21 “Non-Spiritual” Things that make us Happy.

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21 Simple “Non-Spiritual” Things that make for Daily Happiness.

It’s the Little Things.

What’s something “non-spiritual” or “non-religious” you do that others can do, too, to be happy day-to-day? Say in comments, below. Be specific-ish!

1. Touch water. Whether in the form of a hot bath, a cool drink of water (stay hydrated!), swimming or the ocean, water heals.

2. Sweat once a day. Exercise—find something you enjoy doing, and do it. I like bicycling, climbing, and yoga.

3. Eat real food. If it has more than three ingredients, generally, or if you’ve seen an ad for it, generally—skip it.

4. Support, subscribe, read a good magazine (print or online) that’s better than you are—with a hot drink of coffee or tea and a little sunshine and quiet.

5. Keep our clothes off the floor. While a messy house, full of love, can be delightful, our environments reinforce our mental states, just as our physical posture can enlighten or depress us. So let’s practice keeping things relatively clean not out of a sense of uptightness, but out of a sense of matter-of-fact delight in daily beauty, respect and simplicity.

6. Community. Even if we don’t meditate, seeing community—bicycling around, at the dog park, at the grocery, at the cafe—will uplift and open our troubled hearts.

7. Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Smile at a stranger. Smile, period. It gets easier with practice (I say this as someone who doesn’t suffer new agey fools, gladly). Laughter, too, is one thing that’s no less delightful even if you’re faking it until you really mean it.

8. Work in an office, or live with, a dog. Dogs are shown to dramatically up folks’ happiness, and productivity, both. And they’ll force you to get outside. Caveat: only adopt if we’re ready, more or less. Never buy.

9. Breathe in and out, slowly, once a day. Feel one’s breath like the rising, falling waves. Breathe deeply, clearing out old air. Breathe up into one’s collar bones.

@waylonlewis on Instagram

10. Never eat while standing up, or driving. We’ll overeat, generally, and we won’t enjoy the food so much.

11. Never cell phone while talking, or walking. Do one thing at a time, and know that it’s not a waste—being present is always more efficient, and leads to space for good ideas and fresh approaches.

12. Hike. Or, just walk. Get out in nature. Or, a park. Nature opens us up, and calms our kleshas.

13. Stop obsessing about one’s own happiness. Help others. In small or ongoing ways.

14. Put on a favorite song and sing it out, like we mean it.

@waylonlewis: Instagram. elephant tote bag, side one. Organic, Made in USA.

15. Pick up trash in the street. Take a bottle out of the trash, and put it in recycling. Save unused napkins from a restaurant for use at home. Do little things for society that may go “unrewarded.”

16. Watch a movie and eat a little too much ice cream/pop corn/vegan ice cream/edamame/nuts. Collapsing into one’s core once in a while is necessary to one’s creative energies.

17. Put a few photos of loved ones around.

18. Be honest. This includes doing work for money that we can believe in, or finding a way to feel good about it.

19. Sleep more. Even a little more. I have no idea how, but it’s a good idea.

20. Write. Whether a journal or a blog, expressing oneself is cathartic and sensical-making.

21. Meditate. There’s nothing “spiritual” about meditation. It’s simply sitting still, with good, relaxed posture, and paying attention to one’s outbreath. When we notice a thought, that’s fine, we acknowledge it with a “label” by saying, silently, to ourselves, “thinking,” and returning to the outbreath. Before we know it: present moment, from whence all great and good things manifest.




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Mark LaPorta Jan 20, 2019 10:43am

Nice list but any one of these could go either way, up or down, better or worse.
There is an attitude that must be behind it, and that can be esoteric and elusive.
The very concept of spirituality is fraught with hazards — vainglory and others.
Self-aggrandizement is the single biggest hazard to all these activities.
Don’t you agree?

anonymous Jul 16, 2015 5:03am

I believe that people who compliment others and feel it contributes to society and makes them feel good are not realizing that their opinion does not validate another. Your opinion is not important that it needs to be expressed even if its a 'good opinion' nor does it require the receiver of your vocalized opinion to value it.. It's insulting, at times, to be 'complimented' unless it's about how damn smart I am…how I look physically is not of your concern nor your opinion of my business.

anonymous Jul 6, 2015 5:43am

Music: any music, any type. Set a time to relax and really listen.
Better yet make some music yourself. Piano, guitar, ukulele, tamborine. You’d be surprise how just keeping a beat with some sticks helps your attitude and outlook!

anonymous Jul 1, 2015 9:28am

Teach the next generation about their ancestors. If you don't know your own family history then teach yourself as well.

anonymous Jun 23, 2015 5:37pm

Dance! Turn up the music to your favorite song and get your body moving even if you’re not good at it. No one is judging.
Inspire others. Take time to encourage someone to live out their dream, accomplish a goal and to be good to self.

anonymous Apr 10, 2015 5:43pm

I do almost the 21things, seriously I do! and for me is wellness flowing.

And all of them are far from complicated. Really easy to accomplish with a little engagement.

anonymous Apr 5, 2015 7:54am

Creativity- beside singing and writing, dance to a favorite song and do art- doodle, sketch, paint even if you believe you have no “talent”. Find non verbal ways to express yourself.

anonymous Feb 10, 2015 7:57am

I like complimenting random women. Gives me a sense of pride! Also, who doesn’t like a simple compliment?!

anonymous Feb 9, 2015 5:59pm

I don't like number 6, mixing with people is miserable.

anonymous Dec 7, 2014 7:51am

I am excited about my work. Every day I work–I am working on my Ph.D.–I am excited about some piece of research I find, or how a paragraph takes shape as I "sweat" the grammar and diction. I like to write, even though it is a painstaking process, and something exciting always happens. I am more joyful because I find little bits of joy and excitement in my work.

anonymous Oct 13, 2014 9:08am

Sleep more and keep stuff off the floor? I can tell you one thing about the author. They don't live in a home with pre-schoolers.

anonymous Oct 13, 2014 7:59am


anonymous Oct 5, 2014 3:09pm

Touch!! Touch yourself in kindness…Massage yourself and make any hard part soften. Your neck, your shoulders, your belly, your (lower) back, your buttocks and……do not be afraid! Enjoy touching and massage your own body wil all the love and kindness within you. Accept your sexuality as part of you when it 'pops up' touching yourself. Breath through all you movements………Be kind to yourself

anonymous Sep 9, 2014 12:00pm

Touch water, walk in nature, eat real food, avoid multitasking – YES!

I think a lot of it is about defending yourself from the demands of your world, creating space for yourself to ground and get in touch with what you want in that moment.

The thing is, all these little things won't completely change your life if you need a big overhaul. A half hour walk on the lunch break will *help* you tolerate a crap job, but what you really need is a different job, change of scene. Never underrate the little things, but keep in mind the little things don't replace the big changes if you need them.

(Speaking from personal experience, that is.)

anonymous Aug 10, 2014 8:33am

12, 13, and 14 are my favorites. I like that the author put "non-spiritual" in quotes. Anything and everything can be a spiritual experience if you choose to see it that way. There is much fulfillment to be found in the seemingly mundane.

anonymous May 20, 2014 11:51am

Have I become a Waylon-whatever to Waylon-wow lately? I have been reading your articles alone (maybe a coincidence) but a lot that's coming from you is ringing much in my head. Guess I'm catching your vibrations or connecting spirit-spirit? It is my wish to write for Elephant Journal someday. Thanks for making a difference to my life! Namaste (bowing with gratitude).

anonymous Apr 30, 2014 5:41pm

Eat a small piece of rich, dark chocolate very slowly and really really enjoy it 🙂 If you're a chocolate lover that is.

anonymous Apr 29, 2014 9:30am

Manners. Holding the door for someone, giving a stranger a hand, being polite, etc. always lifts the mood of the giver and receiver. And cat purrs lift the heart as well.

anonymous Mar 26, 2014 8:15am

#1- they say saltwater is a cure for everything, be it ocean, sweat, or tears.

anonymous Mar 19, 2014 9:25am

every single one of these things is spiritual. they may not be religious… smiling doesn't affect your spirit? meditation isn't a spiritual action? really? is this guy joking? honesty is a principle that is fundamental to spiritual following a spiritual path. Best rule of thumb, bud: If it feels good, its good for you, and you're not hurting anyone? It's spiritual. Maybe you need to rethink things a bit before you write another article.

anonymous Mar 15, 2014 7:23am

Pin up this pic of Paul Newman! THAT makes me happy.

anonymous Mar 13, 2014 11:49pm

I take one day a week (Saturday morning) to have some time for myself and take two dance classes. It's healing and I have my own form of family there, too! Definitely good to get exercise and have fun at the same time 🙂

anonymous Mar 13, 2014 2:54pm

Expand your view of what "spiritual" means. All of these things are, indeed, spiritual! Unless you are confined to strictly religious view. And even so, how could these things not bring you closer to God?

anonymous Mar 13, 2014 8:28am

22. Read a book. Especially one that you don't want to end–outside when the weather is nice or inside when it is raining or snowing with two dogs on your lap.

anonymous Feb 27, 2014 2:58pm

There seems to be a lack of beer on here. Beer is non-spiritual and makes a lot of people happy.

anonymous Feb 27, 2014 8:24am

And ice cream?

anonymous Feb 27, 2014 6:56am

I like these suggestions but I believe you are losing people like myself in these definitions of what and what is not spiritual. Why label this “non spiritual” in the first place? Everything we do touches our spirit. To label something as non-spiritual and spiritual is an attachment. These are words that we attach meaning to. Make a list and let people decide what works for them, but please get over this obsession with the word “spirit”. In my opinion, you are diluting your message, missing the forest for the trees.

anonymous Jan 10, 2014 6:43pm

I’ am my best self when happy.

All of these contribute to that and I’ll add four more: cook, laugh, learn & travel!

anonymous Jan 7, 2014 12:41am

Spirit cannot be disconnected from anything… and spiritual and religious are not synonymous.

anonymous Dec 27, 2013 10:23am

Learn to play an instrument, and get good enough to "create" music with it. Try playing it with others, and learn to complement something that someone else has created.

anonymous Dec 26, 2013 2:51pm

Love all of these, particularly 8, 9 12, 14, and 20. Beautiful all around. Thanks, Waylon.

anonymous Dec 19, 2013 10:19am

love this! completely accessible and do able for all of us regardless of life path. hell yeah! Go team!

anonymous Dec 18, 2013 7:44am

It's true, GMC, how is that nobody's talking about Paul?? I love the man, he's great.

anonymous Dec 17, 2013 1:02pm

#22. Date that guy in the black and white photo!

anonymous Dec 17, 2013 9:48am

I love this list! I do have to say though, that every single one of those actions, is actually a way of connecting to our own spirit…….

anonymous Dec 17, 2013 8:49am

1. Touch water.. Really… I love swimming.. But what about touching and holding someone you care for ….and lovemaking … Should top the kyat..

2. Sweating… No way…running n jogging n stretching — for sure—exercise activities that get the blood flowing……

anonymous Dec 7, 2013 11:45pm

light a candle and send the light out to the world

anonymous Dec 5, 2013 7:04pm

You totally left out ridin the Harley.. LOL.

anonymous Dec 5, 2013 7:04pm

You totally left out ridin the Harley.. LOL.

    anonymous Jul 5, 2015 1:25pm

    Or the Suzuki GSX-R 750 through a sweeper 20-30 > PSL. Whoop myself hoarse. :)))

anonymous Dec 2, 2013 7:02pm

The spirit is what makes everything possible.

anonymous Dec 2, 2013 1:32pm

I find most of these things "spiritual", just saying 😀

anonymous Dec 2, 2013 12:33pm

I thank all of the natural elements for creating what nourishes me/us & the many hands that worked hard to provide it for us. This is not necessarily religious or spiritual but a way of being present with my food in the moment before taking it in.

anonymous Dec 2, 2013 2:16am

Start talking to strangers. I saw this on another unrelated post and I love the idea. In a store line up, ask someone ahead of you if a food item they are buying is good, or what they plan to make for dinner that night. Stop on the street and tell someone the dog their are walking is really cute and how old is it? Ask the check out clerk if they've had a busy day. Ask the person the bus what was the last book they read and if they'd recommend it. Be random and have fun, you never know what people will come up with. The cool thing is, unless the person you try to talk to is a recluse, they will actually feel good that you cared enough to talk to them. Although not always, but if they are nice people they will. 🙂

    anonymous Dec 23, 2013 6:40am

    I agree wholeheartedly, Melanie! I started talking to strangers as soon as I could talk … and I have never stopped. There is always something that will lend itself to a short conversation–an honest compliment, a statement, or a question–are good starters–it's amazing how good it makes both of you feel!!!

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 10:25pm

Nice list. But I'd say all of those are very spiritual things.

Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 4:46pm

I loved these. Puts everything back into perspective!

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 10:46am

why isn't anyone mentioning the picture of Paul??? THAT makes me happy! 😉

    anonymous Sep 16, 2014 11:08pm

    RIght?? I was just going to say, that picture makes me happy indeed! Rowr 🙂

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 10:08am

All these are Great! One I would mention is DANCE! I know Sweating is listed, which I agree 100%, as is singing… so Dance as if no one is watching!!!

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 8:09am

I believe that these things can and do fall under being spiritual (and not religious). Most of them bring us closer to our core and to others. Life is spiritual in essence and anything bringing us into understanding of the simpler is essential to well being.

anonymous Sep 8, 2013 12:06pm

Now how did you do a whole list without including "make something"? Art isn't just for capital A Artists. Make an omelet, or a sandwich, or a soup (whatever), and take a few extra minutes to make it as wonderful and beautiful as you can. If you think you cannot draw, make one five minute doodle a day, and you'll discover a whole new form of meditation. Make a mud pie with a child, or a sidewalk chalk drawing (even more decadently happy-inducing if you let yourself do it sans child, perhaps). Make a love poem in the steam on the bathroom mirror. Make a little grouping of interesting and pretty bits on a mantle or shelf, and change out one thing each week, until it tells a story you want to live with.

    anonymous Feb 9, 2015 6:09pm

    I agree with all this Dawn-Marie, I have never grown up entirely and love to stand in the rain, splash in puddles, squish mud between my toes. Bake something I can pour love into. I have raised 6 kids alone, but never feel alone and let the children hold onto the things they love instead of telling them to grow up. Every single day we just look at the birds and nature and to play and color in and to always giggle. Every night I fall asleep watching the stars as I never close the blinds. I may never be rich but to me wealth is here in all that I have, to see, touch and enjoy.

anonymous Sep 8, 2013 9:06am

Like! I'm going to smile more.

anonymous Apr 1, 2013 6:14pm

[…] Two good posts from Elephant Journal, 21 “Non-Spiritual” Things that make us Happy and 3 Ways to Kick Your Sugar […]

anonymous Mar 28, 2013 5:24am

And I would argue there is absolutely EVERYTHING on this list falls under the category of spiritual. I define spiritual as anything that helps us to know peace, joy, love, to be creative and to find fulfillment. In other words….all of the above. http://yourspiritualtruth.com

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 11:49pm

    i AGREE so much, and these are wonderful suggestions in this article, but i am baffled as to why the author insists that none of these things are spiritual. i am also baffled by "spiritual" being compared to "religious," because in my experience they are two completely different things. being spiritual means being in touch with yourself and with others, and that is what this article is suggesting we do. being spiritual is connecting to our higher consciousness, to the infinity of the universe, and to love. as a gay kid that grew up in a baptist church, I am disheartened that "spiritual" has become a bad word. maybe it's semantics, and the important thing is that we all mean well (and this article DOES mean well), but I can't help but be concerned. spirituality is about getting to know yourself, your brain, and our infinite consciousness. it's about realizing, on your own terms, that there is a lot that we strive to know and don't. I hope people reading this will reconsider their distaste for "spiritual." in the end, it doesn't matter what you call it, it matters that we DO it. that we connect with ourselves and others and learn to love. PEACEEEE

    anonymous Jul 16, 2014 5:38pm

    This is exactly what I was thinking!!

    anonymous Nov 16, 2014 2:48am

    I absolutely agree with you. I love the list and practice many of the "simple joys" , but can't understand why the author doesn't acknowledge the spiritual essence that is so obviously there? I mean, an article with quotes from the Dalai Lama and Buddha screams spirituality. The title just seems to contradict the content.

anonymous Mar 27, 2013 10:43pm

1) Brush my cat – the resulting purrs always put a smile on my face.
2) Put on my favourite music and dance – guaranteed to get rid of stress.
3) Be thankful even for little things in my life, like the smell of onions cooking or the fact that my tarragon is flourishing.
4) Cook real food, and bake real bread.
5) Eat real food.
6) Read. Everything and anything.

anonymous Mar 27, 2013 10:32pm

Today I got to be a resource for my mother's health. She called me for advice. Being able to express my love and gratitude for her in this way made me enormously happy.

anonymous Nov 28, 2012 12:18pm

[…]   For more. […]

anonymous Nov 27, 2012 6:24pm

I have two special times that are built into my day- and I never miss either one.

1) I walk my dog, Betty, a black Labrador, everyday- it gets me outside in my neighborhood and she loves it.

2) I pick up my grandson, Lewis, who is 8 years old everyday from school. He tells me all about his day at school while we drive by the dog park and guess how many dogs will be there each day. It is a great pick me up and makes me happy.

anonymous Nov 26, 2012 2:45pm

Nice reminder of the simple things in life…refreshing. One thing I would say though is watch it on the sleeping. Sleeping too much can cause a negative mental reaction. A healthy sleeping in a little more I would imagine is fine. I think Don't Be Afraid to Be a Fool is my favorite! Live!

anonymous Nov 25, 2012 8:28pm

I loved every suggestion made among the 21 items.Each one makes sense logically,is good for ll aspects of our health an dis just plain soothing.Since I am more than a sentient being,these things are also good for me spiritually.Thank you so much for presenting these ideas!

anonymous Nov 25, 2012 2:34pm

I love these. I cut and pasted them to remind myself and reflect on them. I try to find little ways to be kind, such as tossing loose change in a payphone slot I often see homeless folks checking or complimenting parents on how lovely their children are behaving.

anonymous Nov 25, 2012 12:50pm

I pay attention to children. Favorite: parents occupied in conversation, entering grocery store. Their 8-9 yr old son held hands up & automatic doors opened. Said to him as quiet aside while passing, You must have magic hands. Made his day.

anonymous Nov 25, 2012 12:43pm

I agree with Sara. Give me time to be the captain of my own ship, and I'm in the happiness groove. I also love eating in the car, just once a week with my favorite raw pie, yum!

anonymous Nov 22, 2012 12:42pm

I loved all of those. One of my favourite happiness makers is spending a day on my own – that is the best battery re-charger that I know!

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.