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Simple things can make us happy

Published January 19. 2013 09:03AM

There are some things we seem to know intuitively. Then we feel good when some expert comes along and reaffirms what we already know.

For years, one of my main beliefs has been that we find our happiness in little things, not in life's big moments. My thought is if we can learn to find joy in small, everyday things, we will lead a happy life.

Yahoo Online featured a health related article this week that quoted experts on ways to find happiness. The article quoted from the December issue of Prevention, certainly a credible source.

The Prevention experts' conclusion: Seek joy in the small stuff. The article says it's a skill few people have mastered, primarily because we're always busy, busy, busy with a lot on our minds. We rush through life without taking time to appreciate its small pleasures.

Prevention's expert source was social psychologist Fred Bryant who has spent 20 years examining what he calls "mindful savoring." By finding pleasure and satisfaction in everyday moments, Bryant says, we can find joy.

As I read that I sat nodding my head in agreement. I've been writing columns saying the same thing for the past few decades.

As I do for many of my columns, I based my conclusions about happiness on common sense, observations and personal experience.

Take New Year's Eve, for instance. When my friends asked about how I spent it, I said it was magical. Their eyes light up when they hear "magical." Everyone wants a little magic in his or her life. But if my friends expected to hear about a grand event, they were disappointed.

We didn't buy pricey tickets to join our friends at a big nightclub club celebration.

Instead, Dave and I went to Fishermen's Village where millions of lights made the popular pier look like something out of a fairy tale.

The band in the outdoor entertainment area wasn't all that good but we danced a few numbers anyway. Then we laughed along with some personable local entertainers and walked along the pier looking at all the lighted boats.

In the north, people decorate their homes. Here in Florida, many decorate their boats with lights shaped into intricate designs.

The highlight of our evening was sitting at an outdoor cafe indulging in a chocolate and banana gelato. Like two kids, we sat there with two spoons sharing that velvety Italian ice cream. It brought back memories of Italy as well as simple childhood pleasures.

I was nice. I let Dave have the last delicious bite, pleased that he was willing to forget the word "diet" at least for the night.

While none of that was "big stuff," it all added up to a wonderful evening.

I take time to indulge in simple pleasures every day of my life. One of my favorite pleasures is sitting on my lanai watching a space in our yard that only measures about 25 feet.

In that space I have three birdfeeders surrounding a birdbath. For a small investment in birdseed, my backyard offers constant entertainment.

I find immense pleasure in watching the birds. Even when I'm feeling a bit down, one little bird singing its heart out is enough to make my spirits climb.

There are so many simple joys in a backyard - if you look closely. In Pennsylvania, with a home up against a wooden area, I had the thrill of seeing bear, foxes and deer, in addition to the birds I love.

Every season in every locale has its own simple pleasures. Finding signs of spring's first greenery or seeing the first crocus shoot up from the ground was always a backyard pleasure for me.

One of the simple pleasures I always enjoy is spending time with friends. I'm a people person. I enjoy taking classes with friends, going for walks with them and social opportunities where I meet new people.

While I thrive on being around people, sometimes I seek out solitude in a serene setting. In Pennsylvania, that meant sitting in a wooded setting, alert to every sound and every falling leaf.

Here in Florida, I sometimes like an early morning solitary trip to the beach. I like to just sit there appreciating the rhythmic sound of the surf, the call of the gulls and the sight of shore birds seeking breakfast.

Yes, it's fun to travel to far-away destinations. But there is so much pleasure to be found in our everyday surroundings, too. We just have to be alert, look for it, and take time to appreciate it.

I'm sure that's what Dr. Bryant means by "mindful savoring."

What makes a joyful person? Joyful moments.

"Mindful savoring" is one sure way to find those joyful moments.

When we find pleasure in simple things like watching birds, sitting in nature or being with friends, it all adds up to a life of contentment.

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