Stacked rocks in front of a sunrise as a metaphor to enjoy the little things

Enjoy the little things in life (enjoy your ikigai)

posted in: Ikigai | 2

Great numbers of small moments intertwine. One after the other, moments in life connect to create a string of events that amalgamate into minutes, hours, days, weeks, and so on. On their own, these instances are easy to miss. Sometimes, more often than not, we knowingly overlook them or take them for granted. It is unfortunate because surely we should be enjoying the little things in life.

Too often we ignore the finer things in life and miss out on great happiness for so-called, “more important” matters. Many of us seemingly throw away valuable opportunities which could allow us to truly experience a life of purpose and meaning.

Indeed, we should take hold of these moments and cherish them for their unique characteristics as well as their part in the greater whole. In doing so, the little things all around us begin to accumulate into something much bigger and more powerful. Our appreciation for life grows.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things. – Robert Brault

Celebrate such life-snippets, and mindfully give yourself permission to express joy and gratitude. These two attributes are essential to ikigai, the Japanese concept otherwise known as, “your reason for living.” 

Happy couple enjoying a fine moment
Image by Free-Photos

Build positive emotions by enjoying life’s little moments

Whether you have just begun searching for your ikigai or have known for some time what your purpose in life is, it is important to remind yourself to not overlook the finer things in life, less they become a lost opportunity. In part, this is known as positive thinking.

It can be a challenge to actively capture all of life’s beauty throughout any given day, but you should make a concerted effort to try. Nurture the moments when you can so and provide yourself with a lifestyle that centers on happiness and a sense of purpose. You may even find ways to help others see such beauty as well.

Researcher Barbara L. Fredrickson on “The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology” agrees that positive emotion affects not only your mental health but your physical health as well.

…experiences of positive emotions broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources.

Other researchers such as Deborah D. Danner, David A. Snowdon, and Wallace V. Friesen of the University of Kentucky have found correlations between positive emotion and physical health, mental health, and even longevity in their research, “Positive emotions in early life and longevity: findings from the nun study“.

Enjoying the little things in life keeps negativity at bay

Life is full of experiences, both pleasant and unfortunate. Even though adopting a more positive view doesn’t eliminate such misfortune or unlikely events, it can help to keep you in balance and reduce negativity.

Being positive enables you to readily cast aside the stress and other undesirable events that are annoying or downright hurtful. Importantly, you build resilience towards negativity and reduce the control such events have over you. Any amount of pessimism or negativity occupying your thoughts makes it more difficult to overcome and live a meaningful happy life.

Conversely, the more positive your thoughts are, the more likely you are capable of dealing with life’s more difficult challenges more effectively. Again, allowing you to enjoy the little things in life and your purpose.

So, if you ever feel that you are slipping down towards negativity, take a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses’. It will help to pick you up and give you a sense of well-being.

Blocks spelling out the words thank you as a metaphor to appreciate the little things in life
Image by DreamPixer

Appreciate the little things in life

Perhaps the strongest connection between our lives is the root of appreciation, or in other words, gratitude.

Gratitude is the feeling you get when something is given to you or done for you freely and which results in positive value. Whether it is for something grand or just a small gesture the feeling can be equally potent.

Gratitude has little to do with whether we worked for it, earned it, or paid for it. In most cases, it has less to do with monetary value and more to do with the opportunity realized. The gift is usually something we do not expect and therefore are surprised by the seemingly sudden act of kindness.

More often than not, we become overwhelmed and are compelled to reciprocate our kindness and appreciation in return with a heartfelt, “Thank you,” at the very least.

Those who are grateful are usually more in tune and more positive. They are more apt to enjoy the little things in life more often.

Three women holding hands and enjoying a walk together
Image by silviarita

Reciprocity makes for more pleasantry

Frequently recognizing small moments in life reinforces habitual behavior and encourages a more optimistic view in life. Even in times of trouble or when faced with difficulties and hardships, grateful people are generally happy.

Grateful people are usually more helpful and compassionate towards others as well. They recognize the benefit of doing something for someone with no conditions or intentions and appreciate the act of kindness. This promotes comradery within communities and results in the positive regard others have in us.

This connectedness is why we follow the rule of reciprocity; doing something in kind, i.e. “paying it forward.”

Paying it forward can be done in any given form such as giving a small gift, helping out, or even a simply smiling and offering a warm greeting. It doesn’t have to be much and it can be done virtually anywhere, at home or at work, in your neighborhood, or even online.

Reciprocating as a form of gratitude does not have to be related to your ikigai. However, if you know your friend’s ikigai, you can base your efforts there. Surely they will not only thank you for your generosity but also you will have made their day just a little more enjoyable. In turn, you may just feel good about your own efforts and experience a sense of purpose. This in itself promotes one’s own ikigai.

Make a habit out of appreciating the little moments in life

Now, put it into perspective and focus on your own ikigai. What small things do you do to motivate yourself towards your ikigai? Have you adopted a habit where you routinely acknowledge the moments that bring you even the slightest amount of joy throughout the day?

Interestingly, you may find that the best moments to enjoy the small things in life come during the most undesirable times of the day. Don’t like mornings? Use the time to make the most effort to look at your surroundings and you may get a new appreciation for them.

It should be noted that people who rise early are generally more productive. With just one or two extra hours available in the morning, one can do so many little things before heading off to work.

Having a series of small accomplishments such as watching the sunrise, exercising, making a healthy breakfast, or just having some quiet time to enjoy that second cup of coffee promotes and reinforces positive thoughts and sets you on a positive track throughout your day.

Incidentally, there is a scientific reason for this. 

Pleasantries raise dopamine levels which lead to a happier, more euphoric feeling that can last the entire day. Harness that feeling for as long as you can by slowing down and savoring the moment. Pay attention to the detail in everything around you and enjoy the moment.

Loving couple sharing a small moment together
Image by Pexels

Share what matters most in life

Lastly, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your experience with those around you. Positive vibes tend to rub off quite easily and you’ll soon find others sharing with you the little things they enjoy. You may even find a new common ground even though you are different and your ikigai is unique.

The fact that we both pursue different purposes and have affinities for different things doesn’t mean that we are incapable of seeing the beauty in it. Appreciate all of the small things in life. 

Now, put some time aside for yourself to take it all in, even for just a few minutes a day. Some ideas might be studying something new, reading a book, or simply having a delicious cup of coffee in the morning.

Allow yourself to enjoy the smaller moments that when added together make life all that much more fun. Do this regularly and surely you will feel a heightened sense of gratitude. It will grow with you and become a part of your ikigai.

2 Responses

    • admin

      Thank you, Alexander. I really appreciate your kind words! Have you found your ikigai?

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