From spending time in nature to getting some alone time, it’s all about the little things that make highly sensitive people happy.
Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) involves soaking up all the good, as well as the bad, around us. We just can’t help it: We have a sensitivity trait, so it’s in our genes and internal wiring. So if someone in the room is not having a great day, or having the best day ever, we can sense it immediately — we’re experts at reading body language and picking up on all the nuances people miss.
That said, in my experience, we sensitive types find happiness in a lot of small things. And if you can use some added joy in your life, making some little changes will increase your happiness, too.
15 Simple Things That Make Highly Sensitive People Happy
1. Connecting with others — even just greeting strangers with a friendly smile and “Hello!”
Something I love about where I live (in small-town Holland in Europe) is that whenever I’m out for a walk or bike ride, (almost) everyone that I pass smiles and says “Hallo.” This small positive interaction really makes my day. I tend to keep these interactions brief in order to avoid small talk, as then it can become draining — and we sensitive types prefer deeper conversations. But being so sensitive to the mood and behavior of others, I can just soak up that smile and take it with me. I count myself lucky to live in such a happy place. No matter where you live, however, try smiling at, and saying hello, to more people and see what happens.
2. Spending time in nature, whether it’s taking a simple walk or watching birds in the garden
Nature is very soothing to highly sensitive people: you can enjoy the blossoming trees, the changing of the seasons, watch birds come into your garden or the ducks in the river, or catch a glimpse of something a bit more wild, like a deer. Time alone in nature is a great time to reset if feeling overwhelmed or to help prevent getting overwhelmed. Therapist Julie Bjelland emphasizes the importance of time in nature for HSPs to help soothe the overstimulated sensitive soul.
3. Enjoying a favorite meal, whether it’s homemade or a comfort food from your favorite place
There are some meals that I can really savor, favorite foods cooked how I like them which I then eat alone. (For you, it may be getting your favorite comfort food from your favorite restaurant!) I take my time and enjoy every bite while watching the world go by through my window. Maybe it comes back to that essential alone time again — which HSPs not only like but need — but something about these occasional me-time meals is so delicious! When eating with others, I’m influenced by their enjoyment and speed of eating. Yet when I’m alone, I can eat at my own speed (slow!) and focus on my own enjoyment.
4. Getting comfort from an animal, whether it’s a pet or one at a shelter
For those of us who find a lot of human social interaction pretty exhausting, I find that animal interaction can have the opposite effect. For me, time with animals can be very calming — the animals are always happy to see me, they are so cute and curious, and they don’t overwhelm me with lots of talking like humans can. And HSPs have a special bond with animals.
Recent studies, too, have shown that spending time with animals, especially pets, can boost your mood, helping with things like lowering anxiety and blood pressure. If you can’t have a pet, there are lots of ways that you can still get some animal interaction into your life. Personally, I volunteer at a local petting zoo, and volunteered at an animal shelter before that.
5. Spending time daydreaming
Maybe you find your tendency to daydream is a bit of a hindrance when you’re trying to get things done. But sometimes it’s great to indulge yourself, sit back, and dream away! I can’t get enough of it personally. It’s a time when you can let your active imagination run free and have fun in your dream world. Similar to sleep, it’s a break from reality that can help me reset — which is important for us HSPs — and come away from it ready for the world again.
6. Having alone time to rest and reset
For highly sensitive people, it’s really important for us to have some alone time to reset. When you tell people you want to be alone, they might take offense, so it’s worth explaining that it’s really valuable and necessary time for you and your overstimulated HSP soul. And if they don’t get it, send them to do some research on what it’s like to be a sensitive person while you go and take some time alone! Otherwise, we can get too overwhelmed and have an HSP hangover after too much social interaction. So be sure to carve in alone time, even just a few minutes here and there.
7. Practicing meditation and mindfulness to help focus on the present moment
Once you recognize that you need to take some time to rest and reset, meditation and mindfulness can be important tools for this. They’ll help your overstimulated HSP self get more grounded. You don’t necessarily need a class or a course — there are lots of free options and resources available to get you started, from apps (like Insight Timer) to YouTube videos. And once you get into it, you can practice it pretty much anywhere: at your desk, in your car, outside by a tree, you name it. For me, it brings a joyful calm, and hopefully it’ll do the same for you.
8. Reading to help your imagination come to life
For me, reading is not only enjoyable — but it’s much less intense than watching a film and allows my imagination to really come alive. Being able to just pick up (or put down) a book when I want to can help (especially if it is about a heavier topic). And there’s no shame in not finishing a book; if it’s not making me want to keep turning the pages, or the subject matter becomes too dark, I will move on. There are also many books out there that will resonate with highly sensitive people, as well as literary characters you’ll relate to as an HSP.
9. Getting creative, whether it’s by doing an old, or new, hobby
HSPs tend to be on the creative side, whether that’s drawing, pottery, or something else completely. No matter what, it’s great for us to have a creative outlet. For some, this becomes a career; but probably for most, it’s a nice hobby without the pressure of work. Drawing is my usual creative outlet. I don’t do it all the time, but when I’m in the mood, I absolutely love it.
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10. Hugging others
Hugs are just the best, right?! Your sensitivity might make you desire more reassurance than others — and may make you also really value the associated deep connection that hugs can provide. Plus, they’re good for us: they can reduce stress and increase happiness. If you have a sensitive or understanding partner who you can go to for hugs anytime, that’s great. (I couldn’t count the amount of hugs that go on in my household every day!) If you are in a different situation, maybe you have a friend, family member, or cuddly pet you can rely on.
11. Being helpful, whether it’s listening to a friend’s problem or offering advice
I love to be helpful — it’s so satisfying to guide someone through something or provide them with some new suggestions to solve a problem. For me, this also comes across in my career, as I guide people through projects and the steps to get there. It’s fulfilling for me (and hopefully for them, too).
12. Feel-good viewing (because heavier topics can be distressing for HSPs)
Because we HSPs can get so immersed in what we’re viewing, I find that watching anything heavy can be quite distressing. It’s as if I’ve lived the experience rather than watched it, so it can easily give me nightmares and put me out of sorts for days. However, watching fun, feel-good TV shows and movies is great. That way, you can soak up all that goodness and come away glowing.
13. Getting enough sleep — especially since sensitive people need more than others
Of course, everyone needs sleep. But as an HSP, you’re likely to find everyday social interactions much more tiring if you’re lacking sleep. All the overstimulation we experience is exhausting! You need time and rest to recover, and there’s nothing better than getting a good night’s sleep (especially when you are having fun dreams, which is another story). Don’t let yourself get caught up with how much other people sleep; it doesn’t matter! If you need more sleep or just enjoy more sleep, take that time for yourself and do it.
14. Using a gentle approach when waking up
After that lovely sleep, there’s nothing worse than being awakened by a harsh alarm or someone telling you bluntly to “Get up!” If you need to use an alarm, find the most gentle, idyllic, natural-sounding alarm, set it on low volume, and you will see a big improvement to your waking-up mood. Tell those around you, too, that if they ever need to wake you up, be gentle — a little squeeze of your hand and some quiet words can do the trick. It makes a really big difference and you’ll wake up feeling so much better.
15. Being honest, no matter what
It doesn’t need to be harsh, but keeping things real is best for a happy HSP and the way to protect our happy. We already have a very active imagination and a good sense for things not being “quite right” thanks to our great HSP intuition. So if you can be around people who are honest and open, you will probably find that life is much better. Even though this means you may have to hear things that are upsetting, I find it much better than imagining the worst.
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