Overall, the last week has not been up there in the best seven days of my life. I’m sure I’ll write more about that another time, but right now I’m trying to see things through the prism of a charming little phrase a friend of mine said to me: “When one door closes, ten windows open.” Other than that, I’ve been focusing on the little things in life that can single-handedly cheer you up, even if it’s just for a few minutes or to bring a smile to your face.
There’s a great scene in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” where good old Bridget is feeling rather down in the dumps and so responds in the only way she knows how: eat ice cream. LOTS of ice cream. Different people turn to different foodie friends to cheer them up: for some it’s chocolate, for others cake. Eating in itself is one of those things that just makes you feel better, but there’s also some science behind this. Studies have shown that foods such as chocolate can elicit biochemical responses within the body and brain. One such effect is increased production of endorphins, which can have a positive effect on mood and an increased feeling of happiness. In the long term, factors such as weight gain and ill health don’t make a comfort food diet the route to happiness, but in the short term we all know it can make us feel a bit better.
I love that feeling when you wake up, look at the alarm clock, wonder where on earth you are and what you are supposed to be doing… then realise it’s Sunday and you can have a lie in. Rolling over and going back to sleep just because you can is one of life’s little pleasures. I also put afternoon naps into this category. Feeling horrific and grouchy at 3pm isn’t so bad if you wake up at 4pm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I realise that in today’s busy, chaotic way of life, and particularly in the world of work, scheduling in naps isn’t always possible. But if your eyes start drooping and your head nodding during that post-lunch lull, find a quiet corner and let yourself drop off for a few minutes. Totally worth a few funny looks from co-workers and maybe even a minor telling off by your boss.
Thankfully, the sun has finally turned up in the last few weeks, but it’s still not as if we live in a tropical climate. Getting warm and cosy after becoming cold, wet, and possibly miserable – whether on a sports field, caught short in the rain whilst you’re out shopping, or working outdoors in winter is always comforting. Coming home to a nice hot shower always makes you feel better. Personally I am not a fan of baths. It never stays hot for long enough, but you always burn yourself before getting in; it’s time-consuming to prepare; you can’t read soggy pages in steamy air; and in general I don’t really get what is relaxing about sweating into the water you are supposed to be cleaning yourself with. Anyway, whatever floats your rubber duck. Cold day + warm water of your choice = cosy and content.
Hot water is also a vital ingredient in that wonderful concoction that we drink millions of cups of every day. Ahh, lovely tea. “Shall I put the kettle on?”… don’t ask my friend, just do it. For anyone who is wondering, mine is a strong brew with a dash of milk. I believe one of my main strengths in life is making a good cuppa. And that makes me happy.
Then there are those little one off moments that can give you a feeling of joy, relief or comfort. Scoring a goal in a big game. Finding an unexpected fiver in your pocket. Getting a question correct on University Challenge that the geeks on TV didn’t know. A hug when you’re feeling down (there is still a time and a place, people – I want to feel ace but it’s my personal space). It might be something you’ve worked for, something somebody does for you, or just a stroke of luck. But in a world where it often feels like we should dream big, want more, work hard to ‘earn’ our happiness, I think it’s really important that we enjoy the little things just as much as the big ones. For me, this has largely been a week to forget. But I have still smiled at a friend’s kind words, laughed at a joke, felt a little bit better about things after a PG Tips, a biscuit and a cuddle. Because a lot of the best things in life really are free (and tea).