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How to Finding Meaning and Joy in the Small Things

Whether it’s a hug from a friend, a hot shower with your favorite lavender soap, a smile from a stranger, doing your makeup just how you like it, sipping coffee with your partner, chamomile tea after a long day, or pausing long enough to focus your attention on birds chirping in the trees—everyone has small moments of joy throughout their day, though it may take a shift in focus to appreciate them. Life can be overwhelming, especially during a pandemic. We are not trying to diminish that experience. However, with all of the major adjustments we have all had to make due to COVID-19 it is more important than ever to take time each day and appreciate even the seemingly smallest of things. This blog will focus on just that.

Why Small Things Matter

It’s all too easy to fall into autopilot mode and go about our days partially aware (and even partially awake)! The year of 2020 may feel sluggish, as if everything has been put on pause. When we become too future-oriented, like saying to ourselves: “I’ll have time to do xyz in a week, a month, a year” or “I’ll be happy when _____ happens,” we run the risk of perpetually robbing ourselves of joy in the present moment. We can end up feeling like our lives are getting away from us and time has passed without us really being present if we are waiting for some future thing that may or may not happen. Remember, your life is happening right now, even if you find yourself wishing for a distant future. There is joy and meaning to be found in each and every day.

Small things matter because they:
  • Make up the entirety of our lives
  • Help us practice gratitude
  • Keep us present and not on autopilot or too “up in our heads”
  • Help us to slow down
  • Allow us to appreciate the human experience
  • Invite us to remain in a mindful state
  • Become the memories that we look back to most often

What is “mindful?”

We are mindful when we are present, accepting things as they come. This includes accepting our experience and feelings without judgement and without trying to change them—even the uncomfortable ones. So, this may look like acknowledging what you are thinking/feeling/seeing, honoring it, and maybe choosing to redirect your attention to something else while remaining present in the moment without getting pulled too far in the present (planning/anxiety) or past.

Small things mindfulness example:

You are walking down your driveway to check your mail…

  • you see the color of the leaves,
  • you hear the chirping of the birds,
  • you feel the coolness of the breeze,
  • you appreciate the simplicity of this action and your ability to be healthy enough to get your own mail.

Set an Intention

With intention, you can find meaning among even what seems mundane. Maybe you have a long commute to work and you often find yourself zoning out during it and “losing” those forty minutes of your day. Trying setting an intention to present and notice your surroundings. If the trees are changing colors this time of year, focus on some of the colors (while still paying attention to the road!). Consider listening to some of your favorite relaxing music, an uplifting audio book, or a podcast on a topic that interests you. If you set your tone for the day with intention to be present and bring meaning into your awareness, you’ll likely have a lot more bandwidth for whatever comes at you throughout the rest of your day.

Suggestions

The task of paying more attention to the small things throughout your day may seem pretty easy until you go to do it—but don’t fret! We’ve come up with a “starter-kit” list for finding meaning in small things for you to begin with. We’ll first offer some general suggestions and then get more specific.

Starter-Kit to being more present in the small things
  • Start your day with “self-time” or a morning routine that’s meaningful to you
  • Schedule a reflection break or check in, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, several times during your day
  • Have a focal object near to help ground you/keep you present (candles, rocks, memento, etc.)
  • Engage in some type of movement
  • Engage your senses/remain mindful
    • Try to include them all if you can: Sight, smell, sound, touch, taste

It is our hope that you’ll approach this playfully and creatively. Look at it as gathering data; if something doesn’t work well for you, you don’t have to do it again! Try to remain curious. Start off your day doing something intentional to bring you in to the present moment.

Intentional actions could include:
  • Making sure you have enough time to do your hair the way you like
  • Having your favorite coffee or tea while looking out your window
  • Reading a bit from an inspirational book
  • Taking a walk around your yard
  • Journaling/setting a positive intention for the day
  • Bulleting a few gratitude points

Next, consider actually scheduling self-time or a break throughout your day and make sure to take it. This can look like regular check-ins with yourself or taking a break to pet your animal friend if you’re working from home. It’s to re-engage your sense if you find yourself slipping into autopilot. When you are starting this habit, setting reminders at these times can be super helpful.

You can also have objects with you that can help to reground you or keep you present. Some people have these types of physical reminders as stress balls, gifts from loved ones that they keep on their desks, pictures that they have in their phones, jewelry with a meaningful phrase on it, etc. Find something that inspires you/reminds you what is important in your life and keep it handy.

Humans weren’t constructed to sit hunched over computers all day. Try to schedule regular breaks for your eyes and the rest of your body, to give your physical self some attention and awareness. This can include stretches, 5-minute yoga exercises on YouTube as your fitness level allows, and going for a walk outside. You may even want to consider standing at your desk if possible and keeping your computer at eye level.

Finally, you can be mindful throughout your work day after a bit of practice. This means staying present and aware, regardless of if you find an activity inherently exciting or boring. You may appreciate the floral pattern on your notepad, take time to make a quick doodle between meetings, appreciate the clacking of your fingers on the keyboard while acknowledging your awesome typing speed! There are many things throughout the day that you can do to engage your senses. You may also consider lighting a candle or using a diffuser with your favorite scent to help keep you aware of your surroundings and appreciating what is before you.

Ongoing Help

Appreciating small things and finding meaning in everyday activities is a skill that can be learned. You don’t go to the gym once and expect to be buff, so consider this a practice that needs consistency. If you think you could benefit from working to stay more present and appreciate the smaller things in life, schedule an appointment with an Angelus therapist today. Mindful practice helps to bring us peace in a world where things can feel scary and chaotic.

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