Simple Ways to Enjoy Life More

How to Find Stress Relief (and Smiles) in the Little Things

Getting more happiness in your daily life can help you to get more done as well. Buero Monaco/ Getty Images

Today, I had a big smile on my face, and my husband asked me why. Well, nothing really big had happened, but it was the culmination of a lot of little things–those pleasures in life that relieve stress and bring a little mood lift. I'm sharing this with you because we all sometimes forget the value of joy in our daily lives; productivity is more pressing, and there are more obvious consequences if we don't take care of our responsibilities than if we don't experience as many smiles in a day than we'd like.

 The interesting thing is that those smiles, that happiness that you can find in savoring life's little pleasures--and in catching yourself when you're happy and really maximizing that feeling--can make us more productive and less stressed, ultimately helping us to be more productive.  

It helps to know what can make you happy so you can get yourself to a better place when you're feeling down, or maximize your happiness when you're already feeling pretty good.  To give you ideas, here’s what was working for me today:

  • A Relaxing Environment. I just re-decorated my home office and made it much more “zen” with aromatherapy candles and incense, soothing decorations, and comfy chairs. It’s nice and quiet there, too. I already knew that de-cluttering could bring stress relief, and I’m having a great time realizing how much of a difference it’s made with this one room.
  • Delicious Tea. Something about tea makes is such a relaxing drink for me. It’s warm and soothing, it’s delicious, and it just begs to be sipped slowly, which helps with slowing everything down and savoring the moment. But I always enjoy knowing about the health benefits of tea as well. It all adds up to a nice experience and a happy part of my day.
  • Chocolate. Okay, I’ve said it before, and I need to stress the words in moderation, but I love chocolate as a stress reliever! It’s so delicious it always brings a smile to my face. But some studies have compared thebenefits of chocolate with green tea with favorable results, which also helps. (See this more more about the health benefits of chocolate.) Also, I love using it for chocolate meditation to combine it with another of my favorite stress relievers. That’s enough reason for me to admit that chocolate was part of today’s smile equation.
  • Exercise. I’d also just returned from a long bike ride with my son, which is great fun for both of us. I try to get some exercise every day, not only for the health benefits, and the stress relief benefits, but for the lift it brings my mood. And exercising in nature is always more fun.
  • Humor. I try to make laughter part of my everyday experience. And it’s not hard. Having funny friends, maintaining my own sense of humor, and actively pursuing the laughs with jokes and comedies when necessary–it all helps.

So how do you keep your smiles? What kind of pleasures make your day a little better? See what other readers have to say (and here are some more ideas), and you might just want to make a list of your own things right now.  If you can't think of what makes you happy right now, you can get creative and think of what would make you happy.  Just adding a few more of these things to your day can really lift your spirits and relieve stress.

It also helps to maximize those happy moments when you experience them.  You can stretch out the good feelings you find in those little pleasures by savoring your experiences, and purposely holding onto the memories of how you feel when you're happy, so you can more easily access those feelings when you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed.


Having fun is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Having fun on your own is always an option, and an enjoyable one.  Lifting your own spirits by enjoying time with friends and family can be great for you and for them, as research on relationships shows that strong social ties can be a buffer against the negative effects of stress.  Here are some ways to create more fun in your life and relieve stress at the same way.

Also, I invite you to join more conversations on our Facebook Page About Stress Management.