Most of the time when I think about happiness, it’s on a macro scale. Explaining its causes feels either unattainably philosophical—something Greek guys in flowy tunics debated back in the BCs—or frustratingly subjective—something hipsters in tight pants concluded in a coffee shop five minutes ago.
When I step back to look at the big macro picture, I am happy. I have been blessed by loving relationships, a job about which I am passionate, and my health, among many other things. Yet, if a mysterious wise woman appeared to me in the mist (or even if a young, semi-intelligent one rang my doorbell) and whispered, “Erin, do you want to know the secret to happiness?” I’d respond with, “YES, PLEASE TELL ME NOW!”
If you were hoping this post was going to somehow involve an actual wise woman giving away actual secrets to happiness, I’m sorry to disappoint you. My weekend was not that exciting.
This is not a macro-level post about big-picture happiness. It’s a micro-level post about boring, day-to-day, sitting-at-a-desk happiness, which I am willing to argue is just as important. A lot of the larger, macro happiness factors are either out of our control or things we can’t immediately change. The smaller, day-to-day stuff? We have the power to change those right away.
The below are five little things I’ve changed that immediately brightened my every day. Some of them are probably silly, but they really have made me happier. None are fancy; all are attainable. I hope just one item on this list will brighten your day too!
5 Little Things Making Me Happy Right Now
1. My house smelling delicious.
It might sound crazy, but ever since I splurged on this candle last year (which, by the way, will make your entire home smell like an Anthropologie), I’ve been far more attuned to the positive lift that a pleasantly scented environment brings. When I’m working from home, I light a candle at my desk.
This is probably a warning sign that I’m turning into my mother, but I also love making our house smell super fresh right before guests come over. It’s instantly welcoming, and someone almost always compliments me on it. This is my secret weapon (a quick spritz through the house and everything smells mysteriously fresh and lovely), and this is my favorite scented plug-in. I put one in our guest bathroom; the scent is adjustable, so I turn it up a little before guests arrive.
2. Avoiding gossip.
Gossiping (and talking negatively about people in general) is one of those things that can feel so satisfying in the moment, especially when any of the following apply:
a) It’s true.
b) It’s about someone for whom you don’t have a lot of respect, and
c) There’s a good reason(s) that you don’t respect him/her.
But here’s what I’ve found—gossip and negative talk in general is like eating three Krispy Kreme donuts in a row. They taste so good and so satisfying in the moment. Five minutes later? ICK.
Maybe there have been a few times when I’ve spoken negatively about someone that really did leave me feeling better or more whole, but as I type this, I can’t think of a single one. Biting my tongue (or stopping my fingers from texting), taking a deep breath, and waiting five minutes to let the desire pass? I feel happier every single time.
3. The one-minute rule.
I owe this one to Gretchen Rubin, whose book The Happiness Project first inspired me to explore the small, actionable changes I could make in my daily life to feel happier. One idea that has stuck with me years after reading it is her “one-minute rule.” If there is a task around the house that can be completed in less than one minute, do it immediately. That pair of dirty socks on the floor that you’ve been giving the stink eye every time you walk by? The full trash bin you keep trying to stuff down to make extra room, instead of taking it out? That two-sentence email you could fire off, if only you were in the mood? DO IT NOW. You will feel so good afterwards!
The biggest area where I’ve enacted the one-minute rule is the space just outside our basement stairs, where I pile extra pantry items that I need to take down to the storage room. I set them at the top of the staircase then…look at them. Then, I look at them again and wish they would go away. I think about taking them downstairs, then distract myself with something else. This used to continue for days because I was too lazy to walk down ONE FLIGHT of stairs. It’s sad but true. When I apply the one-minute rule, I put them away immediately, and guess what? I’m happier!
4. Ridiculously warm socks.
Ok, maybe this is a Wisconsin-only thing, but having warm, toasty feet makes me soooooo happy. I have a few pairs of thinner (but still warm) wool ones like these that I wear when I’m out and about, as well as some of the thick and fuzzy variety like these and these that are perfect for padding around the house.
I realize that socks are one of the least-exciting things you can spend money on, but for me, they have been a life upgrade of the happiest sort and worth every penny.
5. Setting my coffee to autobrew + general breakfast prep.
If you were expecting an especially clever, insightful final point on this list of five, I am sorry to disappoint you. That said, the ultra-micro action of spending five extra minutes at night to prep my coffee and breakfast for the next day is having a mega (dare I say macro?) impact on my daily happiness.
Imagine waking up to hot coffee and a fresh, wholesome breakfast expertly prepared for you. Wouldn’t that start your entire day on a happy note? It certainly does for me.
Of course, the person lovingly brewing my coffee and preparing my meal happens to be moi, but first thing in the AM, I love and thank myself dearly for it. I’ve owned this coffee maker for years but never bothered to use its programmable feature, which allows me to add the coffee and water the night before, then set it to automatically brew for a certain time the next morning. I’ve started taking a few extra minutes to set it right before bed, and I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is to walk downstairs and have a fresh, hot pot ready and waiting for me.
After seeing how happy the coffee prep made me, I started seeing what other parts of my morning routine I could do in advance. Breakfast recipes that can be made ahead such as this overnight Sugar Cookie Protein Oatmeal and these Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats have become two of my personal go-tos. Reader favorites include Banana Bread Overnight Steel-Cut Oats and Freezer Breakfast Quesadillas. Even setting out my cereal bowl and spoon gives me a happy boost.
Happiness is…overnight oatmeal and scented candles. Aristotle said something similar, right?