When it comes to our own happiness, we often find it difficult to carve out time for activities we consider frivolous or selfish. But when life gets busy, the first thing we should do is take time for ourselves, and this is perfectly OK. If we don’t take responsibility for keeping ourselves energized and happy, our ability to cope with even small setbacks may diminish.

It’s often said that you can’t help others if you don’t first help yourself. It’s also true that we can’t help our future selves if we don’t take care of our present selves. One way to do this is to accumulate positive emotions now.

Picture this scenario

Imagine that you and a friend are both in the middle of a very frustrating experience. For months, you’ve been planning a week-long vacation … fun in the sun! You have everything ready to go and have prepared yourselves for any possible mishap that could occur along the way.

You arrive at the airport extra early with all your important travel documents ready. But at the last minute, you’re told that your flight has been cancelled due to bad weather, and you won’t be flying out until the next evening, at the earliest! Your trip will be cut at least two days short, and there isn’t much either of you can do about that, aside from accepting the changes and trying to enjoy the rest of your planned vacation.

Your friend has been busy, overwhelmed and exhausted and hasn’t had any time for herself. This was the week she planned on using to unwind. You, on the other hand, have been doing one small thing a day to make yourself feel good. You’ve been just as busy and just as exhausted, but you’ve scheduled in a small, pleasant event each day and have allowed yourself to enjoy that event.

As a result, while this disappointing change in plans has left you upset, it hasn’t taken away your ability to cope or look ahead with a positive attitude. Your friend, on the other hand, is left feeling crushed and unable to deal with the change. She’s broken, and has a difficult time recuperating in time to enjoy her vacation.

Everyone has different ways of coping, and there’s never one single reason for a reaction. However, in this scenario, your emotional buffer came from your ability to enjoy something every day, knowing that the next day would bring the same because you were in control of that schedule. Your friend hadn’t actively created this buffer, and was counting on the week’s vacation as her “slice of happiness.” Now, the week’s not happening as planned and she has nothing else to look forward to.

Pleasant events don’t need to take a lot of time

“But it’s not that easy/there’s never any time to spend on myself/others always need me!”

It may seem that way, and trying to come up with something pleasant to do every day can be stressful in itself. However, these pleasant events can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes or more—it’s all about finding the right things for you. They don’t need to be activities, either. They can even be thoughts or silent reminders to yourself that you’re a wonderful person.

The only thing that matters is that you do these things just for you, letting go of worries and allowing yourself to truly enjoy each moment while it’s happening.

One daily pleasant event, scheduled and enjoyed mindfully, starts to build up that emotional buffer. Over time, this decreases our vulnerability to unpleasant events and leads to increased happiness.

Often, we feel like we can’t come up with anything to do, or we don’t think simple things will do the trick, but that’s where the list below comes in.

Adult making dinosaur out of Play-Doh - Take time to be happyI’ve compiled 100 little examples of daily and long-term pleasant events that you can choose from according to your lifestyle and schedule. I use them often!

Quick and easy

  1. Arrange flowers
  2. Tell a joke
  3. Listen to your favourite song
  4. Say “I love you”
  5. Look at the moon
  6. Think “I’m a good person”
  7. Send an email
  8. Make your bed
  9. Doodle
  10. Light a candle
  11. Listen to the sounds of nature
  12. Think about a friend’s good qualities
  13. Smell something delicious
  14. Take a photo
  15. Remember a quote or poem you enjoy
  16. Breathe deeply
  17. List your good qualities
  18. Drink coffee in the morning
  19. Read a comic
  20. Stretch
  21. Watch fish in an aquarium
  22. Think, “I had a good day.”
  23. Laugh
  24. Walk barefoot in the grass
  25. Smile at strangers
  26. Take a shower
  27. Think about your family
  28. Buy something small for yourself
  29. Think about past trips
  30. Drink a smoothie

As long as you’d like…

  1. Plan a day’s activities
  2. Exercise
  3. Have a quiet evening
  4. Repair something in your home
  5. Do something spontaneously
  6. Sew
  7. Sing with a group
  8. Daydream
  9. Dance
  10. Sit in a sauna
  11. Do a puzzle
  12. Take care of your pets
  13. Put on makeup
  14. Lie in the sun
  15. Play a board game
  16. Explore a new park
  17. Ride a bike
  18. Go home from work
  19. Wear your favourite clothes
  20. Think about a career change
  21. Practice Yoga, karate, etc.
  22. Organize a workspace
  23. Go grocery shopping
  24. Volunteer
  25. Make a card for someone
  26. Watch YouTube videos
  27. Watch sports
  28. Soak in a bath
  29. Go to a thrift store
  30. Do outdoor work
  31. Have sex
  32. Write a diary entry
  33. Go for a drive
  34. Tutor someone
  35. Plan a get-together
  36. Be alone
  37. Clean
  38. Go to a show (theatre, music, comedy)
  39. Sign up for a class
  40. Solve riddles, crosswords, etc.
  41. Cook a meal
  42. Knit
  43. Get a haircut
  44. Garden
  45. Go to a fair, carnival, circus, etc.
  46. Go to a museum
  47. Go to the library
  48. Rearrange a room
  49. Fly a kite
  50. Listen to a podcast
  51. Meet someone new
  52. Read a magazine
  53. Explore Pinterest
  54. Call a family member or friend to say “Hi”
  55. Get rid of old items, clothes, etc.
  56. Travel
  57. Take a new route to work
  58. Complete a task
  59. Play with Play-Doh
  60. Have a debate
  61. Cuddle
  62. Go to a market
  63. Meditate
  64. Take a nap


  1. Stick to a diet
  2. Practice a religion
  3. Learn to play/play a musical instrument
  4. Join a community
  5. Save money
    100. Start a collection/add to your collection

Just pick seven things

Each week, pick seven things from the list above that you can aim to achieve daily, and make a log of what you end up doing or not doing. It doesn’t matter if you stick to the plan—all that matters is that you fully engage with whatever it is you choose to do.

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image 1: Pexels; image 2: The Hacktory (Creative Commons BY-SA)