On a dark day, brightness is closer than you think

When we’re in a good mood, life is so full of little pleasures—a smile from a passer-by, the beautiful clouds in the sky, our scarf and hat keeping us cosy and warm. Yet when the hard times come knocking, none of these little pleasures seem to be alive for us anymore. At moments we might realise this and ask, “where did all those little pleasures go?” But it’s maybe more helpful to turn the question around and ask ourselves, “where have I gone today?” If we notice we’ve gone somewhere else, where should we go to get these little pleasures back?

Living under a dark cloud is a real drag! But the dark cloud is not all there is. Beneath the cloud is the whole landscape, the trees, the river, the people. And above it, somewhere behind the cloud, the sun is still shining.

We might know that the cloud—our trouble, our depression, our loss—is not everything, but how or where to touch the little pleasures that can rejuvenate us bit by bit? If only that horrible cloud would just go away! Surely then we could find some peace and happiness? We stomp our feet and wave our fist angrily at the cloud, but it just hangs over us all the same. We wrestle and struggle with this dark cloud in our head, but it’s becoming pretty clear that we’re not going to win a fight with a cloud…

The cloud is here to stay, for a little while longer at least. We can’t change the cloud, but there is something we can change—how much of our time we spend cloud-gazing. After all, the cloud might be oppressive, but the trees are still rustling gently in the breeze and the ground is still soothingly solid underfoot.

Maybe we don’t need the cloud to go away to feel some peace and joy. Maybe there are little pleasures to be found right here, even under the dark shadow of the cloud?

When we are experiencing a darkness in our day, whether small or large, how far do we have to look to find some light, something that can support or soothe us? If we’re with friends, just being with them might be enough to lift our spirits. At home, we might have our knitting needles to hand to soothe us, or the YouTube channel that never fails to make us chuckle.

It is wonderful to have these kinds of support if they help us, but what if they aren’t doing the trick or we are somewhere where they’re not available—at work, in a traffic jam, queueing at the supermarket? What then?

These are the times when the benefits of a practice of mindfulness can be felt immediately. How far do we need to go to find a little pleasure? If we are creative, we find out that we don’t need to go anywhere at all. Somewhere in our experience, right here, no matter how bleak things seem, is something that can soothe us or bring happiness.

For me, often the easiest and laziest place to find comfort is in my own body—my legs meeting the softness of the chair; the gentle rise and fall of my breathing; or simply the sense of the groundedness of the whole body, which is often a relief from an overactive mind. These things are all already right here, wherever I go, and I don’t need to do anything to make them happen. They are just as true, perhaps even more true, than all the stories in my head, so why not give them some airtime too?

From this sense of groundedness and connection to the body, I can begin to get in touch with my other senses in a calm, curious way. I can let my attention linger a little on that pleasant smell of food, or let my eyes take in the beauty of the plants on the windowsill. Simply settling into the body can be a doorway that reconnects me with all the little pleasures around me, right here.

So when a dark cloud comes to visit, remember that you don’t have to chase it away before you can rediscover the little pleasures again. Those little pleasures are closer than you think. In fact, they’re right here. Many of them are so obvious and so simple that we overlook them—the warm seat touching our body, the pleasant temperature of the air, the heart pumping blood through our body without fail, day and night. “Where did all those little pleasures go?”—they didn’t go anywhere, they’re right here. And when we are right here too, we can begin to taste and enjoy their freshness, whether or not the dark cloud is still floating overhead.

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Doran Amos

Doran has been practising mindfulness since 2006. He is passionate about using heart-based practices to help himself and others fall in love with humanity’s potential and with the Earth again. He is a writer, neuroscientist, and sometime funky dancer.