I’m tired of books that tell me to “wash my face” and “stop apologizing.” I’m over hearing about how I need to be “brave” or a “warrior.” I don’t want to start a “project” to find happiness and I might scream if I have to think about which of my old purses “spark joy.”

Y’all, working on my happiness is exhausting. I love an inspirational book as much as the next gal and I can appreciate that there are great pieces of writing that aim to help busy, overwhelmed women. I myself have been drawn to the self-help genre that has great intentions of making my life more meaningful. But, I’m starting to wonder if being happy is too much work.

Don’t get me wrong, there are women who deeply connect to hearing the accounts of authors who have overcome great struggles. I’ve gotten a lot of good nuggets out of my journey through female self-help books. I’m a big fan of those “aha moments” that can occur when reading this genre, but after a while, I start to wonder if we’re overcomplicating the whole happiness thing by creating more work for ourselves.

Perhaps my frazzled mom brain is making me a bit lazier, but lately when I hear an author tell me that I just need to “put in the hard work” or “hold myself accountable,” I’m like, “Nah. I think I’ll just eat some mac and cheese and catch up on Netflix.” That’s not to say that I think self-care or personal reflection is unimportant, I just wonder if there are some simpler ways to feel happy.

Recently, after finishing yet another self-help book where the author spent a year working on monthly resolutions focused on happiness, I thought about ways I could accomplish a similar goal but with about 90% less effort. I decided to think about small, affordable, doable things that bring me satisfaction or joy. (A.K.A. ways I could take the shortcut path to a little happiness.) I didn’t want to journal anything, take before and after pictures, or invest too much time or energy on it. I’m a busy mom after all! Here are a few of my ideas.

Buy flowers for myself.

I smile every time I see fresh flowers in my house. They brighten up any room and make me feel fancy. I can find ones that I love for about $3.99 a week and they always give my house the illusion that we have our act together.

Allow myself to eat desserts and/or pasta at least once a week.

I like to think of this as the “happiness diet.” There are no rules on this diet other than eat what makes you happy at least once a week.

Take my dog to the beach.

I have a hard time thinking of anything that makes me happier than watching a dog at the beach. When I take my pooch, Sailor, for a walk on the beach, not only does it give me a chance to listen to music (another thing on my happiness list), and get in a little exercise, but I’ve also noticed that her happiness is contagious and puts me in a better mood.

Have a jam session every day.

I’m talking grown-up music turned up as loud as possible and singing along like I actually have talent. It’s an instant mood lifter for me.

Talk to real people — not just internet friends.

I can read all the self-help books in the world, but if I can’t have an actual conversation with a good friend to vent or share a funny story, it’s not going to do any good.


Focusing on just a few things that I know bring me enjoyment (even if it is only short term or minimal) at least feels like something I can accomplish. I’m not solving any great dilemmas or achieving a zen life, but allowing myself a few small indulgences goes a long way for this mama in the throes of hectic family life.

Happiness is a very complicated issue that is so unique to each woman based on her own experiences and situations. Sometimes self-help books can make a difference but other times they feel like just one more thing we’re supposed to be “working on.” Our individual levels of happiness will change throughout our lives, but maybe if we set the bar as low as “enjoy a doughnut while listening to some old school Outkast” we’ll all feel a little more successful at it.

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Karen Smith
Karen was born in Ohio but spent most of her childhood in Florida. She attended the University of Florida, where she met her husband, and she got her Master’s in Elementary Education at the University of South Florida. She taught first grade in Tampa until her oldest son was born. Her plans to return to the classroom changed when her husband’s job brought them to Pennsylvania where they welcomed another son. The following years brought them to Raleigh and then St. Augustine. After spending two years substitute teaching in St. Johns County, Karen is now teaching VPK at a local preschool. She enjoys days on the water with her family, reading “chick lit” with a glass of wine, pretending to be Ina Garten in the kitchen, and cheering on her Gators. She embraces all things #boymom and has never met a doughnut/taco/pasta that she didn’t like.