I love the Spanish tradition of tapas. In Spain, dinner is served late in the evening so people snack on delectable bites of food between lunch and dinner. They may be hot or cold and range from simple to sophisticated. They evolved with input from many cultures and are crafted with a variety of highly flavored ingredients including tomatoes, chilis, olives, garlic, spices, meats and seafood.
Tapas are appetizers, designed to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. Individually they don’t look like much but when you put several of them on a plate you have a substantial meal. Alone they may be insignificant; together they are scrumptious.
Ed Diener, one of the founders of the emerging field of positive psychology, said that happiness is made up of many small happy moments a day rather than a small number of transcendent moments.
Too often we don’t take the time to savor the small moments of joy in a day. We are too busy thinking about the imaginary future and the great big juicy experiences we think will make us happy. When these experiences come and all-too-quickly go, we are left with a feeling of dissatisfaction and the question “Is that all there is?”
Waking up beside someone you love, petting a soft purring cat, burying your hands in the rich soil of your garden, drinking a cup of hot tea, having dinner with friends: none of these activities can be described as earth-shattering yet each is a contributor to a happy life.
Often we feel too pressured and rushed to stop and reflect for even a brief instant on what really contributes to our happiness. Our headlong and heedless rush to pursue “the good life” has blinded us to the things that actually constitute a good life.
Every day, no matter how over scheduled, has space for small bites of happiness. It is important to create room for these moments and to pay attention to them when they happen. Savoring little positive experiences is like enjoying tapas. One appetizer is only a snack but put several together you have a satisfying meal.
Bites of happiness have more value than they appear when viewed in isolation and should be respected for what they can do. Initially it may take a conscious effort to create these moments if you are not used to pausing and savoring small things. In a short period of time, the shift in your awareness will become an entrenched habit and happy moments will become part of your day.
What are your opportunities for happiness today? What can you do tomorrow? This weekend? It doesn’t have to be big or take a lot of time or energy. It just has to be done.