December 3, 2010

Retirement: Smile at The Small Stuff

Being happy is an important part of living a satisfying retirement. Life is too short to be spent grumpy and out-of-sorts. If you have figured out what brightens your days and makes you smile you have taken important steps toward an enriching retirement lifestyle.

The fascinating thing about this subject is the list of happiness-producers is always unique to you. If you try to copy someone else's path to joy you will be disappointed. These triggers must be figured out by you. It is also quite true that things that make you the happiest aren't usually big things. Sure, winning a lottery will probably put a smile on your face (until you see the tax bill). Getting a major promotion at work or the birth of a grandchild is usually considered a good thing.

But, what about the small stuff that can brighten any day? What are the little things that, when they happen, make you feel pleasure and contentment?  Are you missing moments of happiness because you are thinking too big? Shrink your focus. Discover some happiness triggers that you can make happen whenever you choose. From my life here a few examples to get you started:

Hot cocoa and a fire. Since I live in a place that is hot a good part of the year, when things turn cold my wife and I get excited by the simple pleasure of a log crackling away in the fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa while we snuggle on the sofa to watch a favorite movie or read quietly side-by-side. We are happy and content when the wind blows cold air from the North and the whipped cream in the cocoa sticks to our lips.

Sunshine on the patio. For almost 330 days a year, Phoenix enjoys sunny days. You might think the simple joy of sitting on the back patio in the sunshine would have worn thin by now. Not by a long shot. I can spend a fabulous few hours just watching the birds at the feeder, listening to the two fountains in the yard, and watching the shadows move across the floor. Cloudy days make me sad. I live where I do because sunshine makes me happy.

giggling child. My grandkids have the greatest laugh. It is physically impossible to listen to one or both start to giggle and not smile and laugh right along with them. Their obvious joy is instantly transferred to me.

A puppy. Is there a puppy alive that can't charm a smile out of even the grumpiest old man? Is there any way to not be happy around something that so blindly loves you and wants your love and attention? Yes, there is extra responsibility and those occasional messes to clean up. But, overall, aren't puppies happy-producers?

A mystery book you can't put down. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. A well-written novel can take you anywhere whenever you want a getaway. I love mysteries for their ability to weave a complex set of clues through a few hundred pages, finally tying it all together at the end. I rarely figure it out early, but the challenge is there.

Fixing a problem with a computer. Though not an expert by any means, I do enjoy helping friends when something has gone wrong with their computer. After performing the necessary cleanup of software conflicts or deleting unneeded programs, I love seeing the smile of their faces when everything works the way it should. It takes very little of my time, but makes someone else's life just a bit easier and it makes me happy to help.

A thoughtful comment on this blog. Someone taking the time to leave a comment makes me happy. It shows I have written something that caused another person to take a few minutes to read and react. Seeing there is a new comment on one of these posts makes me smile.

I could have added bigger things to my list like a paid-off mortgage or tickets to Maui. Certainly a clean physical exam makes me happy. Those happy triggers are obvious. The point here is to focus on the small stuff, the everyday parts of your life. If you can put just a few of your own happy points in your day, your life will feel blessed, content and delighted. And, that is a satisfying retirement.

OK, your turn. What small stuff makes you happy? What have I not mentioned that I may be able to make part of my day? Please share.

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  1. Hi, Bob... Just a couple of days ago, I received a very special "thank you" from a person whom I've been helping in my volunteer work. He told me, in Spanish, "God will reward you." While, I'm not a religious person, I was moved by his expression of appreciation. Bill

  2. Morning, Bill.

    When you can help someone else and know you've made even a little bit of a difference, that is what makes a day special. Thanks for the perfect example of small stuff making you smile.

  3. Watching my husband work in wood. He is like a kid when he creates something. I love to see his expression and happiness.

    Sunshine makes me smile as well. We just came back from Washington. I could not live there. I need the sun. Surprisingly, the sun shines almost as much here as it does at home (Phoenix). We just get the COLD winds and a bit of snow to go along with the winters.

    Reading a good blog also makes me smile. Thanks for your good one this morning!

  4. One of the hobbies I've always wanted to try is woodworking. There is nothing nicer than the smell of fresh-cut wood. I don't know if I have the patience for it, though.

    I love to visit the coast of Washington and Oregon..absolutely stunning. But, the cloudy days of winter would bring me down.

    Thank for the last line, Janette!

  5. Giggling kids - my daughter has a laugh that makes me smile just thinking about. Not possible to avoid joining in when she starts up - pretty special talent!

  6. Children can turn a frown into a smile quicker than anything I know. Of course, there are times when it works the other way, but this is a post about happy!

  7. Small stuff is what brings me happiness on a daily basis -- can't afford to wait for the big stuff to come along. For me, small pleasures include throwing a bowl on the wheel and feeling strong, even walls flowing beneath my fingers, hanging out on the couch with a purring cat and a book, watching undulating waves of migrating birds move across a cloud-speckled autumn sky. Even watching the milk swirl, ribbon, and cloud as I pour it into my tea, or lingering over a pot of simmering soup and anticipating filling myself up with it. Ask me again in spring, and I'll have a very different list of things that make me happy.

  8. You are describing exactly what I was trying to communicate. Those little moments or events that we usually ignore are the ones that can make every day something special. Your descriptions are so powerful I can see in my mind's eye exactly what you are referring to.

    How many minutes in each day could we add just one smile if we simply paid more attention?

    For anyone reading this comment, if you haven't read my post "Pay Attention to The Things You Don't See" you might find it enjoyable. I spent some time in my backyard forcing myself to be super-attentive to what I usually don't notice. The effect was joyful. If interested, the link to that post is on the right hand side under the Most Popular Posts of 2010 heading.

    Thanks, Jennifer. You have made me smile.

  9. I've been trying to appreciate even the routine things that I used to regard as nuisances and rush through on the way to something important. I'm talking about the feeling in my scalp when I shampoo my hair and the shower water hitting my skin. Those routine actions can bring happiness as well when you pay attention.

  10. Exactly, Ralph. I read somewhere recently that we are such creatures of habit that if forced to change the way we soap up and shampoo during a daily shower it is upsetting.

    That makes it clear we are going through this particular activity almost unaware, and certainly missing the fact that most of the world can't get clean or hot water when they want it.

    Thanks, Ralph.

  11. Hi Bob,

    We really always have to focus on our happiness and appreciate everything we have even the small things. When we are thankful, we are appreciateing life at its fullest.

  12. Being thankful is so important. The cliché that you don't know what you have until it is gone is absolutely true. Focus is vital.

  13. The comonality in all the above is being totally present in ones life. We choose to be present and open at certain times, like sitting, relaxing and drinking hot cocoa. We bring the peace to the moment and not the other way around. We can also bring peace to grief and sadness and anxiety. The secret is to find the peace within and then we have it no matter what is happening on the outside.

  14. Nicely stated, Michael. I have a very personal example of that right now. My Mom is close to dying and I'm attempting to face it with serenity and acceptance. It would do me or my Dad no good to allow grief to dominate. It would demonstrate a lack of faith, too.

    As you know, the weather this past week has been fabulous so I'm spending as much time outside as I can, allowing nature to calm and surround me.


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