This week, I tried a new exercise: each night before bed, I made a quick list of the things that had given me happiness that day. It was surprisingly illuminating.
I’ve done gratitude journaling before, but this was different. Whereas the list of things that I’m grateful for is usually long and unchanging (family, friends, shelter, food, health, home…and so on), the list of things that had made me happy shifted around a little from day to day. They were much more minute than I expected them to be.
Some of what made me happy came as no surprise: yoga and baking, for example. I was surprised to realize how much daily happiness it gives me to make coffee each morning (and sometimes afternoon). Writing about it allowed me to discover that it’s both the taste of the coffee itself and the soothing act of swirling water above my Chemex that makes it all so pleasurable.
A certain pair of pajamas—which it’s now chilly enough to reach for—made me very happy indeed. Same with my winter comforter, which came out of the closet this week. I got very happy thinking about the holidays and realizing that, this year, I’ll have enough time and energy to get and decorate a tree (that wasn’t true last year).
It was also interesting to note what didn’t make it to the list. A few tasks related to work showed up on some of the days, but the lists contained very little related to my job overall. I don’t think this means that I don’t get satisfaction from my work: this was a short-term exercise, after all. Still, it was interesting to realize that so much of what makes me happy in the here and now are small, everyday pleasures: coffee, walks, baking and eating bread. Texts from friends. Funny emoji use from my mom.
I often hear that happiness is a choice. I’m not sure how true I think this is for all people, especially those of us who suffer from depression or melancholy. What I do believe is that, while we can’t always choose happiness, we can often choose our habits. And we can consciously cultivate those habits that make us happy, giving less energy and attention to the ones that don’t.
If you’ve never meditated on what gave you happiness or contentment within the last day, I can vouch for the fact that it’s interesting to consider it and to write it down. I often think I’m aware of how certain actions or routines affect my mood, but I’d never actually taken notes. This little journaling exercise functioned like gratitude journaling in that it left me with a sense of appreciation—in this case, appreciation of the routines and motions that constitute my life.
Wishing you small sources of happiness this week, each and every day. Here are some recipes and reads.
A great, mini-bagel appetizer idea from my friend Amanda.
Speaking of appetizers, I love pinwheels, and these look especially yummy.
Picture perfect gingerbread cardamom buns from the talented Tiina.
A gorgeous plant-based Thanksgiving centerpiece.
And leave it Hannah to make pumpkin pie even more appealing than usual with a buttery streusel topping!
1. I didn’t know that companion animals experience the placebo effect, too.
2. This article about cows that were swept away during Hurricane Dorian is an incredible example of resilience.
3. Via The New York Times’ parenting vertical, a fascinating look at babies’ cries across languages.
4. Genetic counseling is available for many illnesses. Now it may become an option for mental health, too.
5. I learned a new word (and learned about its meaning) today: trypophobia, or fear of holes.
Happy Sunday, friends. Thanksgiving recipes to come this week!