The Joy of Small
Marketers of consumer goods pretend to care about making us happier, yet clearly they have an ulterior motive as a higher goal. We yearn to take big bites out of the happiness pie. The instant gratification, the "If I buy this it will make me happy" are alluring solutions. Those who've tried these know they don't sustain well and often make us less happy. The marketing behind "things" sold to us to meet both desires are indeed similar to happy drugs: great for a while, but you come down hard and always want more.
We might think the solution for joy lies in something epic, or going somewhere spectacular and radically different from where we are. While those can and may happen, we often overlook the smaller nibbles and daily moments doing mundane and quotidian things that can be satisfying moments of joy.
Finding joy and reason in mundane tasks can shift the flow, and make it not so bad after all.
- DailyOM newsletter
Like many things in life, little things collectively can influence our mood and enjoyment. Everyone has things they need or must do, those tasks that may not elicit excitement, like places we chose to visit or things we'd rather do. Yet we innately know we need to wash the dishes, weed the garden, mow the lawn, visit the dentist, and a myriad of others supporting the way we live.
Instead of grumping through these, or wish you didn’t have to do them, one trick to break avoidance thinking is through gratitude. For many of these rather-not tasks, not having to do them could mean you’re homeless, completely broke, or of such poor health that doing such tasks is impossible. Feeling grateful you’re none of those and have these tasks on your list should help shift your perspective and attitude from joyless to feeling privileged.
Such tasks also are an opportunity for present-mindedness, something everyone could do better. It’s corny and cliche to say “live in the moment” or “savor each minute.” While true, we’ve all heard those too often to influence a change in how we look at things. Yet, small joys stacked up can be moments that allow us, through present-mindedness, to take a breather from hectic life and reset our inner metronome.
Our world seems focused on better, faster, higher when we need a more doable pace with more enjoyment to help us live stress-free. Many wait until they are elders to peek at one's mental scrapbook to realize how good it was "back then." If gratitude and present-mindedness are the patron saints of joy in doing small, mundane things, then the devil has to be procrastination.
While I’m not perfect in this respect, I learned the valuable lesson of pushing through a task and getting it over with, resulting in far less hassle and saving time over a series of “justifications” delaying a rather-be-doing-something-else mundane task. I noticed doing a mundane task instead of avoiding it as a golden moment for gratitude, practicing present-mindedness, and a quiet time to think. In most cases, such tasks require little more than an automatic effort, thus leaving more time for other things.
There are many tricks and techniques you can use to help tasks more enjoyably: music, dancing while you work, or changing where you do it from inside to outside, or taking the task to the woods to work on while enjoying nature and fresh air, to name a few.
Change your perspective on these quotidian and mundane tasks and I suspect you’ll find they offer small moments of joy, quiet escape from our noisy world, and other benefits. Add these up over a week’s worth of effort, and I think you’ll discover a happier you and a changed outlook.