Gratitude is everywhere these days. We’re told to make gratitude lists. We’re told to stop and smell the roses, and notice all the other sweet little (and big) things in our lives. Which means that we can easily dismiss all of it. The more we read about something, the more we’re exposed to something, the more likely we are to say “whatever,” and assume it doesn’t matter.
But that would be a shame.
The beautiful book The Big Book of Less: Finding Joy in Living Lighter by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst has several lovely illustrated spreads on tiny pleasures: being so engrossed in a book you miss your bus stop; the first red leaf of autumn; a lazy afternoon; good news when you least expect it; having nothing planned; a moment to ponder; buying yourself a bouquet of flowers; going wherever the road takes you; the silence after a snowfall; holding hands; finding a new use for an old jar; organizing your desk; a clean public restroom; the first swim of the summer; the smell of popping popcorn; savoring a solo meal; a pop of color; a nap; switching your phone to airplane mode.
I love the idea of paying attention to the beautiful objects, events, and experiences we tend to miss. Because it really is powerful. Because it doesn’t require anything from us other than to open our eyes and acknowledge “wow, this is important,” “oh, this does feel great,” “hmm, how wonderful I get to experience this.” And because it’s a fun challenge. Could you name 20 tiny pleasures? What about 30 or 40? Maybe 100?
Consider jotting down your responses right now. Or record a few tiny pleasures in a notebook every day. Or instead of writing, snap a few photos with your smartphone. Or sketch the tiny pleasures (even if it’s been years since you’ve drawn anything).
As Austin Kleon writes in Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, “‘Drawing is simply another way of seeing, which we don’t really do as adults,’ says cartoonist Chris Ware. We’re all going around in a ‘cloud of remembrance and anxiety,’ he says, and the act of drawing helps us live in the moment and concentrate on what’s really in front of us.”
Kleon includes another beautiful quote that speaks to this, which comes from Frederick Franck: “Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world. I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.”
Here are other examples of tiny pleasures.
- finding a new book that inspires you
- clean bedsheets
- flowers blooming
- a warm, soft pair of socks
- the scent of lavender essential oil as soon as you walk into the house
- a star-filled sky
- sleeping in
- waking up early when the world is quiet
- writing with your favorite pen
- an inside joke
- colorful front doors
- cold water or lemonade on a hot summer day
- a comfortable couch
- a crisp apple
- a beautiful photo
- a kiss from your toddler
- walks that turn into adventures
- a package or card in the mail
- when you can’t stop laughing
- hot brownies with chocolate ice cream on the side
- a hot cup of coffee or tea with a few pieces of dark chocolate
- reading words that capture exactly how you’ve been feeling
I think this is a great activity to do with our loved ones, too. Because we can learn so much about each other when we discover the small things that make us smile. And, of course, we can learn so much about ourselves, too.
In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes, “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.” Let’s try to acknowledge some of these simple things and their extraordinary magic.