Enjoy The Little Things In Life Essay

Smiles better: Simple things in life make us happiest, research shows

  • More than half of the country have a 'glass half full' approach to life

By Emma Reynolds
Updated: 07:02 GMT, 6 January 2012

The simple things in life - such as a smile or a walk - make us the happiest, a survey has revealed.

More than a quarter of us say that just having someone be nice to us puts us in a good mood, according to the Feel Good Factor index published by PruHealth.

Although squeezed households still love a bargain, with one in ten saying a good deal cheers us up, most of the things that made us happiest cost nothing.

Goodwill hunting: More than half of us say that just a smile or someone being nice to us makes us happiest

Spending time with family is the one thing that makes British people most happy, with more than half of the 2,014 adults surveyed putting it top.

A third said that they were most happy when they got to enjoy the achievements of loved ones such as children and grandchildren.


  • Spending time with family (56%)
  • Achievements by loved ones including children or grandchildren (30%)
  • Someone being nice or smiling at me (27%)
  • Taking a walk on a beautiful day (24%)
  • Getting a good night's sleep (24%)
  • Doing something for someone else (17%)
  • Being secure on my job/financial security (17%)
  • Spending time with pets (13%)
  • A night going out or to a concert (13%)
  • Keeping fit (12%)
  • Finding a great deal that saves me money (11%)
  • Work achievements (9%)
  • Personal pampering (8%)

More than a quarter said just a smile or a kind word put them in the best mood, while a quarter said a walk in the sunshine or a good night's sleep was the ticket to happiness.

Nearly a fifth said they perk up by doing something for someone else.

It may surprise some to learn that we are a nation of optimists, with more than half of those surveyed saying they had a 'glass half full' outlook on life.

The over-55s had the most positive approach, with 62 per cent saying they were optimists and only 12 per cent pessimists.

But there was evidence of indulgent habits in the survey too.

More than a quarter said their guilty pleasures included staying in on the sofa, indulging in chocolate or foods they do not normally have and watching a good film or television programme.

Going on holiday was shown to be the biggest treat that people give themselves.

Others included going out for a meal, spending time with family and friends and shopping.

For a third of women, pampering – from a bubble bath to a spa visit – was a top way of treating themselves - and nearly one in ten people said this made them happy.

Dr Katie Tryon, health and wellbeing expert at PruHealth, said: 'It would be great if everyone could smile at someone today and get the warm glow from knowing you’ve made someone happy.

'It’s really important for our physical and mental wellbeing to feel good, and as our index shows there are many inexpensive ways to get that feeling, including taking time out to go for a walk.'

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We’re often bombarded with messages that admonish us: “think big,” “go for the gold,” “climb the ladder of success.” And do all this NOW! Yet when we follow this advice, we’re more apt to feel exhausted, inadequate or both.

Why should this be so? What’s wrong with “thinking big?”

Nothing is inherently wrong with it. But when you believe that “big” is better than “small,” that “stretching to the limit” is better than “taking it easy,” that “be the best you can be” trumps “appreciating who you are,” you’re simply not being fair to yourself.

Not everybody is meant to make it “big.” Not everybody wants to be multitasking all day long. Not everybody wants to have “crazy busy” be their new normal. Not everybody wants to devote their energy to going for the gold.

Indeed, many of us are more appreciative of the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet in the world. We like color. We like contrast. We like to do a lot of things that have nothing to do with making it big or being on top. And that’s a good thing. Obviously, we can’t all be at the top. Nor do we all want to be. For at the top, it’s lonely; the air is thin. And there’s no place else to go but down.

If this article is resonating with you, it’s time to make a shift in how you allocate your attention. Begin with enjoying the little things in life.

Why? What’s so great about the little things in life?

They are what we will remember and appreciate when we reflect on days gone by. A little thing may be a fun evening with friends. It may be the joy of learning something new. It may be listening to the giggles of your kids. It may be the warm feeling you get when you’ve done a simple kindness for a friend or a stranger. It may be noticing nature bloom and blossom.

If you neglect to enjoy these little things, what are you left with? It’s the daily struggles, the disappointments and the disasters that plop on our doorsteps when we least expect it.

Appreciate that life is made up of moments. We tend to think of life as the passage of days, weeks, years and decades. But, in essence, life is made up of moments. As you reflect on your day, what moments stand out for you? Is it the stress of trying to do it all? Is it the stuff that didn’t get done? Is it the disappointment in yourself for what you forgot to do or failed to do, or a gloomy feeling about how far you are from the top?

If so, it’s time for you to make a shift. Each day, pay attention to at least one or two moments that worked out well for you. Don’t shrug your shoulders and conclude that “it was just a crappy day. Nothing worked out for me.” Even a bad experience has a valuable moment wrapped up inside of it, if only you‘re willing to dig deeper to discover it. Pay attention to what you have done. The constant barrage to “DO more,” “GET more,” and “BE more” negates what you have done, what you have and who you are. It makes you feel deprived. Less than. Not good enough. In this competitive world of ours, we often need to remind ourselves of what we have accomplished. And always, always, we need to remind ourselves to be our best friend.

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