It often feels like mental illness robs us of so much. On the bad days, finding any sort of joy in life can seem completely impossible – futile, in fact. But this is why it’s important to find and acknowledge the joy in good days – even the tiniest joys – so that we can look back on them when darkness threatens and, if nothing else, experience hope that we might feel those little joys again.
There is so much joy to be found in little things. This is a fact that seems to be popping up in front of me on a regular basis at the moment: in the final chapter of Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive he lists just that – reasons to stay alive – and for the most part they are tiny every day pleasures; in a bookshop in Bristol I came across a little box filled with little cards each of which had on one side a simple but appealing photograph and on the other a small pleasure; in one of my favourite writing companion books, The Five Minute Writer, the activity I came across this week was to list as many tiny pleasures as I could think of. It’s a message that comes up in podcasts and blog posts, novels and research papers, TED talks and tweets: it is the little things that make a happy life. So I decided to list my tiny pleasures – my reasons to stay alive – here. Sometimes we need reminding of where those tiny pleasures can be found so I hope this list helps you find some of your own.
Freshly washed bedding.
Walking in the sunshine with a slight breeze playing across your skin.
The joy of watching a puppy running through long grass.
A long hot shower.
The smell of a bookshop.
A new notebook.
A book that makes you laugh out loud.
A book that makes you cry.
Summer evenings in the garden.
The feeling of accomplishment that comes with creating something – anything – new. (It wouldn’t have existed without you.)
Music that gives you goosebumps.
That certain slant of morning light.
The peaceful silence of a sacred space.
A child’s laughter.
Sweet, fresh watermelon.
The smell of freshly baked bread.
A handwritten letter.
Poetry that speaks to your soul.
A whispered “I love you”.
An unexpected compliment.
Knowing you made a difference.
Rediscovering a childhood favourite.
The steam rising from a cup of hot coffee.
The sweetness of chocolate as it melts on your tongue.
Standing on top of a hill or mountain, looking down on the world.
The sound of a stream bubbling in the country side.
Walking through a forest when no-one else is around.
The moment of silent solitude after you shut off the car engine but before you get out.
Fingertips grazing bare skin.
The crackling of a real fire.
The smell of woodsmoke.
Laughing until you cry and your belly aches.
Reading something that seems written just for you.
Unexpected quiet moments.
Walking barefoot on warm sand.
Moonshine on water.
The reflection of mountains in a perfectly still lake.
Reuniting with friends.
Having your hair brushed or played with.
Unusual cloud formations.
Watching fish swim.
The elegance of ballet dancers moving in perfect unison.
Reading something so immersive you forget you’re reading.
Finding someone you can be silent with.
Felling the intricate power of your own body.
Finding the perfect gift for someone.
A good night’s sleep.
Getting to finish work early.
The cool quiet of caves.
The first time you hear birdsong in spring.
Blossom trees in full bloom.
The texture of tree bark.
Being able to see the stars.
Countries where the air smells of spices.
Watching a sleeping dog dream.
Finding the perfect pen.
A cold drink on a hot day.
Finding the perfect position in the bath.
The smell of Christmas.
Singing at the top of your voice.
Meeting someone who you feel instantly comfortable with.
Philosophical conversations at 3am.
Losing track of time.
Sitting round a bonfire with friends.
Chunky knit blankets.
The colour of the turning leaves in autumn.
The taste of parkin.
Finding a bargain.
The sharp and sweet taste of fruit dipped in chocolate.
Sitting down after a long day.
Curling up with a book whilst it rains outside.
The magic of thunderstorms.
The smell of petrichor.
Discovering a new recipe.
Finding someone who loves the same books/music/films as you and gushing together for hours.
Putting the finishing touches on a newly decorated room.
The ache in your legs after a long walk.
The smell of the circus.
Driving alone at night.
Rainbows in waterfalls.
Finding the perfect Pooh-stick.
Successfully skimming a stone.
Days with no plans.
The first page of a new notebook.
Finding trousers that fit perfectly.
Really great hugs.
Stone cottages with roses growing round the door.
Realising you are not alone.
Waking up to discover it has snowed in the night.
Laughing until your belly aches.
The sound of a baby laughing.
What tiny pleasures would you add to the list?
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.
The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.