Little Things Every Day for Happiness (and a Question About Ice Cream)

My friend and super successful entrepreneur Trevor Traina told me at dinner a few months ago that the way he thinks about happiness is the little things. If you love chocolate, have a piece of chocolate each day. If you love music, get your favorite songs on your iPod. If you really love a good cup of coffee, get the best coffee beans and make it in the morning. Whatever it is for you, find something small that you can do each day. We often forget that most of our existence is spent sleeping, eating, showering/going to the bathroom, or driving/moving. Integrating some little things into our habits that give bursts of pleasure is a Good Thing.

In this spirit, I’ve found myself eating a lot of ice cream here in Europe. Ice cream outlets are pervasive — probably because it’s so hot. But last night, wandering along a boardwalk on the beach in San Sebastian, Spain, with an ice cream cone (two scoops of the same flavor — don’t try to mix and match) I pondered a difficult question: Cone or cup?

Ice cream in a cone has several advantages. Most notably, once you’ve consumed the ice cream, you can devour the cone. Yum. It’s also the more "classic" way to eat ice cream, especially if you extenuate the tongue action. However, it starts dripping from one side and your hands get messy. I find myself rushing through the cone just to make sure it doesn’t drip all over me, instead of savoring each lick.

On the other hand, ice cream in the cup is less messy. You can savor and it lasts longer. There’s also a kind of sophisticated, "I’m an adult now" spirit in using a spoon and performing a flourish after sucking the cream off the spoon and removing it from mouth.

Like all important decisions in my life, I leave this one up to you, dear reader. Cone or cup? Is there truly a Better Way?

My happiness depends on it.

7 comments on “Little Things Every Day for Happiness (and a Question About Ice Cream)
  • In “Stumbling On Happiness,” Daniel Gilbert uses the analogy of an emotional immune system. Our minds are set up to counteract the effect of big events and changes, hence the unintuitive finding that both lottery winners and the paralyzed quickly adapt to their new situation and are no happier or sadder one year after the event than before it occurred.

    However, the research shows that our emotional immune system does not activate for little things like eating an ice cream cone or losing a pencil. Like viruses and other disease-causing organisms, little things fly under the radar and evade our brain’s innate tendency to level things out.

    Thus Trevor’s advice is very sound: Doing a lot of little things that make you happy will have more of an impact than a single big event. As crazy as it sounds, eating ice cream every day will make you happier than winning the lottery.

    As for your ice cream problem, simply ask for your ice cream in a cone, but inside a larger cup. That way even the ice cream that spills can be retained, and you can have the best of both worlds.

  • I had a fantastic, clear, and thoroughly enlightening answer which explained that ice cream in a cone befits risk-takers and the young at heart, tastes better because of highly irregular airflow properties exhibited by the cone, and who really wants to an adult anyhow.

    That no longer matters. I would like to publicly thank Chris Yeh for revolutionizing the way I eat ice cream. There was some in the freezer. In honor of Mr. Yeh, it is now in my belly.

    You have a sharp eye for wise friends, Ben.

  • You are wise beyond your years, and I get from the company that you keep you know the value of asking questions of those you wish to emulate and really listening to the answers. It is amazing to me how many people don’t get that. As for doing little things every day that make you happy, I couldn’t agree more… it is the essential key to taking care of yourself, energizing your “batteries” and creating life-balance. Very cool! And on the subject of ice cream, I am certainly no expert, but I have hit the ice cream stand a few times in my life… I personally go for the drippy, get it on your nose cone. After all, who says that you have to be a kid to be a kid!

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  • You should go to mitchell’s [ ] in SF. They have a wonderful permutation on the age-old cone or bowl dilemma: a plastic bowl with a waffle bowl placed inside. That way you can slowly enjoy the ice cream and the cone at your leisure without the mess. Not to mention, the ice cream at mitchell’s is awesome.

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