50 Experiences of Positive Emotions You Have Every Day

Paying attention to ordinary positive emotions can increase your resilience.

Posted Feb 26, 2020

Unsplash
Source: Unsplash

Recently, I wrote a post about how to get more enjoyment out of your ordinary, everyday life. One tip from that post was to notice moments in a typical day that are a source of positive emotions for you. Appreciating routine pleasures can provide stress relief and increase your resilience, without you needing to add activities to your life. This aspect is a major plus since, for many people, adding anything at all to their to-do list feels overwhelming, even if it's self-care.

Below I've made a sampler of suggestions. Not all will be applicable to everyone, but I've made the examples specific to convey the level of detail you should aim for. A lot of these are my own items, but some I've made up. 

Additional tips for making your own list are at the end of the post, but as you read, consider copying/pasting any of these you like over into a blank document to start your own list.

50 Simple Pleasures (Sources of Positive Emotions)

  1. Enjoying the sensations of your body physically moving, whether that's the rhythm of walking, the exertion of stair climbing, or the sensations of a workout (Note: If there are specific sensations of movement you like, make them each their own item).
  2. Making physical contact with anyone you love, whether that's a kid, partner, pet.
  3. Having any type of nice interaction with a stranger, like smiling at each other, sharing a joke, giving up your seat to someone who needs it on the subway, etc.
  4. The face of a loved one who is happy to see you after a separation, like when you reunite at the end of the school year or workday.
  5. The pleasure of engaging in a familiar routine or the pleasure of something you do every day.  
  6. Shutting off your computer at the end of the night.
  7. A stroke of luck, like the subway pulling in right as you reach the platform.
  8. The pleasure of engaging in a routine that helps you feel organized, like putting your keys away in their designated spot when you come in the door.
  9. The pleasure of a brainless task: that is, a task that's satisfying but doesn't involve a lot of decision making or heavy cognitive load.
  10. The first couple of sips of your favorite beverage.
  11. A behavior you find oddly pleasurable, like using the handheld scanner to scan items at self-checkout. 
  12. Lifting an object or child that reminds you that you are physically strong and capable.
  13. Specific pleasures associated with each phase of a hard task, such as the beginning of a creative task when there's so much possibility, the middle when it starts to come together, and the end when you deliver it. 
  14. The day before and day of the night your favorite TV show is on.  
  15. The crossword your office crowdsources answers to every morning tea.
  16. A library e-book or audiobook you placed on hold weeks ago becoming available.
  17. Getting a fresh view by wiping your filthy laptop screen or cleaning a window you look out of regularly.
  18. Giving yourself a fresh start by emptying the trash out of your car, or similar.
  19. Getting feedback that someone is happy with your work.
  20. Touching base with a friend.
  21. When an item you always buy anyway is on sale.
  22. When you discover something new that you like, such as a song you hear for the first time.
  23. A thought intrusion involving a positive memory, like when a memory of a funny story from the past is triggered.
  24. Your spouse acting in a way that's so predictable to you and proves how well you know them.
  25. Seeing your child enjoy a routine activity, like how much they love coloring despite doing it every day.
  26. When a sense of awe is triggered, like when I order obscure British import golden syrup from Amazon, and it shows up within a day or two.
  27. A fleeting feature of the season, like noticing grass starting to grow again.
  28. The voice of someone you love, in person or on the phone/video chat. For instance, I love hearing my daughter's voice when she is acting out stories with toys.
  29. Seeing someone you care about do well.
  30. Seeing an email from a friend in your inbox.
  31. Sitting in a sunny spot under a window.
  32. Performing a work task that you once found difficult but has become routine, and being reminded of your growth and competence.
  33. Glancing at an item you have in your office or home that provokes a positive memory, like a family photo, a trinket from a trip, or diploma.
  34. The feeling of resourcefulness and creativity when you use an item in an unconventional way.
  35. Keeping a reusable container.
  36. Nailing a part of a task you've been stuck with.
  37. A behavior associated with a task you like to do, like packing your sneakers for your lunchtime walk.
  38. An activity that is easier than you expected.
  39. The pleasure of executing a "good-enough" solution that's easy and pretty satisfying, even though it's imperfect.
  40. Getting a request that you can easily fulfill, like your kid asking you to buy bananas. 
  41. Taking off your bra or work clothes or shoes at the end of the workday.
  42. Seeing a new episode of a favorite podcast or a favorite Youtube channel is available.
  43. Hearing or reading an insight that changes your way of thinking, such as a point in an article, or from a conversation, podcast, or social media.
  44. Getting into bed and giving yourself permission to relax into sleep.
  45. The feeling of clean teeth after you've brushed them.
  46. Eating nourishing food when you're hungry.
  47. The feeling of being satiated after eating.
  48. Anticipatory pleasure, such as when your thoughts drift to the really tasty yogurt you know is in your lunch box.
  49. The sensation of rubbing lotion into dry skin.
  50. Cleaning your nails.

A few tips:

  • Try putting AM, PM, or EV next to each item on your list, representing morning, afternoon, and evenings, and aim for a roughly even mixture.
  • Try to include a mix of items that relate to comfort or relaxation and ones that relate to the pleasure of effort.
  • Try to have a diversity of themes, like pleasurable physical sensations, human connection, excitement and anticipation, serendipity, activities that make you feel competent and strong.
  • Your list should mostly be about experiencing positive emotions rather than being relieved of negative emotions, but you can judge this for yourself. For instance, if you take off your work clothes and notice how nice it feels to be out of them, but you haven't been paying attention to the sensations of being in your work clothes before that, then that can feel like an experience of positive emotions more than the relief of negative emotions.
  • If this activity is a major struggle for you, because ordinary occurrences do not currently feel pleasurable, you may want to have a chat with your doctor about the possibility of depression, lack of enjoyment is a common manifestation.
  • It took me two attempts to come up with my list. My first go, I ran out of steam after about 35 items, but coming back to it after a week's break, I easily thought of more. Get as far as you can in one sitting, and then take a break of at least a week before you try to finish up. When slightly different themes are on your mind due to whatever you have going on, you'll come up with different ideas.