It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s only 4pm.
January plus lockdown is proving to be a difficult combination to get through. Getting anything done, being remotely productive or feeling any excitement about the day and week ahead has it’s challenges. So I need this reminder as much as anybody else; focus on finding the small pleasures right now.
A small pleasure may be something that is part of your lockdown routine that you don’t normally experience; an extra 5 (or 10) minutes in bed each morning because the daily commute is no longer necessary, or the time to watch an old favourite series or to start a new one you’ve been meaning to watch for a while (I conquered Game of Thrones this lockdown). But I know the novelty of staying at home might have worn off by now. Maybe it helps to turn attention to sensations you haven’t noticed or appreciated for a while, the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, the feeling of blowing away the cobwebs on a brisk, cold walk or eating some chocolate with a cup of tea. Or maybe creating your own pleasures on an otherwise grey day will bring you joy; putting on an outfit that makes you feel good, making a drink in your favourite mug, running a bubble bath, texting or calling a friend. These things may seem very small, and they may only take a few minutes to do, but appreciating them and taking a moment to feel grateful may bring some pleasure to your day. In the busyness of our normal lives we may forget about them, they may pass us by, but with most of our usual activities stripped back and a forced slowness upon our days, focussing on the small is worthy. And creating these moments throughout your day may bring you some fulfilment and happiness.
My mum received a book for Christmas entitled Small Pleasures by The School of Life. The intention is “a step in a wider cultural project – to move these small pleasures from the margins closer to the centre of our collective consciousness and our lives.” (p.9) I don’t think there is a better time to apply that than now. Each chapter in the book is an ode to a small pleasure, that perhaps may be the thing that brightens your day, or that makes you look for the thing that will. A few of my favourite chapters are entitled ‘The Fish Shop’, ‘A Night Alone in a Hotel’, ‘Realising You Both Dislike the Same Popular Person’ and ‘Crying Cathartically Over the Death of a Fictional Character’. Each description has made me smile, whether I’ve been able to relate to this moment and it’s reminded me of the satisfaction and happiness experienced, or whether it’s set my intention to seek these pleasures in the future. Either way, it has made me more aware of the pleasures that can be found around me. To the point in which reading this book has become a small pleasure within itself.
There’s also something to be said for the concept of hygge which is a Danish word and philosophy that strongly links to appreciating the small pleasures of life. Loosely translated to mean comfort, togetherness and well- being, The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking says “you will know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on the sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort foods with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right. It is about gratitude and savouring the simple pleasures in life. In short, it is the pursuit of everyday happiness.” Hygge may have become a somewhat trend or hype word when it was revealed to be the philosophy behind the Danes being some of the happiest people in the world, but it is a tangible concept we can pursue in our lives. Particularly at the moment when the big, exhilarating new experiences of life; travel, festivals, concerts; aren’t an option to us. Snuggle up with a hot chocolate, a thick blanket and some cosy socks, light a candle, read a chapter of a book, play a board game with your family or flatmates, and embrace the feeling and comfort of hygge. Perfect for these otherwise long wintery nights.
My simple pleasures during this time have become walking everyday (I set myself a goal to go for a walk everyday come rain or shine and so the benefits of fresh air are coupled with the feeling of accomplishment), journaling and writing out goals and gratitude lists, listening to a good podcast whilst cooking or having a spontaneous dance to a favourite song. I’ve even taken up knitting (yes, I am a granny). Though I, of course, have times of feeling flat, bored, or overwhelmed, it is these activities that I have built into my day that I can focus on, and be grateful for, that bring me joy, and mostly keep those other feelings at bay and manageable. You can create your own small pleasures and you can incorporate that mindset by appreciating what is also happening around you; a pretty sky, bird song, the sound of laughter. This can be a valuable lesson we can take into our lives once they return to some normalcy, no matter the world around you, no matter how busy and demanding your day, or how bored and flat you might feel, there are pleasures that can be sought, found and created. I hope you can find some, no matter how small.
By Maya Nardoni
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