How to Tap Into the Extraordinary Delight Of Ordinary Life

Yes, doing the laundry and cleaning up can bring unexpected joy.

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Many of us have been following the same routine, day-in, day-out, as the pandemic continues. It is possible, however, to break the monotony. By fully immersing ourselves in ordinary activities and looking at our routines in a different light, they can elicit joy that equals many of life’s great adventures. All it entails is a small mindset shift.

Here are four ways to experience the delights of ordinary life:

Make mundane tasks meaningful

Transform a task like folding laundry by giving it your undivided attention. Instead of approaching your pile of clean clothes as a chore, think of the meditative quality that folding possesses. Done slowly and deliberately, it’s an opportunity to zone in and see a project through from start to finish. When you’ve finished, congratulate yourself (out loud or inwardly) for a job well done. You can apply the same devoted focus to anything, like making a cup of tea, food shopping, or tidying up.  

Turn meals into celebrations

Whether you are eating alone or with others, try turning an ordinary meal into a feast. Create an uplifting ambience by putting on music you love as you cook. If you’re stirring soup, do it mindfully. Set the table, light a candle — then, setting devices aside, serve dinner and savor the experience.

Look around and appreciate your environment

If you’re outdoors, notice the birds, flowers, and trees. Interviewed in a new podcast, the legendary 94-year-old naturalist Sir David Attenborough urges everyone to contemplate the wonders of the natural world with this advice: “Don’t move. Keep quiet. Wait 10 minutes.You’ll be very surprised if something pretty interesting didn’t happen within 10 minutes.” In fact, studies have shown that spending just five minutes in nature can increase happiness. If you pass someone outside, make a connection by smiling (they’ll see it in your eyes even if you’re wearing a mask). 

Do ordinary things that bring you extraordinary joy

Lastly, take care to immerse yourself wholeheartedly in any small act you enjoy. Whether it’s walking the dog, knitting, reading a novel, or eating a delicious snack — allow yourself to fully savor the experience, and watch how it transforms your day. On that note, here is a wonderful poem by Wendy Cope that perfectly sums up the simple pleasures of ordinary life: 

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange

The size of it made us all laugh.

I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—

They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,

As ordinary things often do

Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park

This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.

I did all my jobs on my list

And enjoyed them and had some time over.

I love you. I’m glad I exist.

—Wendy Cope

Published on
February 26, 2021
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