It’s easy to spend inordinate amounts of time and money pursuing happiness while forgetting that joy can exist at any moment on any given day. When we think about happiness we often picture expensive outings and special occasions. We imagine traveling to exotic locations or spending money on extravagant meals, but the greatest gifts in life don’t need to come from pricey excursions. Simple pleasures can provide the same joy.
What if we stopped focusing on life’s big adventures and directed our attention to the small moments we tend to take for granted? What if we stopped spending gobs of money to feel joyful and refocused our energy on simple pleasures instead?
What is a Simple Pleasure?
How do we find joy? We press the pause button to reflect on the good in our lives, embrace the peace and tranquility of everyday events, and learn to appreciate what we have. We create small magical moments that don’t cost a lot rather than waiting for a future where we’ll have more money to spend.
What is a simple pleasure? It’s the joyful satisfaction caused by an ordinary, inexpensive event. By shifting our attention to simple pleasures, we don’t need to quit our jobs, take a two-week vacation or retire to find contentment. We find joy in the journey rather than waiting for a future day.
Simple Pleasures From My Childhood
Growing up, my parents didn’t have money to take us on worldly adventures. Yet my childhood was filled with happiness.
My dad cooked a giant stack of french toast and pancakes on Saturday mornings. He spoke like the Swedish Chef while cracking eggs and whisking batter, and my brother and I giggled and laughed while he prepared breakfast. After scarfing down the stack, we plopped in front of the TV to watch cartoons.
While some of my friends traveled to Europe on summer vacations, we drove to the ocean a handful of times. I remember jumping in the waves, walking the boardwalk, and playing in the arcades.
But I also remember summers riding bikes around my hometown, playing in my neighbor’s swimming pool, and creating board games. As a kid, I didn’t need worldly adventures to feel joyful, and I don’t need them now, either.
The other day a fellow parent talked to me about the magic of Disney. They spent thousands of dollars flying to Florida to experience the wonder of the Magic Kingdom.
I remember going to Disney World once as a kid. It was the only time I ever flew on an airplane, but that memory pales in comparison to many other childhood memories.
Does it mean we should never fly to distant locations or save for extravagant vacations? Of course, not. We can find joy in big events while simultaneously recognizing the value of simple pleasures.
Yesterday, my son reminded me of the importance of everyday moments.
The Magic of Simple Pleasures
It was dark outside when I heard my alarm ring. I reached for my phone and contemplated hitting the snooze button. Instead, I stretched, stood up, and quietly tiptoed into my son’s room.
Soft blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals surrounded his seven-year-old body. I crawled into bed beside him and gently stroked his soft cheeks.
Then I sang a short song I created nine years ago to rouse my sleepy children for preschool. The lyrics usually end with the words, “it’s time to go to school,” but yesterday, I changed them to “it’s time to get donuts.”
Once my youngest awakened, I tiptoed into my oldest son’s room. I sat on the edge of the bed, leaned over, stroked his face, and sang again.
I don’t sing this song very often anymore. My boys often wake before I do. They bound down the stairs and eat breakfast while I shower. By the time I enter the kitchen, we rush to gather their school supplies and head off to school.
But this morning, I stroked my eleven-year-old’s face just like I did when he was a toddler. As I sang, he reached out his arms to hug me. His lips turned upward, and the sweetest grin appeared on his face.
“Let’s get donuts,” I said, but he didn’t want me to leave. He reached out his arms, so I stayed and sang.
Eventually, I convinced him to wake up for a memorable adventure. We were driving to get donuts before school.
Simple Pleasures and Long-Lasting Memories
Going out for donuts seemed like an inexpensive way to create a long-lasting memory for my kids. It was unexpected and unusual because we’d never gone out for treats before school.
My goal was to spend thirty minutes together as a family—the simple pleasure of enjoying each other’s company seemed like a worthy objective. My boys would enjoy their donuts while my husband and I chatted about the upcoming day.
Before heading to bed last night, I asked my son about our sugar-coated adventure. To my surprise, he didn’t comment on going out to eat or filling his belly with sugar.
He said, “I love that you made me feel warm and cozy in bed this morning, and I didn’t want you to leave. I wanted you to keep on singing.”
The donuts were a special treat, but it wasn’t the donuts that forged a future memory. Waking up to the sound of my voice and the warmth of my touch was all he needed.
What Do You Enjoy?
What simple pleasures can make you happy? What tiny moments can you treasure in your day?
Sometimes we find joy in the presence of others. Other times we find it when the world is quiet, and we are alone.
I thought my son would be pleased by the donuts I bought, but it turned out his simple pleasure was feeling my touch and listening to me sing.
70 Simple Pleasures in Life
If you aren’t sure how to find happiness, here are seventy simple pleasures that bring me joy.
- Sharing food
- Eating breakfast with someone I care about
- Preparing my favorite meal with people I love
- Drinking tea or coffee slowly
- Eating chocolate
- A cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day
- Baking my favorite treats from childhood
- Tasting summer strawberries
- Letting watermelon drip down my arm
- Spitting out watermelon seeds to see how far they can go
- The purr of a sweet kitten
- Walking barefoot on the beach
- Chatting with old friends
- Listening to the sound of the wind in the trees
- Feeling the breeze
- Enjoying nature
- Taking a walk
- Lighting outdoor fires on cool autumn evenings
- Watching the sunset
- Listening to the birds outside my window
- Going out in the rain
- Stoop sitting
- Watching a thunderstorm roll in
- Walking in freshly cut grass
- Listening to the crackle of a fire in my fireplace
- Sitting outside under twinkling lights
- Making someone smile
- Causing someone to laugh so hard they can’t catch their breath
- Dancing when no one is watching
- Listening to my children giggling
- Singing in the shower
- Singing with the windows down
- Snuggling with my children
- Snuggling with my partner
- Meditating and breathing deeply
- Sharing stories with the people I love
- Blowing bubbles
- Taking an afternoon nap
- Sitting in a room lit only by candles
- Watching people
- Climbing into clean sheets
- Soft blankets
- Showering after a long hard day
- Saying I love you
- Hearing I love you
- Hugging someone I love
- Growing flowers and herbs
- Listening to music
- Having a picnic
- Eating dinner on the back porch
- Reading books outside
- Laying in a hammock
- Feeling the sun on my face
- Eating leftover Chinese food
- Catching up with an old friend
- Searching for shooting stars
- Making the first prints after a gentle snowfall
- Toweling off with a towel straight out of the dryer
- Listening to my children tell me about their day
- Finding shapes in the clouds
- Eating a tasty new recipe
- Chocolate cake
- A sip of beer on a warm summer day
- The gentle sound of crickets
- Hearing my partner laugh
- Reminiscing about childhood
- Telling my kids stories
What brings you joy? What would you add to the list?