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The Small Things in Life and the Psychology of Happiness

I was sipping tea at a café, when this rusted, busted air vent on the wall across the street caught my eye. Or rather, its shadow did. Somehow, with the sun at that angle, it was like the brokenness had wings.

Divinity is in everything,” my companion said.

The rust.
The edges.
The hard places and the soft.

The small things in life that hold the bigness of it all…

Yet how easy it is to gloss over them and simply not see. To turn away. To try ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ and so to miss it altogether. And what are you missing when you do that?

A lot, if Dr Martin Seligman and his positive psychology are right.

As part of his ground-breaking work, Dr Seligman noted the power of gratitude. That when we notice what we have to be thankful for in life – however small those things might be – we get closer to “flourishing.”

So it’s kind of like feeling the pulse of the everyday can quicken your own pulse a bit. Seeing what’s going right. Getting up close to the small stuff that could otherwise slip by unnoticed and to really see it – embrace it – as the string of impossible mysteries that your life is made up of, moment to moment. To be alive to it all.

And then to allow the accompanying sense of gratitude or wonder or divinity or whatever else you’d like to call it, infuse right through you. To let it steep you like tea…

Seligman advises to fashion a daily ritual around this stuff. Maybe taking a moment before you fall asleep to recount a few things that brought the wonderment into today. Or to write them down in a gratitude journal.

Or perhaps you could just savour the moment when it arises.

So today, I’m grateful for the shadows in life.
For finding wings in unexpected places.
And for sharing moments of divinity with a fellow traveller.

What are you grateful for right now?


Reference: Seligman, M (2009) ‘Mind and Its Potential’ Conference and workshop, 2-3 December, Sydney.
Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
The Small Things in Life and the Psychology of Happiness

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). The Small Things in Life and the Psychology of Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 May 2011
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