How Simple, Little Happy Habits Can Make a Huge Difference



“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness.” ~Charlotte Brontë

Habits are a double-edged human habitual practice—they can be healthy and unhealthy, and can bring us happiness and unhappiness.

We've all read about the importance of healthy and successful habits, and how to choose and practice them. But I've also recently read about how healthy and successful habits alone don't necessarily lead to good health or real success. There's more to it.

What I'm reading now shows that happiness appears to be just as important to wellbeing and success as lifestyle choices, that happiness alone may actually lead to the good life in body, mind, and spirit.

Sometimes there are things in life we just have to do. They're neither painful nor pleasurable, just necessary chores. Why not lighten the load with a few little happy habits?

In my early twenties, I remember for years not being happy while shopping at the grocery market. To me, it was a dreaded chore.

I felt a certain sense of overwhelm just stepping into the market.

The overly-bright lights, the barrage of bad music interrupted only by the even more annoying announcements, the myriad choices (just shop the perimeter), deciphering the ingredients and nutrition facts labels (would the real food please stand out), the comparison shopping tasks (the mental math matters), the crowds and their carts (to maneuver around), having to remind the clerk time and again that I didn't want paper or plastic (I brought 'em and I'll bag 'em), and the expensive ka-ching! (silent swipe, actually) at the check-out.

And I also recall feeling guilty (first-world problem, right?) while shopping for groceries. There I was, a first-world affluent person with really, not relatively, more than enough money, free (from work) time, and access to good food, and I resented having to shop for it. I really felt unhappy about it.

Now, this may seem like a trivial problem, but think about it. This little habit was negatively affecting my happiness. And it was no laughing matter, literally. It was making me unhappy.

Is there something you must do each day or even once or twice a week, something that you're not happy doing? Are there a few of these somethings?

How would you describe your day-in and day-out days: happy ones with moments of unhappiness, or unhappy ones with moments of happiness? If there were simple little ways to create more happiness in your life, would you?

Even though about half of our happiness nature is actually found in the happy gene, there's still the entire other half (full or empty, depending on which genes you don) that you can choose to nurture. 

Optimists, drink up! And pessimists, don't go thirsty! Practice simple, little happy habits.

1. Choose a simple, little happy habit.

First of all, simply set an intention for happiness. Would you like to create a little happiness for yourself and others? Just be conscious of your intention. Then choose a happy habit to practice.

What thoughts, words, and acts would naturally bring you and others happiness? What would work with your personality, your essential being, and not against it? What's something you could practice doing that would cause you to lose track of the time and effort it takes to do it?

Better yet, choose a happy habit that takes very little time and simple efforts in the first place.

How about just smiling at each person you encounter today?
How about simply saying please, thank you, and you're welcome?
How about sending an email to coworkers or clients expressing your appreciation?

Repeated small acts of kindness for yourself and others make for happy habits indeed.

2. Take a little time to simply practice it.

Is it something you can do any time of the day? Do you need to be in a particular position or situation, or need specific tools or materials? Can you do it even when you're tired? Remember, keep your happy habit practice simple and little.

Much like I set up a schedule for practicing meditation, I set up a schedule for practicing happy habits.

I set electronic reminders. I post sticky notes and make lists. I ask my husband to check in with me at the end of the day. I hold myself accountable for my happiness. Eventually, I'll be able to practice happy habits anywhere, any time, even with my eyes and heart wide open.

3. Go get a happy habit study buddy.

Share in this happiness. Enlist the help of a friend or family member. Open your happy heart. Make a little list of happy habits together. Share your notes. Text or email or call or meet up every so often to share ideas, celebrate successes, and encourage and inspire one another in your habit-making venture. Make a date to do something that brings you both a little happiness.

Are you ready for something even bigger? Join a group or club, or take a class. What have you always wanted to learn about and experience? Did you know that there is laughter yoga (Hasyayoga)? It's about practicing laughter (and breathing, of course)—laughter simply by way of laughter. Make your happy practice contagious too.

If you'd rather go it alone, simply keep a journal. Set a timer for a couple of minutes. Record your happy little intention. And reflect upon your simple, little happy habit day.

4. Check in on your little happy habit.

Just notice and pay attention to how you feel. Does your happy habit practice feel uncomfortable or comfortable? Is it hard or easy? Do you practice it willingly or unwillingly?

Basically, do you feel happy for yourself and others while you're doing it? If so, continue to make a habit of it. If not, it's time to choose something else, something simpler and littler. Start where you are.

What happy habit are you practicing right now? In the next hour? By the end of the day? Set small goals at first. As your strength happily increases and your happiness endurance builds, add new goals, happier ones.

Most research shows that it takes about a month to develop a new habit. Try practicing your little happy habit for a month and just see how happy you are. What've you got to lose, a little unhappiness?

5. Celebrate the littlest of happy habits.

Ultimately, being happier and sharing happiness is the goal and it's its own reward. But setting small goals at first and celebrating tiny steps of success will keep you on your happy habit path. Share your happy habits, happiness, with others.

Happiness, like laughter, is contagious. Infect everyone you meet. You'll be a little happy hero or heroine.

Who knows? Simple, little happy habits might make you happier, maybe even healthier, and quite possibly wealthier and wiser.

As for me, shopping at the market for groceries has gotten a lot happier over the years. I wear a happy hat to stave off the lighting, bring along a happy playlist of songs, smile at and help and even chat with my fellow shoppers, and I truly appreciate the abundance in my life. Life is good and happy.

And I've added new little happy habits over the years too. Sometimes when I send a thank you card to someone, I don't actually write on the card or the envelope. I write my words of thanks on a sticky note and place it inside the card. On another sticky note, I encourage the person to thank someone else today using the card and envelope that's right there.

Share happiness—write a comment, sharing your simple, little happy habits and how you practice them. We'd all appreciate it. Thanks, and smiles of happiness!

Photo by Mike Baird

About Midge Greentree

Midge sometimes writes when creativity strikes, right beside the loads of laundry, piles of paperwork, and soot sprites, but mostly she's just another human being daring to live life out loud, with a little more mindfulness and lots of happy humor.

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  • Braja Patnaik

    Great post. Thanks for sharing

  • Hello, Braja,
    I appreciate your kind comment. Do you practice a happy, little habit you’d like to share?

  • Hello,
    The reason I liked your post is it resonated with me. I also hate shopping.
    I am mostly pre-occupied in my thoughts most of the time. But I want to overcome this. I trying a baby step towards this was by saying “Hi” to the people I meet everyday. It makes me happy. Still a long way to go to make it second nature, but I think this will qualify as my happy little habit that I am trying to imbibe.

  • Simply saying, “Hi!” is one of my favorite happy habits. I think it’s the little things we do that make up our happiness. Imagine, when we become really good at this practice, we’ll feel like we’re on holiday every day. Smiles!

  • Clarissa Bermúdez


  • Melissa Minutaglio

    i really liked this post & would love more concrete examples of “simple happy habits” to build into my day. I could use some inspiration to start this practice. Thanks!

  • Thanks for commenting, Melissa,

    You’ve prompted me to start a Happy Habits discussion in the Tiny Buddha forum where we can all contribute our simple, little happy habits.

    Here are some simple, little happy habits (that take seconds or minutes):

    Smile in the mirror and at others
    Say, “Hello!”, “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome.”
    Compliment and thank yourself and others
    Write sticky notes and emails of appreciation
    Rub your feet or someone else’s feet
    Do a cartwheel or skip around or dance
    Hug and kiss; show affection toward others
    Say, “I love you!” or “I appreciate you!”
    Play or walk outside in the sunshine or rain
    Play or listen to music; sing out loud too
    Give someone your chair or parking space
    Click your heels together three times
    Open a door for someone or carry an object
    Offer to help someone else who needs it
    Share a good idea at home or at work
    Listen to someone without interrupting
    Close your eyes and meditate or just daydream
    Doodle, draw, color or fold paper (origami)
    Read or write a poem; perform it too
    Taste and chew food slowly; savor it

    Just think about the little things that bring you and others happiness and practice them. This will add simple little moments of happiness to your days. Smiles!

  • Smiles!

  • Melissa Minutaglio

    these are great, thanks!

  • Here is the Simple, Little Happy Habits forum discussion, Melissa. I’m sure we’ll read some happy little ideas.

  • Fred

    This post is cute. 🙂

  • Thanks, Fred. Sometimes we need to just appreciate the simple, little happy things.

  • sidney

    HAHAH, I did not understand this blog at all, until I read this list.

  • Hi, Sidney!

    I intend to create clarity in my writing.

    Do you have a happy habit to contribute?


  • Wise words Tiny Buddha 🙂

    Simple Happy Habits are the way forward for sure

  • Hey Midge, love the post. I have spent quite a bit of time recently focusing on being mindful and present during the many menial chores I must do in the day such as washing the dishes and it has significantly increased my happiness.

    I also recently spent 24 hours not criticising condemning or complaining about anyone or anything. Not quite a ‘simple little habit’ but it was really enlightening (as well as really quite difficult) 🙂

  • Yes, being present during chores is good practice. I have a question about your AWE-and-then-SOME 24-hour practice of not criticizing, condemning, or complaining—what did you do whenever the thoughts came up? I can only imagine how difficult this was, but you have inspired me to try it. Smiles!

  • I think so too.

  • I wrote a post before doing the wee experiment and then one following up touching on how to deal with the negative thoughts

    If you have any questions or would like to add to it I’d love to hear from you, I’d also love to hear how you get on with your little experiment 🙂 Enjoy

  • Airjockey

    Imagining each other as little children. We’re all loveable.

  • kerri

    Awesome! Wow, it’s really all about perspective, right? I so relate with being unhappy about something, and then adding insult to injury by judging myself for being unhappy (first world problems). But you’re so right about taking it seriously, looking at the whys and hows without the judgment. That is how you can come to changing your thinking about things, much as your excellent example about grocery shopping. It doesn’t have to be complicated; I think I was conditioned to think that life is a struggle, you “earn” your happiness by suffering first or meeting some condition or standard. Ug. It’s so backwards. I am learning to live in and appreciate NOW by letting go of the requirements I once unconsciously believed needed to be met, my ego had me chasing future contentment, always just out of reach! That’s what it’s designed to do, distract you from truly living! The less I fear taking responsibility for my wellbeing, the more I am able to slow down and appreciate life right now. The less I feel the need to control or fix, the freer I become. There was never anything wrong with me except that I thought that there was! I needed change, but not to be “fixed” in the way I thought. It was my thinking, and I resisted it for so long. This is a really great idea, I like the idea of being a little happy heroine, where I once would have snorted in contempt at the idea. I have started to stop waiting for or trying to make everything perfect before I can start living. It won’t happen, and that’s more like good news now than before when I was just frustrated and angry living that way – what I feared was actually my freedom. Now I believe in the small steps and simple things like what you wrote about here. I am going to try it out on paying bills. I always hate it! Then be pissed at myself because I would think it’s not like there’s no money to pay them that’s what perplexed me like you mention about yourself, and then I feel guilty on top of it. Now I see there is more to it than it seems. (relying on money for sense of wellbeing, etc. etc.)