Inspired by actress Drew Barrymore's recent video of herself laughing in the rain, Ofosu and Leah talk about the importance of celebrating the little things in life. They also share the science behind why we often underestimate these small moments and don't fully appreciate them until after they have passed. And they discuss practical tips for how to be more present, practice gratitude, and find joy in the everyday.
"How to create a good old day" is the episode Ofosu mentions, where listeners sent in ordinary moments they'll remember forever. Listen here.
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OFOSU: Hey, what's up. I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey, and -
LEAH: I'm Leah Santa Cruz. We're the meditation coaches on the Balance app.
OFOSU: And this is our weekly show, Well Balanced.
LEAH: So Ofosu I have to play this video for you.
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CLIP: Oh, whenever you can go out into the rain, do not miss the opportunity.
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LEAH: Uh, love it. Have you seen that?
OFOSU: I, no, but I saw that it was trending, so I figured I would see it at some point. So here we are. Yeah.
LEAH: So for those who can't see, this is Drew Barrymore, the actress, and she's laughing in the rain and just smiling and it's really infectious.
So, um, it. Actually makes me wanna do the same thing. We get rain out here in Bali quite often. And I'm like, hmm we may have to do that with my son.
OFOSU: It was storming pretty bad. And I walked out in the rain today as a matter of fact. So it's so pretty interesting that we're watching this. Yeah, yeah.
LEAH: I mean, typically we're like running away from it.
We're like, oh no, I'm gonna get wet. But it's also something that is just natural and beautiful. And, I thought it was kind of a nice reminder to just appreciate all those little moments. And to look for something to enjoy in them to find pleasure in them. Even when it, even when our mind would say normally like this is something that isn't good, like yeah, we can actually enjoy those things.
OFOSU: You know, this has been a huge theme for me since coming back from the retreat at Plum Village is that happiness is accessible to all of us in small moments all the time that there's literally always something to connect with to support us, to nourish us, to bolster us. But I mean, that being said, it's something we have to train ourselves to do.
Sometimes we'll look outside and see it's raining and feel really bummed out. You know? So if this reminds me of an episode from last fall, when we had our amazing listeners send in moments, memories of ordinary moments yeah. That they said that they'll remember forever, that was so sweet and touching.
If you haven't heard it, please go back and listen to it. Um, but yeah, it's not always, it's not intuitive for us. I think to appreciate this, the rain, and even sometimes the sunshine when it's happening, it's really something that we have to develop.
LEAH: Yeah. And I wanted to talk about how do we develop that skill?
How do we develop that muscle of appreciating the everyday moments for what they are while they're happening? Not just later on looking back at our lives going, oh man, I kind of missed it. You know, so first I wanted to talk about some of the science behind what they call mundane moments, these sort of everyday moments.
I kind of went down into that science hole on this one, but research psychologists, they have, uh, been more and more seeing what influences our lifetime happiness. Small moments, not like they're really big things. It's just those everyday little moments.
Like they found that we vastly underestimate how much we appreciate mundane events in the future. Wow. So as we get older, We look back just as fondly on the ordinary moments as we do on those big, extraordinary moments. So that's something that we learned from older people.
OFOSU: Yeah. I don't know about you, but maybe I'm getting older cause it is, I am working hard to really tap into these small things and like, yeah, this is just really wonderful.
LEAH: I appreciate so many of the small little moments now that I'm a Mom to a little boy, that's doing cute things every day. And it's really helped me learn how to slow down and just appreciate those moments. But yeah, in relationships, you know, like in our love relationships, finding those small daily interactions that we have with each other, with our partners that might really determine the relationship success versus really big things.
It's like how we interact every day, those little, little things, and all these psychologists that are studying happiness in general, what they're focusing on is that moment to moment happiness.
Let's make the little small things count. That's what that comes down to.
OFOSU: Yeah. It's the cumulative effect and I think training your brain to say this is really beautiful. As much as I've been working on this, yesterday I was having kind of a hard time connecting with the small moments and the good moments.
It was just a tough mental health day for me. I woke up and the sun was shining and as I went through the day, I kept saying to myself, there's nothing really wrong, but I just really don't feel good mentally. I just was not in a good place and my mind was not cooperating with me in trying to notice the beautiful little things.
It doesn't mean that I didn't still try to. One of the things for me has been clouds. Just looking up at the clouds sometimes, like if I'm driving or if I'm out and just marveling at this temporary, beautiful expression of nature. And just being like, man, that is freaking beautiful, you know?
LEAH: Yeah. It's easy to forget to look up at the clouds. But it does always feel good when you lift your head and you look up for the most part. I mean, I think it's a move that our body makes that opens our heart and we feel more connected to something bigger than ourselves.
OFOSU: Absolutely. Even the feeling of the breath coming in and out and each breath being it, it might sound hokey or whatever, but like each breath really is a miracle and it's not a guarantee that we'll make it through each breath.
So, to take a deep breath and just be like, oh man. Wow. You know, and to consider all the things that go into taking a breath, the way the light bounces off of leaves, like just small stuff. Even though yesterday, it was hard for me to notice them. I feel like, because I tried to, it still was supporting me through a tough day.
LEAH: Yeah. I've had times when I didn't appreciate the small things. And it was typically when I was overwhelmed with too many things to do on my to-do list. So like, I was keeping myself too busy to actually just look around and because all it takes is a moment of shifting your attention to going, oh! It brings me some pleasure.
To feel aware in your body, you enjoy something. But when you're, when you're so busy, like, oh no, I gotta get this done. I gotta get this done. You know, like that sort of hysterical, industriousness this is like a mood that I call it. It's really hard to just appreciate the everyday moments. And then you kind of are in a grumpy mood and you're not really sure why.
OFOSU: Yeah. Yeah. It happens to all of us. And I think about what I got from my experience yesterday, because I was also questioning myself. Well, why can't I access my happy button today? And the truth is it was a sucky day. Part of it was just a little bit bigger than the happy button part, but in working to look up at the clouds, connect with my breathing, even trying to, um, welcome the unpleasant feelings and just say, okay, you're here.
This is what it is. What can I learn from you even though it didn't feel good? I think in retrospect, I still was supporting myself quite a bit. Never once did I fully feel like I couldn't get out of it. You know?
LEAH: Yeah. Even when things are feeling super challenging and it's hard to just imagine being grateful for something, cause it feels like too much of a stretch.
Even appreciating the challenges for what they're teaching us and for how, when we stop for a moment and we just let our minds go to all those places - oh, I gotta get this done. I'm not sure how I'm gonna create more space in my life so I can be more relaxed and spend time with my family and not work so much.
Maybe that's a challenge that we have. Or maybe it's, gotta make dinner, I must call my mother. We can just start to run through all the challenges or the obstacles that we have, whether they're big or small and feel inside, like there's some aspect of ourselves, our soul in every challenge.
It's like we're evoking it to rise to the occasion and to gather all its resources and to figure it out. Because we like to figure out how to be more effective in the world and how to move and take action and make things easier. So even when there's a challenge that comes, there's a part that it ignites in us.
And we can be grateful. And our challenge is that we have this part of ourselves. And then when we can, we appreciate that a little bit. We can start to look around and go. Oh, you know what, like that light reflecting on that tree right now is quite beautiful. And I appreciate that. Or look at that kite in the sky.
Yeah. And you know, another practice that I learned years ago that I do often is gratitude. A gratitude journal, I find, is really, really helpful. Like if you think about how many people are on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, especially in the United States, but really across the world right now - prozac, for example, that increases your serotonin levels. That's how it works. But so does gratitude.
Gratitude increases your serotonin and then Wellbutrin for example, is a very common one that increases your dopamine levels. But so does gratitude. So it's kind of like nature's natural gift to us to help calm and relax our nervous system and help us cultivate more happiness. And it's very simple. So like jot down, you know, three, five things that you're grateful for. And there's always something we can find, always something.
OFOSU: My family and I were just on vacation, um, in North Carolina and, uh, It was just something that, um, we did very casually.
I would always just ask, like, what are three things we can be grateful for right now? Like just during breakfast or while we're driving from one place to another. And everyone always has an answer. Even if one of my kids was grumpy after hearing everybody go into a round of like three things, you come back to them and they've got something.
My wife and I went to lunch with our second oldest. And we did more of like a grown up gratitude. Like, you know, what's a person, place or thing that you're grateful for in this moment and why. And then we did like three rounds of that while we were waiting for our food to come, you know, it's just a sweet exercise during the pandemic.
We had a lot of time, you know, together as a family. So we did gratitude gatherings almost every evening until it was like, okay, we can't do this every evening cause the kids would get squirrely but still a few times a week we would get together, they'd bring out sketchbooks and we would just pick a person or we'd pick a place or we'd pick a thing again.
But this time we would have a drawing journal. So we would draw that person and we'd draw that place. We'd draw the thing and we'd take time and we would share. I think that it might be a little bit of a leap sometimes for folks to get to those gratitude activities. And so I think the first thing would be maybe just to set an intention to look for opportunities, to be grateful and begin with that intention and see if you can make it through your day.
Touching gratitude every once in a while. Like what can you, what can I be grateful for in this moment? Or is there something that I can be grateful for about what's happening right now?
LEAH: Which begs the question? What are you grateful for right now?
OFOSU: Oh gosh. I'm grateful for this conversation. I'm grateful for the impermanence that, you know, yesterday is not today.
Because today's been a much better day. I'm grateful for this work that we do. I'm grateful for that breath I just took. Once I start, I can just keep going.
LEAH: Yeah. What's something about yourself that you appreciate or are celebrating?
OFOSU: I, um, I just got an advanced copy of my book, you know, in the mail and it's like, oh, wow. I really did that. I'm a published author. It's called ‘Love Your Amazing Self’. It's a children's book that'll be coming out in November. So I'm, I'm grateful about that. And, uh, but you know, when you ask me, it's like, oh gosh, now I feel a little bashful.
LEAH: I think that's the point of it, cause it's always the most challenging to find something about ourselves that we can celebrate or appreciate. We're like, oh, am I allowed to do this? Do I? It's such a good thing. It's like, it's just part of what you, you know, you stand for too. And what we stand for is like, being kind to ourselves and appreciating ourselves is really a foundation place to begin with. it's not gonna turn us into egomaniacs.
OFOSU: So I'm gonna flip it back to you then. So what, what is something that you are grateful for about yourself right now?
LEAH: I just put together a 330 page manual deck for my teacher training coming up. And that was a Herculean task and I'm wow. I'm really proud of myself for that. Um, so like, I would say my, my determination.And also I'm really grateful for my family, my son, and that my mother-in-law is gonna come out to Bali to visit us nice this year.
And my husband's really happy about it. That's exciting news.
OFOSU: That is exciting.
LEAH: Oh, I was just gonna say, we were talking about clouds in the sky here in Bali. All the boys, um, it is a common practice for the ESE boys to do kites. So sometimes we'll look up in the sky and they'll be like 50 to 100 kites.
And some of these are massive. They're like the size of a king size bed. Massive. Wow. And it's a beautiful site to see.
OFOSU: Yeah. Yesterday in DC. I mean, it was like a DC trending thing. The sunset was really putting on a show and I guarantee that taking a moment to just look out at the sky will definitely settle the nervous system a bit, you know?
And, um, and then to appreciate what you're seeing as meditation. Practitioners - a big part of what we're talking about is actually being able to be present enough, to notice that there are beautiful things happening around us. And I think we can strengthen this muscle of being present by practicing mindfulness, practicing meditation.
It, it really is. The practice of being present. And it's something that I'm grateful for also because this ability to drop into presence in any given moment, um, is something that has developed as a result of my meditation practice. Um, good friend of mine, Don Scott, who is a teacher. I attended a retreat of hers, uh, last November.
She was talking about how you can kind of give yourself a little mental treat, like just acknowledgement whenever you're practicing meditation or going about your day. And you remember to come back to the present moment to pause and say, hey, I did that.
So if you're in your meditation, you notice your mind drifts off like it always will. But then as soon as you notice and you come back. Don't just come back, but be like great job, you know, like really acknowledge that you've come back to this present moment. And if you've been kind of just drifting off in the mind made world as you're cooking your dinner or eating, or just going about your day, and you remember to just come back for a moment to your breathing or to your steps or to your body to this moment, don't just come back, but come back and acknowledge it. Do a little mini celebration inside because that really tells the brain like this is something to be happy about coming back to the present moment. And so we learn not only to be present, but to associate being present with goodness.
LEAH: I love that. Yeah. So gratitude lists.
Have the intention to be grateful, to find moments of gratefulness. Be present in this moment. Find beauty in, you know, the clouds or whatever lights your fancy and meditation. Training your brain. Some good tips.
OFOSU: Yeah, for sure. And sometimes you're in the middle of a wonderful moment pausing to say to yourself, this is a wonderful moment just to really acknowledge it.
You know? I think that goes a long way too. Well, thanks for sparking this conversation, Leah, this was super fun. I love talking about this.
LEAH: Of course.Yeah. And, uh, before we, before we jump off, I wanted to tell everybody about a really cool series that we're starting next week for National Wellness month.
So each week in August, we're gonna be challenging ourselves and challenging you listening to make a quick behavioral change that might help you live a more balanced life. And these challenges are gonna be coming from some really exciting guests that we're bringing on, and they're gonna target everything from how to focus more to how we can reframe our negative emotions.
And we're gonna ask you, who's listening to join on those challenges and see how they work. And hopefully they're gonna work pretty well. And you'll have some great benefits in your life each week. We're gonna feature multiple listeners' experiences with the challenge. And so if you wanna see how to participate in that, we'll have more info next week.
OFOSU: Yeah. I'm super excited to see how all of this can help me personally and I'm always excited to hear from our listeners.
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OFOSU: If you wanna stay up to date with our show, subscribe or follow on your favorite podcast app. And please don't forget to rate and review us in that app, cause it helps us to grow and it helps to spread the word.
So we will be back next Monday with the start of our series of challenges for National Wellness month. Until then, constantly apply cheerfulness. If for no other reason, then you are on the path. Have a sense of gratitude for everything, even difficulty motions because of their potential to wake you up.
All right. Much love, take care, have a beautiful week.
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