The Joy of Small Comforts


By Leo Babauta

Some days, I’m in need of some comfort. I’m tired, emotionally drained, or just feeling besieged by the world.

On these days, I try to recognize my physical, mental and emotional state, and I ask myself what I need.

Just noticing is a big step for most of us. We often don’t recognized when we’re feeling drained or a bit battered by life. We just focus on what we think we need to be doing, and just push through. This might feel necessary, but it’s rarely helpful, because we’re just forcing ourselves to act when we’re depleted or feeling confronted.

So if we notice … we might pause. Take a breath or two. Check in with ourselves. What do I need.

Sometimes, for me, it’s a little rest. I’ll take a nap. This is a beautiful little comfort I give myself, and I feel much refreshed after.

Today I’d love to advocate for small comforts. A nap is a great example, but there are so many more.

Here are some of my favorite small comforts:

  • A minute of breathing and being present to what we’re feeling.
  • A luxurious stretch.
  • A hot cup of tea.
  • A hot shower.
  • A relaxing walk in nature.
  • Some berries, or another delicious fruit.
  • A hug from a loved one.
  • A short meditation session.
  • A spoonful of peanut butter.
  • Curling up with a good book.
  • A massage.
  • Sitting in a hot tub.
  • Sitting with someone and listening to music.
  • Having a square or two of dark chocolate.

What are some of yours?

As we talk about small comforts, I should note a few important things:

First: this is about small comforts, not about overdoing it. While it might seem weird to talk about overdoing comforts, for many of us, we can definitely overindulge to a point approaching addiction. For example, if you enjoy the small comfort of a glass of wine … you can overdo it by feeling like you need to have wine whenever you’re feeling stressed. Then it can move to needing to have 5 glasses of wine a day. The same kind of thing can happen with any kind of substance (weed, cigarettes, etc), with food, with watching TV or playing video games, and so on. There is nothing wrong with any of these — just have them in nice small doses, and use other things to find comfort, not just one thing that you become reliant upon.

Second: I also advocate facing discomfort when we’re able to. This is not about always being in comfort. That leads to a contracting from life. I’m a strong advocate of learning to be with more and more of life, including what’s uncomfortable. That’s how we grow. That said … we can’t do that all the time. Sometimes we need some nurturing, replenishing, revitalizing. Sometimes we need comfort. This isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of deal — we can find a balance that’s right for ourselves.

Third: Let go of guilt. Despite what I said in the first two, this is not about “guilty pleasures,” because comforts when we need them are healthy and wonderful. See if you can give yourself full permission to savor these small pleasures.

Fourth: Really be present and enjoy them. Eating a treat isn’t much of a comfort if you are distracted on your phone. Let yourself fully savor and find the wonder and deliciousness in small comforts.

I hope you’ll give yourself permission to take care of yourself when you need it. Here’s to the small comforts in life!