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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



Hearing my favorite song, “Small Town,” by John Mellencamp. It takes me back to my youth in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where my parents still live. It has always been the kind of place where strangers say hello and kids can ride their bikes home after dark. There is a line in the song about being able to breathe in a small town—and that is exactly how I feel when I visit.

Angela Holm
Newport, Rhode Island

Cooking with my husband. We blast the music of jazz singer Diana Krall and pour glasses of Pinot Noir. If we’re making a vegetarian meal (my favorite is a paella-style dish with peppers), then I’m in charge. If we’re in the mood for a Cajun recipe, like shrimp étouffée, then my husband, a Louisiana native, appoints me sous-chef. Cooking together is never a chore.
Linda Burkhalter
Lima, Ohio

I have purposely worn mismatched socks since I was a teenager. I try to coordinate in some way—same color palette, thickness, theme (for instance, I’ll wear a Thanksgiving one with a Christmas one). The real joy for me, though, is thinking back on when my father used to get a kick out of seeing me in my socks. He would always say, “I bet you have a pair just like that in your drawer.”
Marianne Auger
Sundridge, Ontario

Slipping underneath freshly laundered sheets at the end of the day. At that moment, the world feels manageable.
Ellen Groth
San Angelo, Texas

My favorite hobby is bird-watching, especially during the winter, when the trees are bare. I sit next to the window and observe cardinals, chickadees, and sparrows feeding on seeds that I put in our seven birdhouses. I am so content watching all this activity; I even love hearing a woodpecker hammering away—as long as it is after 8 a.m.
Jennifer Martens
Carmel, California


As a child, I spent summers with my grandmother in San Francisco. Her home was always lit with candles and fragrant with the scent of newly struck matches. Years later, memories of our time together are brought back by that unmistakable smell.
Dionna Mash
San Diego, California




Read More About:Inspiration & Motivation

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