An Exercise in Gratitude: 50+ Things That Make Me Happy

I’ve seen more than a couple of bloggers post “50 Things that Make Me Happy” lists lately. Couldn’t we all use a gratitude reminder? Here’s what I learned in the exercise:

  • I thought it would be difficult to come up with a list of 50 things. No way. I blew way past that number, and that alone made me happy.
  • Most “things” that make me happy are people, not things.
  • There’s a lot to love in the slog of every day life.
  • Finding happiness doesn’t take a plane ride or running away. It’s within easy reach. The majority of what makes me happy is right here at home or in our extended neighborhood.
  • Happiness is not in the future, it is now.
  • Happiness is free for the taking. The majority of the stuff on my list costs very little or nothing at all.
  • My smart phone didn’t make the list.

I was going to order my list, but I didn’t. The order, except for #1 and #2, is completely random.

things that make me happy

  1. My kids. There are hundreds of specific ways my kids make me happy and I’ll include some later on in this list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say right off the bat that my kids make me happy, for no other reason than who they are. They teach me about life, challenge my thinking and my actions. They make me smile or laugh, or just feel full with happiness, for many moments of every day.
  2. Ditto for my husband of 20 years. We met in a college journalism class the second semester of our junior years and we’ve been together ever since. I knew he was the one for me after an evening study session in the campus commons. We spent most of the evening talking. I don’t remember exactly what about, but I think we covered the gamut: philosophy, politics, our families, the world. More importantly I remember how he made me feel: inspired, connected, respected and ready to keep talking for the rest of my life. When I got home I told my roommate he was the one and I’ve never looked back.
  3. The dog in the photo above. Her name is Bella and we adopted her from a shelter five summers ago. She is my walking companion and my shadow. She follows me everywhere.
  4. Poetry. I love reading it, writing it and talking about it. I post some of it here, but not much because if I did they’d be considered “published” and they wouldn’t be considered for publishing elsewhere. So far, I’ve been brave enough to submit only two to poetry journals. If they ever get published, then I can link them here.
  5. Writing that wows me, provides new insights, or makes me think, “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel.”
  6. Novels, usually the weightier the better. Some of my recent favorites include Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Some of my favorite novels ever include The Giver by Lois Lowry, East of Eden by John Steinbeck and the masterpiece The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
  7. Blogging. It gives me a reason to write and a creative outlet. Sharing my work makes me squirm but WordPress makes it look so polished and pretty. That helps.
  8. My front porch. It’s my favorite place to write, read, eat lunch, or watch my street. If I’m lucky, the woodpeckers are on the Aspen trees across the street, hunting for bugs. Sometimes a hummingbird hovers nearby or a rabbit hops across my frame of vision. I’ve never seen the neighborhood bear. I’m not sure I want to, but it might make for a good story.
This is one of the bears that visits our neighborhood. My neighbor took this picture in her back yard last year after he feasted on her bird feeders.
This is one of the bears that visits our neighborhood. My neighbor took this picture in her back yard last year after he feasted on her bird feeders.

9. Walking in the nature preserve near my home. It’s as good as anything I’ve seen in the trips I’ve taken to Costa Rica (minus the monkeys, of course).

Evans Creek
Bella loves walking in the nature preserve, too.

10. NPR. It’s the soundtrack to my days, made even better when I catch my daughters listening or when they use this phrase in a conversation, “I heard a story on NPR….”

11. The nightly news. I’m a news nerd, but I draw the line at the 24-hour cable news networks. I won’t watch them. When I have time though I like to watch all three 30-minute evening network news broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS) back-to-back. I like to compare what they choose to cover and how they stack the stories. Maybe I’ll blog about it sometime.

12. Exploring my “backyard,” meaning Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

Mount Rainier, 50-some miles from home.
Mount Rainier, 50-some miles from home.

13. Dark chocolate.

14. Wine.

coffee grinder
Our antique coffee grinder, given to us by my dad. We use it every morning.

15. Coffee. Especially coffee made with beans ground in the antique grinder my dad gave us. His mother had an identical one in her farm kitchen when he was growing up. I love the fill-the-whole-house sound it makes as we turn the crank and the coffee smell it releases as it crushes the beans.

16. The smell of rain after a dry spell. I live in Seattle so you might be wondering how I even know what this smells like. Don’t tell anyone, but we can get a good dry stretch in the summer, especially this year. We just finished the hottest June on record and the 4th driest month of all time. I never thought I’d say it, but we’re overdue for a good rain.

17. The sound of rain, especially on the roof of my porch.

18. Time out with friends, especially if it includes real conversation, a good belly laugh and an excellent wine.

19. Watching movies with my family. This summer, we’ve started having some movie nights outside. It works well until the mosquitoes start biting.

movies outside

20. A great TV show. I’m thinking of House of Cards, Gilmore Girls, X Files, Parenthood. And the best show ever: Newsroom, which I watched this summer with my husband and my youngest daughter. They agree.

21. Random acts of kindness.

22. Planned acts of kindness.

23. Jumping off a dock or a boat into a lake.

24. Watching my daughters together: chatting, laughing, hugging.2007 06 30 061

25. Sunsets, especially at the beach.

26. Walking along a shoreline.

27. The sound of the ocean.

28. The feel of sand under my bare feet.

29. Hiking.

30. Riding my bike without a helmet so I can feel the wind in my hair. (yes girls, no helmet!)

31. Talking with my daughters.

32. Watching my daughters dance. And dancing with them.

33. Dancing with my husband. East Coast Swing is our style of choice.

34. Hugs and kisses from my daughters.

35. Spending time with my nieces.

36. Watching my mother-in-law interact with my daughters.

37. Spending time with my mother-in-law. Really! Our relationship is no cliché and we enjoy each other’s company.

38. Going out to eat.

39. Hanging out in a coffee shop.

40. Book stores. Particularly ones that have places to sit and read, and that post staff/customer recommendations.

41. The buzz of my Fitbit when I’ve reached 10,000 steps for the day. For the first five months I owned it, I never missed a 10,000-step day.

42. Floating on my back in a swimming pool. Bonus points if the pool is empty, it’s nighttime and there is a sky full of stars.

43. Jon Stewart. He makes me laugh about things that otherwise might make me cry. Stephen Colbert did the same thing. What will I do with both of them gone?

44. My hammock. We have a camp hammock that has a regular place on our back porch. An afternoon hammock nap is heavenly, particularly when there’s a slight chill in the air and a cozy blanket shares the space with me.

45. Watching the flowers bloom in my yard. I have a serious case of the-grass-is-greener elsewhere syndrome. I crave change and am always wanting to move. If we did, I’d miss this….

bleeding heart
A Bleeding Heart blooms in my front yard.

46. Sunshine. I grew up in Denver where the sun came out over 300 days a year. That doesn’t mean the sun shined all day, but at least it made an appearance. In Seattle, we can go weeks without seeing the sun during the winter months. It was better this year (thank you climate change?), but during our darkest months, when the sun doesn’t rise behind the clouds until 8 a.m. and sets by 4:30 p.m., grabbing some natural light can be difficult.

47. An empty sink, an empty laundry basket, washed counters — a tidy house. It doesn’t make me happy to do these things, but it makes me happy to have them done. It makes my whole being feel lighter.

48. Hotel rooms. What’s not to love? They have all the essentials, no clutter and daily housekeeping service.

49. Living out of a suitcase — for a while at least. A simpler life equals happier life.

50. Trader Joes. One opened next to Safeway in my neighborhood. It’s my new go-to grocery store. The small size makes me happy. I can get in and out fast, and not have to walk the square footage of a football field to get milk after I pick up the bread.

51. Skiing. On snow, not water.

family ski photo

52. Sinking into bed after an active day.

This Great Tiger Moth was on our porch this week. I had never seen one before. To find it's name, I searched for
This was on our porch this week. Don’t it’s outer wings look just like a giraffe? It’s a Great Tiger Moth.

53. Discovering (new to me) things.

54. Singing out loud, whether I know the lyrics or not. And I often do not. Just ask my daughters and then listen to them giggle.

55. Walking through autumn leaves, especially if they crunch.

56. Attending lectures.

57. Taking classes.

58. Tolerance.

59. Seeing the human race reach new frontiers. Marriage equality. Pluto. It’s been a good month.

60. Open windows. Much better than closed.

61. Traditions. Taking first day of school pictures, pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving breakfast, the elves delivering new pjs to our front porch on Christmas Eve.

62. Breaking traditions. Last year, we skipped a traditional Thanksgiving and went to Vancouver, B.C. for the long weekend. We had Italian food for dinner. We loved it! We more or less skipped Christmas, too. We went to Kauai, where the season was much less understated than the mainland. We had no tree and exchanged no gifts (other than the BIG gift of the trip itself of course). We all agreed it was our best Christmas ever.

63. Travel. Seeing new places and having new experiences.

Let's go exploring. How about the Swiss Alps today?
Let’s go exploring. How about the Swiss Alps today?

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