There are simple pleasures in life you can enjoy whether you’re rich or poor.
Most of these get overlooked in a world of status, materialism, and keeping up with the Joneses.
When you learn to focus on what matters, instead of the flashy but meaningless pictures painted by advertisers, you can live a life of meaning and joy (without adding an extra cent to your bank account).
Without further ado, here are my top 5 simple pleasures—the ones I keep coming back to when I get caught up in life’s daily grind.
1. You’re a couple “steps” away from this simple pleasure
“Well…I literally have nothing to do, might as well give it a shot,” I thought.
The pandemic was in full swing. We were all locked inside our homes aside from getting groceries, essential items, or essential services.
Obviously, this was a tragic and not-so-fun moment for the world, but it did spark a fun habit for myself (and tons of other people) who otherwise wouldn’t have started doing it.
We were allowed to go outside and go for walks.
I had never gone for a walk on purpose prior to Covid, but one day I got so bored I said “screw it” and went for a walk around my small town in Minnesota.
It was surprisingly fun.
I didn’t bring any headphones with me to listen to music or podcasts. I just left out the front door and walked in whatever direction I wanted. I walked for hours—mostly because I was sick and tired of being inside.
All of a sudden, the world looked a lot more vivid. I noticed things I had overlooked before: the beautiful colors of flowers, the feeling of the breeze hitting my skin, the random sounds of “outside.”
Along with picking up a fun hobby, I got health benefits from walking.
Walking is also great for the mind.
Nietzsche once said:
Never trust a thought that occurs to you indoors.
I’d come up with all of these interesting ideas when I went on walks—writing topics, marketing strategies, and ways to improve my life. Walking is like a “moving meditation” that helps you clear your mind.
It’s true that “movement is medicine,” and there is scientific evidence to back this up. Going for walks can help with a bunch of physical and mental health issues like inflammation, anxiety, and energy levels.
Incorporate the simple pleasure of walks into your life. Use it as a self-care strategy when you’re alone and a bonding strategy with others.
The next time you hang out with a friend, go for a walk and talk instead of going to a sit-down place. Take business calls on walks. If you have a meeting at work that doesn’t require visual aids, you can do it on a walk.
How often do you have authentic, distraction-free, uninterrupted conversations? When was the last time you had a conversation where you didn’t check your phone? How often do you have a conversation where you are mindful of the person or people you’re talking to?
Stephen Covey has this quote about listening, which is the key to having great conversations:
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
If you do the opposite of what most people do, you’ll become a great conversationalist by speaking less.
You’ve been in those clunky group conversations where everybody is itching to get their points across, cutting other people off while they’re talking, and fighting to be the main character in the discourse. It’s tense.
Remember key details of what other people say and relay it back to them so they feel understood
Take more time to let other people talk about their favorite subject, themselves, and watch as they say, “Wow this was a great conversation,” even though you barely talked
Stop trying to think of what to say next. When it’s your turn to speak, take a bit of time to pause and think about what to say once the ball is in your court.
Have more conversations.
Pick up the phone and call a family member or friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
When you’re at the coffee shop, introduce yourself to the person next to you instead of burying your face in your phone or computer screen with your AirPods on.
Sit on the porch with a friend at night and talk until the sun comes up.
3. Steal wisdom from tiny humans and embrace play
Adults take themselves way too seriously.
This is partially because we have to. We need to pay bills, run errands, and take care of the people we love. But too much “adulting” can erase the child-like wonder we once had.
This is where play comes in.
When was the last time you played? Not some formal arrangement or a party, but just goofed around with your friends? What if you started playing some of the games you used to play as a kid?
Imagine feeling the sun kiss your skin in the summer and seconds later feeling the goosebumps on your skin rise as a cold splash of water hits you from a balloon your brother threw at you.
Feel the callouses form on your hands as you grip the rope and pull with all your might to win the tug of war as you yell “You’re going down!”
If you’re willing to spend a little, you and your friends could go play laser tag or paintball. Heck, if you roughhoused growing up and have a friend who did, too, you could even challenge them to a friendly wrestling match.
You can make up a game.
In college, my friends and I had a game called “The Game.” We took a ping pong ball and tapped it around the house. You couldn’t grip it and throw it, rather you had to hit it as if your hand was a paddle. We’d all stand in an entryway. If someone managed to get their ball through your “goal,” they’d get a point and you’d lose one. It was a dumb, hilarious, and fun game we played for hours.
Enjoy the simple pleasure of acting like a kid again from time to time.
4. Don’t let life pass you by—cross an item off your bucket list
For many Americans, life looks a lot like this:
On the weekends they might do typical weekend activities like going out for dinner, having a few drinks, or catching a movie. But that routine starts to get old fast.
A lot of people are disinterested in life because their lives aren’t interesting.
Anyone stuck in a rut should go out and get a hobby. Start doing some activity outside of the normal pre-prescribed ones most people do. Try playing pick-up basketball, hiking, writing, drawing, starting a garden, or reading novels.
Speaking of the past and the future, they aren’t real. Life is a collection of present moments. You cannot exist outside of the present, so stop trying to.
This is what Eckhart Tolle said in his book about presence called “The Power of Now”:
Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.
When was the last time you enjoyed a meal, savored each bite, and unlocked the flavor as you slowly and consciously chewed?
Or, take a common “winding down” method like watching a movie or TV show. Do you immerse yourself in the film or are you checking your phone every five minutes?
We live in a world of distraction, interruption, and constant advertising. Social media companies hire world-class scientists and psychologists to figure out how toaddict us to their products.
Walk around and you’ll see people who are so disconnected from the moment that they do everything to fight it: eyes glued to their phones, AirPods in their ears everywhere they go, rushing to get to the next place instead of enjoying where they are.
You can learn to be present in all moments, even your worst worst ones. The best way to overcome negative feelings is to stop, notice, and embrace them in the present moment so you can let them go.
Practicing presence is the key to unlocking the simple pleasures of life in general. Practice it more often.
Focus on simple pleasures in life (instead of keeping up with the Joneses)
It’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle.
We can get wrapped up in worrying about things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter.
Things like what our LinkedIn bio says, how much money we have in the bank, the car we drive, empty status, or the shiny new toy we have our eye on.
These distractions keep us from being grateful for what we have.