Boost wellbeing with life's little pleasures

Going into the garden and picking flowers for yourself may give that wellbeing boost otherwise lacking in your daily routines. Photo / Thinkstock
Going into the garden and picking flowers for yourself may give that wellbeing boost otherwise lacking in your daily routines. Photo / Thinkstock

Lazy lie-ins, simply having time for a leisurely walk are treats many of us appreciate over the weekend.

But generally, we probably underestimate the healing power of the small pleasures in life to boost our wellbeing and enrich our lives.

"Good bread, warm towels, crisp mornings, girls' nights out, eating the froth off your cappuccino are ordinary things which can make life worth living," says Maeve Haran, who found fame with her first novel, Having It All, and whose latest book is Small Pleasures To Save Your Life.

She entertainingly details a host of little things in life which can help lift our mood; small changes which can make us more efficient and therefore less stressed, and life tips which can just generally help us smile more often.

"In a world where change is fast and we often can't control it, we can sometimes feel powerless and stressed and find it hard to take pleasure in anything," says Haran, a mother of two daughters.

"So what can you rely on which isn't immoral, illegal or wildly expensive to make you feel that, despite all this, life is wonderful? The answer is small pleasures.

"Lady Thatcher, when asked what gave her greatest satisfaction in life, replied, 'Taking the fluff out of the tumble-dryer'.

"It's just one example of the way some tiny tasks do provide an inordinate amount of pleasure and satisfaction. Even changing a fuse or tidying a cupboard can restore a feeling of being in control."

Her suggestions in the book range from blackberry picking to gossiping and flirting, through to taking a candle-lit bath or simply relishing the small, comforting routines of plumping cushions and folding freshly laundered sheets.

Have a think about what little pleasures you could indulge in, or try 10 of Haran's favourite ways to bring pleasure, order and calm to your life.

1. Give yourself flowers

In a perfect world, all of us would receive flowers throughout the year on special occasions, says Haran.

"Sadly the truth is rather different, which is why the only person who will get you the flowers you deserve is you," she points out.

"Personally, I feel flowers are more of an essential than a luxury. Flowers are like sunshine or familiar music - they instantly lift your mood."

Pick from your garden, buy reduced bunches from a supermarket and boost them with plant food, or for a big occasion, visit a wholesale flower market.

2. Do something you've been putting off

This sounds like torture more than pleasure, but it actually works, she insists.

"You can get real pleasure from doing something you've been really dreading," she says.

"The pleasure comes in that you've done it at all, and it usually wasn't as bad as you thought, and possibly you've achieved some sort of result.

"But oddly enough, even if you haven't achieved much, the mere act - making the call, having it out with someone, risking failure - can make you giddy with relief and pinging with excitement."

3. Pretend to be a tourist

Sometimes we spend large sums of money visiting other cities but forget the pleasures of where we actually live ourselves, she says.

"From time to time, I try to see the city I live in as if I were a visitor. I ask myself what I'd do if I were only here for a weekend," she says.

"Work out which landmarks to look at, which museums to visit, or consider a river trip or lounging in a pavement cafe. The point is to look at the familiar with new eyes."

4. Wallow in self-pity if you need to

We live in a culture which is dedicated to 'moving on' and anyone who hasn't recovered from their relationship break-up, job loss or pet's death within three months is considered a wimp, she says.

"Actually, I think it's perfectly justifiable to wallow, make late-night phone calls to your friends, moan endlessly, hide under the bed covers and ignore all housework as long as you need," she says.

"People are different. Some recover by pretending nothing has happened, while others like to suffer in technicolour. The reassuring thing is that in the end people do come out of the dark tunnel of loss and disappointment (unless they're suffering from clinical depression) and they should be given all the time in the world to do it.

"So don't move on until you're ready. Buy another box of tissues, hit that sofa, and ignore any complaints from friends - one day it will be their turn too!"

5. Tell yourself you're wonderful

Like most busy women, I have an endless 'to-do' list and the other day I was scurrying around trying to do several things at once when I felt that sense of internal rushing, rather like a wave approaching and dragging you down with it, she says.

"Suddenly I stopped and had to mentally take myself aside. I told myself sternly, 'You've been to the supermarket, bought dog food and picked up a new washbasin - and it's only 9.30am. Most people aren't even at work yet!'

"You should remind yourself how amazing you are - I did and I try to do it regularly."

6. Leave 10 minutes early

This is a hard one to put into practice because for some reason fate conspires against you and the very moment you're about to leave for a crucial appointment, the phone rings, your keys mysteriously bury themselves in the waste bin, and you realise you've forgotten to write down the address of where you're going.

"By leaving 10 minutes early, you give yourself the incredibly precious gift of not being stressed," she says.

"You may even have time for a relaxed cappuccino (and its froth), instead of a racing heart, a sense of failure at your own inefficiency, and a nasty attack of high anxiety."

7. Avoid mirrors

The singer Jarvis Cocker was once asked to give a piece of advice on life, and his answer was, 'Avoid looking at yourself in mirrors in lifts', she says.

"I feel there's a grain of truth here and I extend it to all mirrors. The idea is not to get too obsessed with how you look because most people don't really study you and it just makes you feel bad," she says.

"I have evolved the ultimate confidence-boosting 'getting ready to go out' system. I work out what I'm going to wear, right down to tights and jewellery, and hang it up on a hanger.

"Then I whizz and change into it in record time, looking in the mirror for just one brief second to make sure my skirt isn't stuck in my tights. It's amazing how much more attractive and positive this makes me feel."

8. Use the five minutes

There's something about multitasking which is a huge pleasure, perhaps because the reward comes in feeling that you're yanking back a few precious moments from the hamster-wheel of life, says Haran.

"I interpret it as getting on with something while you're sitting at a traffic light, waiting for the washing machine to finish, or on the train travelling to a meeting," she says.

"There's great joy in sorting out a problem in your head, writing a postcard, doing the recycling and generally achieving something in the 'free' five minutes."

9. Put photos in an album

In this high-tech age, photos are stored on computers, shared on Facebook or left in cameras, but there's nothing like the fun of making an album.

"I try to do one of our family holiday as soon as possible when I get home," she says.

"With my own children, I've made them albums in which as well as photos I've stuck scraps of paper, school reports, cards and letters they've sent me, programmes of concerts they've appeared in, drawings and funny little notes they've sent each other.

"Somehow these capture their individual personalities in a different way from photos and they love reading them."

10. Have some running-away money

Spending too much can be a dizzying pleasure, but an even greater one lies in keeping some money back, she says.

"There are so many situations in life that are fraught with stress: a bad relationship, a job that bores you, the threat of debt closing in.

"Running-away money gives you a passport to freedom - whether actual freedom or just freedom from feeling trapped.

"It gives you the capacity to say, 'I don't need this any more', whether you actually choose to keep it or not.

"And just having the capacity to choose can change things. I've never needed my little nest egg, but the fact that I know it's there makes me feel free."

* Small Pleasures To Save Your Life by Maeve Haran is published by Hay House, priced US$8.99 (A$8.81).

- PAA

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 21 Apr 2014 07:29:18 Processing Time: 229ms