I just finished reading a book called Healthy Pleasures by Robert Ornstein and David Sobel.
The New York Times said of this book: “Reading it is one of life’s healthier pleasures.” And I agree. It had a lot to say about pleasure, how to cultivate it, and how to enjoy it.
They mentioned three things about happiness that rang true for me.
1. Little things make you happier than big things
First, they contend that little things make you happier than big things. And I think they are on to something.
Current research shows that something really, really big–you bought that Porsche, you won the lottery, your mother-in-law moved out–will make you happy for a little while, but after that blip on the radar scale, everything settles back down to normal in a little while.
A year from now, you won’t notice much difference, because the new has now become the old and gee whiz, what has the universe got to offer as an encore?
BUT, and this is important, if you manage to live moment to moment and relish the small pleasures, they have a tendency to accumulate, and voila! make you happy.
So enjoy the sunset, that game of tag with a youngster, the parking place right by the front door. These accumulated moments will keep you happier and more satisfied.
Some people do this with a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, take a moment to write down three things you are grateful for, one thing you found beautiful, one thing that surprised you.
2. Compare present circumstances with unhappier times
This works because of our innate need to discriminate differences between things. Probably goes back to hunter-gatherer days when we really needed to know if that mushroom were poisonous or good to eat.
We still do it. As human beings we are hard-wired to judge one thing against another. We do this all the time without even being aware of it. This thing is lighter, longer, bigger, and ultimately, better than that.
So, if you wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days when things were perfect, today isn’t going to make you too happy. On the other hand, if you can remember a time when you went hungry, then those beans on the table today taste just mighty fine.
3. Lower your expectations of anticipated future events
And finally, happiness is a measure of how close expectations meet fulfillment. If you wish for the moon and get a hunk of smelly cheese, you won’t be too happy. On the other hand, if you are lost in the woods and starving to death that hunk of cheese might taste scrumptious.
The object is to narrow the gap between the two poles of expectation and fulfillment. You can do this by either lowering your expectations (within the capability of any of us) or raising fulfillment (sometimes beyond our grasp) in order to be happier.
So, don’t worry, be happy!