It’s the Little Things

When gratitude for the little things can lead to greater contentment

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” — William Morris

What was the last thing that brought you joy?

Did you think of something? It doesn’t need to be large ecstatic happiness. And I’ll bet it wasn’t anything huge or miraculous, but rather something small and almost mundane.

It might not be a fantastic job promotion or a new relationship; it just might be a delicious cookie fresh out of the oven or a sunny day or a cuddle from your pet. These little moments of joy sprinkled throughout the day are much more impactful than you would think.

What’s made me happy recently?

The tulips are coming out in my garden and opening their sweet red faces to the sunshine. That’s what brought me joy today.

Tulip in my garden (photo by author)

There’s this cultural idea of The Pursuit of Happiness, the phrase popularized by Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While the meaning of “happiness” in this context is up for interpretation, maybe we don’t need to be actively pursuing happiness all the time.

If we let it, happiness comes to us in small ways.

In our world-wide heightened state of unrest, we need these tiny moments of joy to maintain our sense of mental health. Since most of us are in a state of isolation, it’s the little things that are going to keep us going.

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important”. — Arthur Conan Doyle

The world is an especially tumultuous place right now and it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole into despair and anxiety. But life, and our own human resilience, try to keep us in a place of contentment. It’s these moments of pure chaos and hopelessness where we learn to appreciate the little things in life.

Gratitude is a powerful tool in dark moments. Instead of reaching for new things to bring you happiness, you focus on what you already have. Studies have shown approaching life with a grateful nature is beneficial for our mental health.

If we focus solely on what’s missing in our lives and what we’re lacking, we will slowly drive ourselves insane. But, by shifting our energies to appreciating what we do still have and all the little beauties of life, we can still find joy in the chaos. Even if feels as if there isn’t anything good left in our lives, I promise you it’s there if you take the time to look.

Give yourself five minutes a day to think of a few things that you’re grateful for. With a little practice, it won’t seem so hard.

What this grateful attitude might achieve is a sense of contentment. When feelings of despair and helplessness threaten to overshadow moments of happiness, a general sense of contentment is what we should be striving for. And, as I said, happiness is a moment — it’s fleeting — but contentment is lasting. Contentment, in my opinion, is about balance and a more general and widespread sense of positivity and meaning.

Emotions come and go, but we can find a fairly positive state of being through the little joys and being grateful for our small blessings.

Trying to search for happiness — actively pursuing happiness — might lead to a moment of big joy. Instead, accepting the little things that surround you right now and taking more meaning from those moments, will bring more longterm benefits to your state of being. Joy and contentment can go hand-in-hand, just don’t let the idea of happiness consume the things that are already there.

So, what brought you joy today?

Was it a good hair day? A fresh loaf of bread? The way the sun came in through the window and made little rainbows on the floor?

Look around and I’m sure you kind find a little thing.

Writer || INFJ || Wellness junkie and chronic oversharer.

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