—no glasses prescription needed. Paying attention to simple pleasures starts by knowing which ones truly work for you. What’s pleasurable for one person might seem totally onerous for another.
Maybe your simple pleasure involves other people: sharing a joke with your barista or texting “good morning, have a great day!!!” to your best friend.
Or maybe you take more pleasure in a free physical activity, like walking along a river, or listening to your favorite pick-me-up song.
Or perhaps yours involve an object of some kind: treating yourself to an afternoon snack or wearing a funny pair of socks that make you laugh.
Defining what these pleasures look like for you is the first step toward making them happen more frequently.
Really Savor It
Once you find a tiny joy, it's time to stop, stare, and savor. When you're sipping that perfect morning coffee out of your favorite mug, take a second to actually look at it—feel the warmth of your breakfast brew, think about who gave you the mug and how much that person means to you, and take a second to consider how fortunate you are to have this moment. Right here, right now.
When we get super busy, simple pleasures are often the first things we sacrifice. Not enough time, not enough energy, we think. But even the smallest moments—seconds really—can provide a boost and exponential insight.
The truth is they aren’t tiny moments—they contain infinite possibilities both for your present and your future.