THE BLOG
09/26/2014 08:15 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2014

Living Big in the Little Moments

It's the little things, people.

Yesterday, before she left to soccer on a 95-degree day, Sweet P (who is not always, uh hmm, sweet) came in to thank me for filling her water bottle.

Little thing.

Then a friend texted to say she was thinking about me. I found a five in the pocket of the capris I hadn't worn in awhile. And my cat came and laid on my lap and purred like a little engine.

Little thing. Little thing. Little thing. Sure. It's not like Oprah called saying she wanted to be besties, it's not that I won a gazillion dollars or created world peace. I didn't run into Justin Timberlake at the market, but all these so-called little things made for one-big-fat good feeling night.

Living Well in the Moment

Don't bother worrying about the little things -- or anything really, because worry rarely translates into actions that make a difference. "Don't," as Richard Carlson said, "sweat the small stuff."

But do focus on making the little, quiet, routine moments better.

Do focus on filling them with gratitude and compassion and joy and love, because one thing is sure: When we give attention to living well in this moment, we make the next moment a little better, a little easier to bear. That helps us make the moment beyond that a bit better and all the moments to come easier until we've strung together a whole big awesome life of little sweet moments.

Life is in the little things. The brief moments when we say I love you or walk away, when we give a hug or keep our distance. The moments when we choose kale over chocolate or chocolate over kale. These little moments shape the quality of our lives and the way we contribute to the world. Life is all about the little things.

You can sit at home and make a five-year plan -- and I have. You can have long and short term goals -- and I do. But, my primary focus now is to give attention to the moment that I have now. Right now. It's all I know for sure and the only way to complete anything five years out is to make sure that I'm making the most of this moment right now.

Joy in the So-Called Boring, Mundane Moments

My graduation from college was Awesome. My wedding? Meaningful, lovely, a total blast. The first time I held my daughter? Breathtaking. All big days to be sure.

But, so was the first day I sat alone at my desk, in my office as a self-employed writer. And the moment my grandfather let me drive his car and morning my daughter made her own breakfast and a conversation I had with a girlfriend over margaritas. And the snuggle from my husband after a hard day.

We like to celebrate the biggies of life -- and they should be celebrated -- but we also need to notice, and honor, and enjoy the little moments. These mundane moments that show up in the daily routine are the things that will add meaning and joy to our lives, say researchers.

"What is ordinary now actually becomes more extraordinary in the future -- and more extraordinary than we might expect," says Ting Zhang, a researcher at Harvard Business School who found that when we document the routine moments of our lives to read later we actually experience greater pleasure and joy when remembering a "typical" day rather than a big-time event.

Things that did not seem meaningful in the moment, a favorite song or playlist, a conversation with a friend, are the types of things the meant a great deal when remembered later, Zhang says.

"The studies highlight the importance of not taking the present for granted and of documenting the mundane moments of daily life to give our future selves the joy of rediscovering them," he says.

Notice the Now

Before you can start documenting the moments of your life, you must notice them. Start by pausing at least three times a day and during every transition -- before you brush your teeth, or start the car, or get up to leave -- to notice what is around. Use all five senses to soak up your environment then pause to become aware of what you are thinking and feeling. Sit with it. Don't act on these thoughts, just become aware.

Then savor those moments.

Notice the amazing in the familiar. The complexity of a spider's web, the way the sun comes through the trees, a child's laugh. And, here's the key: Soak it up. Identify the good feelings that emerge from this noticing and pause to fully absorb them. Spend 15 or 20 seconds soaking up the good feeling.

Also, journal, or use a gratitude practice (or combine the two) to connect to the amazing in the mundane.

Do this several times a day and not only will you line the future with joy and meaning, but you will fill the little moments right now with gratitude, appreciation, and good feeling.