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An afternoon nap, a loving family, a cup of tea, a good book, or a dip in the lake, such are the small pleasures that make life worthwhile. Pleasures that are accessible to most of us and cost little or nothing. Pleasures that we take for granted, but which have a huge impact.  

The stresses of modern life, along with materialistic pursuits, often cloud our judgment about what truly matters and makes us happy. Meanwhile, striving for a better tomorrow distracts us from living in the moment. Unfortunately, sacrificing the present for the sake of the future has become second nature to us. Yet, during moments of reflection – rare as they are – we get to question what is of utmost importance. And while the answers may vary, some things remain constant. One is showing gratitude for the little we have, and the other is our connection to others.

The Essentials of Happiness

In one of the longest studies ever conducted on happiness, researchers at Harvard University discovered that, all else being equal, it is the state of our relationships that determines happiness. How we relate to ourselves, our spouses, and, ultimately, the environment predicts how happy we will be. Other factors that contribute to our sense of fulfillment include good health; having a sense of purpose or meaning; and an optimistic outlook. Curiously, none of these can be bought.

Still, it would be naive to disregard the importance of financial stability in our well-being. After all, we need money to subsist. But the question remains: how will you measure your life? Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent decades providing palliative care to the terminally ill, wrote about some of the biggest regrets of those confronting death in her famous book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. These included: 1) the courage to live a life being true to oneself, not the life others expected of us; 2) not having worked so hard; 3) the courage to express one’s true feelings; 4) keeping in touch with friends; and finally, 5) allowing oneself to be happier.

The Choice

Happiness is a choice we make. The stories we tell ourselves and the narratives that shape our minds can make or break a good life. We can attain serenity by taking responsibility and exercising control over our thoughts. We must train ourselves to appreciate what we have and ignore what we lack.

The art of living is to collect memories, not things. Naval Ravikant, an angel investor, once wrote, “If you can’t be happy with a coffee, you won’t be happy with a yacht.” So start living and enjoy the little things.

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