11 Ways To Enjoy The Simple Things In Life

11 Ways To Enjoy The Simple Things In Life

It's the small stuff that really counts.
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Today's society is brainwashed into thinking "the bigger, the better." We're told to dream big, go big, do big things —

but what about the small stuff? Life's not-so-everyday pleasures, the things that we should all take the time to do, but too often forget about. If you're wanting to get back to the basics, here's a few ideas to help you remember how to savor life, every tiny bit of it.

1. Recreate a childhood favorite.

Childhood, the simplest of times. Something as small as making a classic PB&J for lunch could be just the break you need from your normal lunch routine. Crust, no crust, cut diagonally, or into tiny triangles —

whatever floats your boat and brings back the sweet memory of the days when mom took care of it all.

2. Go star gazing.

Get lost in just how minuscule you are in this universe. By realizing how big this world we live in really is, you're able to see how insignificant your daily stresses are.

3. Enjoy your cup of coffee.

Actually drink it for the flavor, for the chance to simply have a moment —

not while you're rushing on your way to work, or in the library at three in the morning when you have four chapters to go. Share the experience with a friend, somewhere quiet with just the steam of your mug and a few minutes of catching up. I've even heard of some cafes where there isn't wifi or reachable outlets, forcing customers to interact while they sip on their lattes.

4. Smile at strangers.

The woman you see at the bus stop with the long face may feel like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and your friendly gesture could be all that is needed to lift it away. Make it a habit —

something as small as a smile goes longer than you could ever imagine.

5. Find shapes in clouds.

I swear kids could do this for days, but most adults look up and see the clouds for exactly what they are. The only difference is that kids rely on their imagination to make sense out of everything, whereas most grown-ups have become so technical, it's sad. Sometimes it's okay to act like a kid again. Spend an afternoon at the park recharging the part of your brain that's been out of order for so long. You never know what you'll see.

6. Pay it forward.

Whether you buy the next person's coffee in a drive-thru, bring a homeless man a hot dinner or carry your elderly neighbors mail in everyday. One silent act of kindness speaks a 1,000 words.

7. Watch the sun rise and set in the same day.

We let days, weeks, months, and maybe even years go by without remembering to do something —

don't let this be one of those things. With every new morning comes the promise of a fresh start, and every night the promise that the day's slate has been wiped clean. Simply put-time will pass without us realizing, but by watching one day fade into another your perspective on everything can drastically change.

8. Thank people.

No, not a mumbled "thanks" under your breath to someone who held the door, but a sincere expression for how thankful you are for someone or something they did. Not many people actually take the time to do this, so when you do, others will notice and remember you for the better.

9. Send a card in the mail.

Who doesn't love getting personalized mail? Normally this excitement comes once or twice a year for birthdays and maybe the holidays, but even those practices are slowly becoming extinct. Send a card just saying "Hi," or "Thinking of you on this random Tuesday because I had the best bagel ever, and I know how much you love bagels!" It's great to be thought of, or for little details about yourself to be remembered by someone else, so ditch iMessage for a second and spread the love by snail mail.

10. People watch.

You walk past hundreds of people a day, not knowing a single thing about them. Just sit on a bench somewhere and observe, everyone that passes has a story that you will probably never hear. Rather than judging someone on their appearance or attitude, you see how they exist naturally, which leads you to actually wanting to get to know them. By doing so, the next time you're behind someone in line, you might just be more open minded to striking up a conversation and learning a little bit about what makes them, them.

11. Spend time with different generations.

Most of us go to school and work with people similar to our age, but some of the greatest lessons in life will be taught to us by people that are significantly younger or older than us. Take time to have real conversations with your younger cousins and actually listen to the forever long stories your grandparents tell. Kids say genius stuff sometimes, and you never know how much your going to miss the ramblings of back in the day stories when you can't hear them anymore.

Cover Image Credit: Alexis Goodwin

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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