Why Study This Mantra...You will develop the skill of stopping, taking notice, and appreciating the joy in the little things in life. And there is so much joy!
All journeys begin with a first step. In your case, that first step is realizing joy is all around you in life, and taking notice of it throughout your day.
Appreciation for the small things is very much connected to happiness and life satisfaction. Regardless of who you are and how you're wired, you can develop an everyday appreciation and reap immense benefits from it.
That's why you'll start your journey here. The seeds of altering your life perspective lies in the small.
Before you begin...
Before you start thes practices and challenges, take a moment to rate yourself on this mantra. Give yourself a score from 1-10 (10 being the highest).
Do this again at the end of a month of practices and challenges. How much have you grown?
Beauty in the Little Things
Today's affirmation: "I appreciate the little things in life."
Each time I look down at my wrist, I will stop whatever I'm doing, look around, and find at least one thing near me that makes me happy. Then I'll take a moment to smile and acknowledge its presence and to appreciate that it is part of my life. Appreciating moments are good too.
Think of a place near you that you find beautiful. This could be anywhere. A park. Your mom's house. Whatever speaks to you. Outdoors is preferred, but not required. This place can be 5 minutes from your home, or 1 hour. Up to you.
Next, schedule a day to go there and take pictures. Make sure you carve out at least a few hours. Take a lot of pictures. Once you're done, pick out 1 or 2 pictures that you like the most and make them permanent. You can do that by printing and framing them for your wall, making them your phone wallpaper, or simply sharing them with a friend.
You don't have to be an expert photographer to get value out of this exercise. You might even be surprised by your results!
Incorporate the Little Things into your Life More Often
Reflect on a few of the most meaningful things you noticed during your daily practice.
- Think about how you can incorporate more interactions into your day with the things that brought you joy.
- Maybe you found yourself continually looking at art on your wall to bring you joy. Find some resources online or classes in person to learn how to draw or paint.
- Maybe you looked at pictures of your family or a photo from a recent trip. Set aside a little time each day to connect with your family, or plan another trip/outing to relive the joy of that prior moment and create new memories. Maybe bring a picture of your family to work for your office.
Beginning a new journey can feel daunting, but in reality, short journeys and long journeys both begin with a single step. That’s why step one of your new journey is focused on the simple things that surround us all the time. It may only take a second or two to find something of beauty, and another two or three seconds to feel appreciation for it. Imagine if everything were that easy!
Consistent Small Wins Produce Large Benefits
Of course we feel a rush of positive feelings when we accomplish a difficult or large task, but what’s surprising is that even small, consistent wins can dramatically improve our happiness. And in taking notice of the little things throughout the day, you’re not only appreciating the beauty around you, but you’re successfully accomplishing a small but meaningful task. It’s like finding two bonus french fries in the bottom of the bag instead of just one!
In a Harvard Business Review article titled The Power of Small Wins, it was shown that small accomplishments in meaningful work led to significant improvement in the workers’ feelings about their work. These feelings are especially important for creativity and productivity, and will help you unlock further growth opportunities as you progress on your journey.
One additional finding noted that meaningful progress is necessary rather than simply “checking a box.” With this in mind, focusing on something beautiful will make you feel especially good and will pay long-term dividends if it’s also something meaningful. Perhaps it’s a loved one or a souvenir from a family trip. Briefly appreciating something meaningful for its beauty throughout the day is a simple way to reap the benefits of small wins.
Studies have shown that being mindful predicts positive emotional states in those who practice it, and that increases in mindfulness over time can relate to declines in stress.2 The practice of taking notice is the first small step in achieving mindfulness throughout the day.
When looking at mindfulness more granularly and breaking out the concepts of gratitude and appreciation, studies have shown appreciation for the people and things in our lives “plays a significant role in one’s quality of life, independent of one’s personality or gratitude level.”
Taking pictures has become ubiquitous in our society, but does all the snapping and posting lead to diminished enjoyment of the things and experiences we encounter every day? A study conducted in 2015 suggests that taking pictures increases enjoyment of activities by increasing our engagement with those activities.
Taking pictures during a wide range of activities such as bus tours, concerts, museum visits and even ordinary activities such as eating lunch increases your engagement with that activity, and therefore your enjoyment of the experience. There are a few caveats however. If the act of taking the pictures is especially intrusive unless you’re passionate about photography, lugging around a bulky camera and reviewing your pictures immediately after taking them had an offsetting effect to the point where the cumbersome process of taking the picture negated the positive benefits of taking the picture in the first place. In addition, engagement stayed constant for activities that are especially engaging in the first place (a cooking lesson or craft project for example) whether you take photos or not.
To make the most of your monthly challenge, take plenty of pictures and don’t review them right away. Also feel free to use your camera phone if you think it’s easier than using an actual camera. Capturing moments both small and extraordinary will help you not only enjoy the moment more, but also help you relive the enjoyable moments in the future!
Further ReadingThere are many different forms of “Taking Notice”. Surprisingly, taking notice of something familiar and often ignored can make you aware of something beautiful you typically think of as commonplace and unremarkable. Here’s a TED talk discussing the beauty of something we see but likely never pay attention to except when we wish they would go away and make room for a sunny day: Clouds!
- Amabile, T., & Kramer, S. “The Power of Small Wins.” hbr.org, Harvard Business Publishing, May 2011, https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins
- Brown KW, Ryan RM. "The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being." J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Apr;84(4):822-48. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1682. PMID: 12703651.
- Kennelly, S. “A Scientific Reason to Stop and Smell the Roses.” greatergood.berkeley.edu, The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, 3 July 2012, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/a_scientific_reason_to_stop_and_smell_the_roses
- Fagley, N.S. "Appreciation uniquely predicts life satisfaction above demographics, the Big 5 personality factors, and gratitude", Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 53, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 59-63, ISSN 0191-8869, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886912000888
- Diehl, K., Zauberman, G., & Barasch, A. “How Taking Photos Increases Enjoyment of Experiences.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6 June 2016, Vol. 111, No. 2, 119 –140 https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspa0000055.pdf