Join our community of Solution Seekers!

The Guide to Happiness

What Is the One Small Thing That Always Makes You Happy?

Everyday moments and objects pack a powerful emotional punch. Here, Real Simple readers share the little stuff that brings them joy. 

Cat in a bathtub illustrationChristopher Silas Neal

Lego creations that my nine-year-old son, Michael, sneaks into my purse. I often come across small cars and planes—once, even a replica of Darth Vader with a woman’s head—that he has hidden for me. Finding them makes me smile and feel connected to Michael when we’re not together.
Debra Southard
Lafayette, Colorado.


My rambunctious, doglike cat, Surge (whom I named after the energy drink popular in the 90s). He plays fetch and loves the water. For example, he sits on the edge of the bathtub when I’m in the shower, and after I get out, he hops into the tub and rolls around. His very odd behavior makes me laugh every day.
Ashleigh Swayze
Asheville, North Carolina


Over the past year, my teenage daughter has left me dozens of Post-it notes saying, “I love you.” They show up on my shampoo bottle, toothbrush holder, and car keys and in many other places where I’ll be sure to notice them. They are great reminders that she feels as strongly about me as I do about her.
Lisa Polson
San Rafael, California

A new book of stamps from the post office. My favorite one of all time commemorated Frank Sinatra. I was tickled to come across it. My father used to play Sinatra’s music for me and my siblings on Sunday after church, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I walked out of the post office that day humming “New York, New York.”
Cyndi Hartle
Albion, Pennsylvania

When I catch several green traffic lights in a row, I feel certain my day is going to be a good one.
Lynn McKoy
Durham, North Carolina

Finding a stash of cash always elevates my mood. Recently I was going through old clothes, deciding what to give away, when I found $20 in the pocket of a pair of pants. They were my “skinny jeans,” which I had been hanging on to even though I probably wasn’t going to fit into them again. But once I discovered the money, I felt OK about letting them go. I tossed the jeans into the “out” pile, then treated myself to a pedicure at my favorite nail salon.
Dana Kavanagh
Hackensack, New Jersey

Lemons in my vintage china bowl never fail to cheer me up. Maybe it’s their sunny color or the fact that I use the juice in everything—salad dressings, pies, pasta sauce. I actually commissioned my favorite artist to paint a picture of them. The painting now hangs above my 1950s enamel stove. The whole look is very homey and sweet.
Laura Gandee
Charleston, West Virginia

Read More About:Inspiration & Motivation

Related Content

Illustration of chickens sleeping

9 Ways to Get the Kids to Bed 

You’re ready to hit the hay; your child is anything but. What to do? Experts share advice on how to get your kids to sleep at night.  

What do you think about this article? Share your own solutions and ideas

View Earlier Comments

Quick Tip

Illustration of suitcases

Packing for a family vacation? Travel versions of favorite games won’t crowd suitcases, and playing them will keep kids from begging to watch TV at night. Get more tips.