Simple Pleasures: Finding Joy in the Ordinary

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.

  1. Sharing food
  2. Eating breakfast with someone I care about
  3. Preparing my favorite meal with people I love
  4. Drinking tea or coffee slowly
  5. Eating chocolate
  6. A cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day
  7. Baking my favorite treats from childhood
  8. Tasting summer strawberries
  9. Letting watermelon drip down my arm
  10. Spitting out watermelon seeds to see how far they can go
  11. The purr of a sweet kitten
  12. Walking barefoot on the beach
  13. Chatting with old friends
  14. Listening to the sound of the wind in the trees
  15. Feeling the breeze
  16. Enjoying nature
  17. Taking a walk
  18. Lighting outdoor fires on cool autumn evenings
  19. Watching the sunset
  20. Listening to the birds outside my window
  21. Going out in the rain
  22. Stoop sitting
  23. Watching a thunderstorm roll in
  24. Walking in freshly cut grass
  25. Listening to the crackle of a fire in my fireplace
  26. Sitting outside under twinkling lights
  27. Making someone smile
  28. Causing someone to laugh so hard they can’t catch their breath
  29. Dancing when no one is watching
  30. Listening to my children giggling
  31. Singing in the shower
  32. Singing with the windows down
  33. Snuggling with my children
  34. Snuggling with my partner
  35. Meditating and breathing deeply
  36. Exercising
  37. Sharing stories with the people I love
  38. Blowing bubbles
  39. Taking an afternoon nap
  40. Sitting in a room lit only by candles
  41. Watching people
  42. Climbing into clean sheets
  43. Soft blankets
  44. Swimming
  45. Bathing
  46. Showering after a long hard day
  47. Saying I love you
  48. Hearing I love you
  49. Hugging someone I love
  50. Growing flowers and herbs
  51. Listening to music
  52. Having a picnic
  53. Eating dinner on the back porch
  54. Reading books outside
  55. Laying in a hammock
  56. Feeling the sun on my face
  57. Eating leftover Chinese food
  58. Catching up with an old friend
  59. Searching for shooting stars
  60. Making the first prints after a gentle snowfall
  61. Toweling off with a towel straight out of the dryer
  62. Listening to my children tell me about their day
  63. Finding shapes in the clouds
  64. Eating a tasty new recipe
  65. Chocolate cake
  66. A sip of beer on a warm summer day
  67. The gentle sound of crickets
  68. Hearing my partner laugh
  69. Reminiscing about childhood
  70. Telling my kids stories

What brings you joy? What would you add to the list?

4 thoughts on “Simple Pleasures: Finding Joy in the Ordinary”

  1. I absolutely loved this post! My husband passed away 18 months ago and I can tell you and your readers, without any hesitation, that the simple pleasures we used to share are what I miss the most. My unsolicited advice: don’t take them for granted. Treasure them. Spend that extra time singing to your children and doing silly things with your spouse that in the moment wont seem like they mean a whole lot but in the long term (trust me) they mean everything.

  2. I absolutely love this post, it refreshed my soul and maybe sit in gratitude for all of my life experiences. We get so caught up in acquiring things we lose sight of the beautiful gifts we are given each day. We think our children want something outside of ourselves when we are what they yearn for each moment, not going to lie and say they do not want presents(lol), but listening to your story reminds me that our presence is far greater than the sweet treat.


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