Each day comes with its own challenges. For that matter, each week, month, and year does as well. Those challenges and other stressful events will vary in intensity and their affect upon our lives, but too often they can become overly consuming and distracting, leaving us anxious and seeing only the negative.
In order to manage the problems that life can throw at us we are often told to “Keep things in perspective,” and not to “sweat the small stuff.” But sometimes it really is the small stuff that matters. In fact, making time to notice and appreciate the small things can make a big difference in your day, your mental health and enjoyment of life overall.
What Happens When We Ignore the Small Things
In a world that encourages us to think big and aim high, it can seem very mundane and like a waste of time to focus on the smaller things in life. Yet too much concern about the bigger things in life can be paralyzing and overwhelming. Yes, having a goal is a good thing, but there are times when becoming so myopic about your goals can actually leave you feeling trapped and alone. If these feelings aren’t balanced it can lead to anxiety or depression, and even anger issues.
Too many of us live in a constant state of anxiety, worrying about what’s next, what we have to do, and what we’re behind on. It can lead us to feel a bit like the world is going to end if we don’t stay on task or lose focus. Although we know it won’t, the feeling that there’s always something to attend to as opposed to things that can be enjoyed, even if it is a must-do rather can be hard to shake. This can have physical repercussions as well. High blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke have all been associated with being constantly under stress. It doesn’t matter that the stress may be self-imposed.
The effect isn’t only on us either. Failure to balance larger goals with the smaller pleasures can mean that we also alienate the people around us. The things that make the best memories when it comes to our families and friends are generally found in the smaller moments. Ignoring those things can mean that we fail to develop meaningful connections with our loved ones. If we don’t nurture those relationships they will crumble and soon our connection to children, spouses, and friends is at best strained. For children especially this can be very damaging,
Small Things Affect Our Mental Health
The measuring stick for success when we are hyper-focused on the larger things in life can be disorienting. Constantly looking up at where we want to go means always feeling like we aren’t there yet and that we’re not doing or moving fast enough. This can often mean feeling like a failure.
Recognizing the smaller pleasures in life, however, can provide a different perspective. Being mindful in the moment and appreciating things that are happening right now can leave you feeling more grounded and connected. This can help put your fears and worries into perspective and eliminate elevating the destructive feelings of anger, failure, and worthlessness.
One of the best things about making a point to notice the pleasure that surrounds you is that the result is immediate and the effort free. Smiling at a stranger, making your child laugh, the smell of something pleasant, and the million other little things that are all part of your day that you may frequently overlook. Studies show that when you pay attention to these things you can create new pathways in your brain that lead to an increase in serotonin and feelings of positivity. As a result, your feelings of anxiety, worry, anger, and even depression can start to lessen. And the more often these things are done the easier they become to do.
Ultimately, making time for the smaller things in life can make your life feel fuller and more satisfying by making you feel more in tune with life, your surroundings and the people you care about. It can also make an enormous, positive difference in your mental health. And guess what? Occasionally looking away from the “big picture” won’t cause your world to end or mean you’ll never achieve your goals. In fact, it can help you do just that.