It’s actually pretty nice being able to stop and reflect on some of the little things in life that make me happy. The internet is full of crazy, so here’s my bit of sanity. Why 50-ish? Well, I was told to do 50, and as I was writing the descriptions I thought of a few more. There is no order to this list besides the order they came to mind.
- Ice cream
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. All of the ice cream is delicious. Duh.
Being surrounded by green things either in nature or in my apartment brings peace of mind and calmness. Not to mention bettering air quality. Additionally, being able to grow things and keep them alive is a simple accomplishment that makes me feel good.
- Hydrangeas and peonies
I find these flowers very romantic and classic. I really like them in white or blush pink. Sometimes I’ll buy them when I’m shopping at the grocery store just to take home something pretty for myself.
- Soft blankets
Idk if this needs a description. Soft blankets are amazing and supplement #26 when it’s cold.
- Red red wine
Both because of the song and because it tastes good. And apparently it makes you healthier. Idk, I read somewhere that a glass of red wine is equivalent to spending ten minutes at the gym in regard to heart health. So I’m all about doing multiple reps of lifting and pouring. Science.
- Jack Reacher novels
Jack Reacher is a boss and I enjoy being thrown into military dramas where the good guy can take care of some serious business. I like thrillers and action stories and these take the cake. Plus they’re easy to read. When I’m in the mood to read but don’t know what (even if my bookshelf is full of stuff I haven’t ready yet), I’ll usually pick up one of these.
*2022 update: Love that this is now a series on Amazon Prime. Also love that they casted Alan Ritchson as Reacher, an actor who actually looks like Reacher as described in the books. Sorry, not sorry Tom Cruise.
- Design and branding guides
I’m a designer so I like to see how others in the industry are doing things. They give me inspiration for my own work and processes, and feeling inspired makes me happy. Also, the books themselves are usually awesome works of art. Who says print is dead?!
- Dark chocolate chips
Um, chocolate is delicious. And it’s “dark” chocolate so it’s healthy. You know, antioxidants and stuff. These also go really well with #5.
Pancakes are always good. They’re like pillows of deliciousness and can be made with almost anything. Chocolate chips. Blueberries. Bananas. And they’re one of my favorite Treat Yo Self things I make myself on a Sunday morning 🙂
- Disney movies – Lion King, Aladdin, Cinderella, Moana, Anastasia, Frozen
Even though Disney movies can have a negative associations – inappropriate innuendos, unrealistic lessons about life, etc – they are still super comforting to me because they remind me of childhood and having an innocent view of life. Being an adult is hard, so it’s nice to escape every once in a while.
- French macarons
Aka sugary pillows of amazingness. They’re super hard to make so I appreciate the skilled confectioners who can! Macarons come in so many flavor combinations. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad one. Also they’re really pretty to look at.
- Black and white color palettes
I like seeing neutral base palettes. In interior design, outfits, graphic and web design. I like the non-fussy, classy and simplistic vibe it gives off. This particular kitchen was designed by the brilliant Joanna Gaines on S5:E1 of Fixer Upper.
Idk why I didn’t put this closer to the top of my list. I love it. I do it all the time. It’s an easy way to exercise and has zero negative consequences. Also it’s free and is a great way to explore a new city or neighborhood. And it’s a great excuse to just get outside! Which brings me to:
- Trail time
Going back to number 2, green things make me happy. The trail is my happy place. Actually, I started spending time at the MKT trail after returning from a mission trip we took to Jamaica while I was in high school. The trip changed my life in many ways, but one of the most impactful things it gave me was the intense craving to spend more time outside. The trail is a great place for quiet time. It’s perfect for disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of daily life; for slowing down and meditating on things. It’s also a great place for meeting friends and family to catch up or just get in some exercise. Every time I go back home I make a point to schedule in trail time, either solo or with my peeps.
- Hiking in the mountains
This is obvi super similar to #15, but includes mountains. I mention mountains again in #40, but the reason hiking in the mountains makes me happy is because it’s time outside that is a little more challenging than just being on a trail. Hiking up a mountain is hard but always rewarding. And those views!
So I’ve only been there once* but it made me happy. California has everything, good and bad (hello earthquakes and wildfires). But Highway 1 is beautiful and I would love to drive it again. A lot of the stuff on this list of things that make me happy can be found in, or come from, California.
*2022 update: I now live here! Funny how life works.
- Puppies (aka puppers, aka doggos)
Um they’re cute and the most loyal companions on Earth. You can be a mess of a person and a dog will still love you. Puppies are not judgmental like people are. I see a pup in the street and immediately light up, creating a storyline in my head about their day or what they might be thinking about. My heart explodes when I’m sitting alone on the curb or on a bench minding my own business and a pup comes right up to me for some social time!
- Playing cards with my family
My family’s game is Cribbage. It’s definitely a small town Iowa game. My mom’s family is from Ottumwa and the only person I’ve met who knows about cribbage also happens to be from Iowa. Growing up, my mom’s side always played it at family events. There would be drinks and cards and dancing and tons of belly laughs! Every time I’m home for a holiday or family event we make time to get in a few hands.
- Head massages
Most people can agree head massages feel amazing. Having my hair played with is also nice. Both make me feel warm and calm.
Whether I’m on the stage or on the dance floor at a bar, dancing is something that always makes me happy. Moving freely to music is such a great release. Sometimes when I’m sad or upset I’ll put on some jams and dance around my apartment. It always makes me feel happier! It also makes me feel sexier, which in turn helps boost confidence and my overall attitude toward whatever is going on in my life.
- Sunshine, All of the
Honestly, who doesn’t like all of the sunshine? Besides vampires and people living in the Pacific Northwest… Sunny days are beautiful, and feeling sunshine on my face warms my soul. I guess vitamin D in general is good for us, so there you go with the science, again.
- Clear blue skies
Typically when the sky is clear the sun is out, so I guess this goes with #23. Clear skies are pretty, and pretty things make me happy.
- Pride & Prejudice
I’m a big fan of the movie with Keira Knightly. She plays Elizabeth really well and the story itself is a classic. It’s another go-to when I want to watch a movie on a lazy afternoon. The music is also super relaxing and fun to twirl around to. I keep telling myself I’m gonna read the book, but why would I do that when it’s so easy to press play?
This is another one of those science things. Snuggling is good for everyone. I like snuggling with soft blankets (see #4) when it’s cold out.
- Memes, feminist sarcasm, good quotes
It’s comforting to see others write down things I think every day as a woman, but also as a basic human. Instagram is a great place for finding these kinds of things – but I’m not saying Instagram makes me happy. I might have to do a followup post on some of my favorite memes and quotes from Insta. There are so many.
- Feeling confident in my work
It took me a while to get into the design world. Honestly, I majored in design because it was the only paying option for someone decent at art who didn’t like school that much. In fact, I didn’t get into the program the first time I applied to it. I was devastated and thought, well I guess I can find something else to major in. That said, I’ve learned the majority of the things in my industry by working, reading blogs, and seeking out challenging projects. The first internship I took, after being encouraged by a friend to take a chance on myself, actually helped me learn some of the basic skills I needed to go back to school, re-apply to the design program, and actually get in. Learning on the job and being encouraged to take time for research and development (I really like the design and user experience blogs on Medium) have actually made me more confident in my work, which has made me take more chances and have greater successes as a designer. If you told me when I was struggling in school that I’d be one of the first designers people approach for advice, consultations, and design related questions I’d have laughed you out the door. I’ve reinvented every role at almost every job I’ve had so far in my career, and that in itself makes me really happy. I’m pretty excited to see how far I get in this crazy industry.
- Learning new things
So this one obviously goes with #28, but it’s something I struggled with a lot growing up. Learning stuff, or being forced to learn stuff I wasn’t interested in (ahem, school), was always such a bore to me. But as an adult, and as someone who wants to keep improving, it’s almost a necessity. I think learning new things, much like doing tasks you don’t want to do but know you should do, is easier when it’s your idea. It’s also kind of like exercise. You know it’s good for you, and you don’t always want to do it, but by flexing and training weak muscles you get stronger and it’s so rewarding and fulfilling afterward! When I decided to learn how to code I chose Skillcrush since one of their packages offered lifetime access to all of their classes! A great value to me since I like to learn gradually, taking my time piece by piece, repeating material and tasks as I need rather than cramming it all into one sitting and immediately forgetting.
- Lil kids saying funny stuff
Little kids are just funny miniatures who don’t give a flip about saying what they think. There is something to be said about always indulging our childish enthusiasm for life.
- Receiving text novels from my Grandma
She is the savviest 81 year old I know. She’s always got updates to share and questions to ask about her iPhone or her wifi setup. I love her long texts because I know she spends time on them and I appreciate her desire to share as much as she can in one message. She’s a busy body and gets easily side-tracked, so it’s fun to hear about all the things going on in her world. I will most likely be a lot like her when I’m old. Busy and bossy and always ready to learn new things.
- Waking up without blemishes on my face
I hardly remember what it’s like to have flawless skin. Mild days usually brighten my spirits tho. Beyonce’s always there to remind me I’m flawless too.
- The endorphins after working out
Those rare occasions of sweating a ton are usually worth it. Lacing up the shoes and getting out the door is the hard part. Something about objects in motion… Boxing is fun tho, and probably my high intensity workout of choice.
- Tailgating at sports events
I enjoy hanging with friends and family before a game, eating food, drinking drinks, and throwing or kicking a ball around before going in to watch our team seek the W!
- Mexican food
Tacos, quesadillas, chips and salsa, guacamole, and quality margaritas. The list goes on. I’m always down for Mexican food.
- The West Wing
Idk how to say this without sounding like a nerd, but this is one of my all-time favorite shows to watch. Since college I’ve watched the entire series at least four times over the course of a year. It’s an immediate go-to when I’m not in the mood for anything and just want some political wit. My mom used to watch it when I was growing up, and even though I had no idea what was going on, she sometimes used it for talking about politics with me. Being an adult now, I just love it because it’s fast-paced (a trait of Aaron Sorkin’s writing) hilarious, and has a quotable line for almost any situation. And while it’s clearly fictional, it’s become eerily relevant in the past few years. There have been times when I watch it when a real life current event is happening that is almost the exact same situation. The character plots are easy to get attached to, so it’s fun to rewatch and pick up their quirks or find the moments of foreshadowing. Every time I watch it I pick up a new line I haven’t heard before or a reference I didn’t understand fully, which is also fun.
- Parks and Rec
All the characters are great and the writing is perfect for political humor and women’s issues in the workplace. Took me a little while to get into it, but it’s become one of my favorite alternatives if I’ve been watching too much of The West Wing (#36) or when nothing sounds good on Netflix and I just want some uppity background noise.
- Listening to a summer storm with the windows open
It might just be a Midwest thing, but in the summer, listening to thunderstorms roll in while the windows and doors are open is a lovely experience. The sound and smell of the rain and the cool breeze that comes into the house is so refreshing and relaxing. I’ve opened my windows a couple times since moving to the city. It’s not entirely the same but it is still very comforting. Some of the lucky people in the Midwest who have covered front porches will say they like to sit outside on their porch while storms come through. I’ve always been jealous of that. Which is a nice segue to:
- Front porches
I love looking at them. I love being on them. They’re a great place to hang with family or friends when you want to be outside, but still sorta inside. Grab a chair or a swing and some sweet tea and you’ve got yourself a perfect summer day. Or night. Let’s be real, they’re great for all seasons and occasions.
“Far better writers than me have struggled to put into words what makes the mountains majestic. So I won’t even try.” – Credit for putting into words what’s hard to put into words.
- Sweet potato fries
Whenever I’m at a restaurant and sweet potato fries are on the menu, I order them. They’re sweet and warm and delicious. And an excuse to get a lil more beta-Carotene into my system. They’re also one of the comfort foods I’ll make for dinner when I don’t know what to eat but want something warm and semi-healthy. In fact, I’m making them right now as I write this. Yumm.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary series
The fictional character makes me feel less like a total screw up when it comes to relationships and being single.
- Chrissy Teigen & John Legend
One of my fave celebrity couples. Their story is so great and they are just cool people. Chrissy and John are really fun to follow on social media. They are smart and witty and just aren’t afraid to gush about each other. Chrissy is amazing at keeping it real as a human, and John is always there to give us all the feels about his love for his family. If they can’t make it, there’s no hope for the rest of us.
- Not having to wear underwear
Underwear and bras can be such a pain. Literally. As most women experience, bras hardly ever fit and underwear has a tendency to bunch where it shouldn’t. So as much as I can I avoid it. I’ll wear dresses just so I can wear tights instead of undies, and I’ll live in athletic gear at home and on weekends so I can wear pieces that don’t require underwear. Which brings me to:
- Living in leggings/yoga pants
You can wear them without undies – or at least I prefer them that way – and they go with almost any casual outfit, if done right. Also, leggings are stupid comfortable. Stretchy stuff is the best.
- Clean sheets
Nothing like jumping into a bed that has freshly laundered sheets. Growing up I thought my mom was bonkers for washing her sheets every weekend, but now I know why. Not only is it more sanitary, but it’s such a great feeling to climb into a bed with fresh sheets. Plus, it’s a simple #adulting accomplishment before starting a new week.
- Cooking and baking at home
I like eating food and I like making food. I didn’t do a lot of cooking at home until high school. I’d spend summers watching cooking shows on Food Network and trying out recipes with my Grandma. When school was back in session I took a couple culinary classes. At one point I thought being a cruise ship chef sounded like a good job to have – 6 months at sea, 6 months off – but then I realized living on a ship would suck and the food industry is rough. Now I just like cooking and baking at home because it’s something to do when I’m bored, plus everybody’s gotta eat! It’s also a great stress reliever, it’s cheaper than going out, and it’s a fun way to experiment and learn new things. One of my favorite things to do is make “healthy” versions of my favorite recipes (hello chocolate chip cookies and lemon cupcakes) so I feel better when I inevitably eat all of them by myself. When I’m looking for a “clean eating” or vegan recipe I always check Minimalist Baker first. Dana has so many great recipes and adaptations on her site that are simple and taste like the real thing!
- Being told I look nice when I feel like crap
I received the “Most likely to not take a compliment” award at one of my internships. It’s true. Mostly it was because I had super low self-esteem and always thought people would compliment me or my work out of obligation. I never thought they were being sincere. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it’s ok to accept compliments. In fact people generally won’t give out a compliment unless they mean it. So when I receive them now, especially spontaneously and on days I feel crappy, they are especially appreciated.
- Crossing things off of lists
One of the trends in this list is the feeling of accomplishment. I like patting myself on the back for getting shit done. It makes me happy. And making a list just to cross things off is something that helps me feel productive and accomplished. I make task lists in my google calendar at work, grocery lists on my phone, and my weekend to-do list I’ll actually write out with pen and paper. It’s just nice to cross things off as done. Especially things that might be challenging to complete – crossing my to-do for completing this list of 50 things is gonna feel sooo good.
I’d like to say I practice yoga, but that would mean I actually do it regularly. I don’t, and mostly it’s because I’m lazy when I get home, but it’s something I always think about doing when I’m stressed at work, having a hard time sleeping, or feeling sore. It’s so relaxing and just generally good to do. It increases flexibility and circulation, and is a simple way to boost those endorphins! When I do make the effort I’ll usually stream Yoga With Adriene on YouTube. Adriene is super down to earth and chill, and not intimidating like other yoga instructors.
- Sherlock Holmes BBC television series
I should probably start reading the books. I love the mysteries and the humor. And the BBC version is just done so well. I like the movie too with Robert Downey Jr. but I think the series is more fun because it has more storylines and is set in modern society.
- English accents
Obvious, based on 25, 42, and 55, I like English accents and films set in England. Idk why they make me so happy, but they do. Sometimes I like to practice the accents by saying lines I hear from shows and movies. And with that I’ll actually add one more. I also like the Wedding Date. It’s an easy movie to watch, Dermot Mulroney is hot, and it takes place in London. The step family is hilarious and I love listening to all their accents.
Puzzles are both relaxing and challenging. For me, puzzles are the original adult coloring book.
- Betty White
Betty is a boss. She makes me so happy whenever she appears in TV shows and commercials. She and I also happen to be birthday month twins. Betty is ten days short of being exactly 70 years my senior. But as we all know, age is just a number. I strongly believe she will live forever, and I hope she does because I think we could be best friends.
- Brilliant animations of science
I mentioned science a few times in this list. Here’s one more. This is a myosin protein dragging an endorphin along a filament to the inner part of our brain’s parietal cortex. Happiness. You’re looking at happiness. And this is a great vid on a day in the life of a motor protein. If they’d explained chemistry to me like this in school I might have learned more. Or just paid more attention.