Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Stacy Averette

When I was younger I thought there would come a time when life would be stress-free or at least less stressful. Am I the only one? We’re in our fifties now, empty-nesters, doing work that we love, and enjoying good health. And life is still stressful!

I hate to admit it but I think stress is unavoidable. We can simplify and say “no” and declutter and manage our health and our finances and have good boundaries and walk in faith and still feel stressed at times because, well, this world isn’t our perfect eternal home.

Heaven will be our stress-free forever home and I can’t wait! But until then, what in the world can we do to deal with stress and feel happier? The solution might be a better job, more money, a cure, reconciliation, or even just a long vacation. But even those things might be out of our control at the moment. I think feeling happier is actually much simpler than we think and much easier to come by than we realize.

Learning to Be Happy

By the time our first child was born, I was 28 and Eric was 27. We both were working full-time and going to school so there was no “entertainment” line item in our budget. When we needed a break from the stress of life we had no choice but to keep it simple (and cheap). I’m glad we learned the lesson then, even though we’ve had to relearn it a few times since. We played in the yard with the dog, went for walks around the neighborhood pulling our “little man” in the red wagon, and camped in a tent in the woods every chance we got. We dreamed of the day we could afford to take trips and go on big vacations.

Fast forward a few years.

That “little man”, as everyone called him, turned 27 on April 16th. Jon Eric is our firstborn and we adore him!

In 2019, our family gained another John when Maddie married her best friend (We love him!). He turned 24 on April 4th.

Maddie turned 23 on March 30 th. She is our much-loved “precious princess” in the middle.

(Caleb turned 21 in February and I wrote about that here.)

When our kids were small we always had one big birthday party since their birthdays are so close together. Trying to get all of these young adults together for a celebration is a challenge now and after weeks of deliberating and texting back and forth, we decided a family camping trip was in order. These kids have been camping since they were babies and it’s still one of our favorite things to do together as a family.

We all gathered at Jon and Molly’s house to kick off the celebration. Jon and Molly provided dinner on Friday night. The grilled-bacon-wrapped-cube-steak stuffed with cream cheese and jalapenos was delicious! For dessert, we had a Raspberry Crème cake from Publix—a family favorite. I dug through my stash of thrifted cake decorations and decided the glitter numbers would work! Someone suggested I just add all the numbers to the cake at once and make it memorable.

Two thousand, seven hundred and forty-three years old?! You don’t look a day over . . .


Jon Eric (27) with his wife, Molly.

Maddie (23) and her husband, John (24)

Do the numbers on the cake make sense now?

The photos below pretty much sum up these three crazy kids of ours!

In our thirty-four years together Eric and I have had the opportunity to take lots of trips and do a little traveling but we’ve learned that the recipe for instant happiness is fairly simple and easy to come by. If you want to know 10 Simple Ways to Deal with Stresskeep reading!


Get Outside

Our favorite way to get outside as a family is to go camping. We have a special place we like to go but we’ve also been to different state parks in Alabama and Tennessee.

Camping may not be your thing but getting outside might be easier than you think. Sometimes I walk outside with a cup of coffee and sit on the front steps or the back deck. Even just a slow walk around the yard to check on my new shrubs makes me feel better!

Are there ways you could get outside a little every day or week?

Do Nothing Except Breathe

Does it seem like we’re addicted to busyness? I confess to being a productivity junkie. I like getting stuff done! But my soul needs time and space to breathe and just be. Camping is a good activity for me because there are no tasks to be done especially if I don’t have phone service. If I’m home, a slow walk around the yard leads to pulling weeds, dead-heading rose bushes or planning my next garden project.

We have to be intentional about doing nothing. That sounds weird to say but I’ve learned the value of being unproductive. To sit still in a chair or on a bench and just breathe reminds me that God loves me—not because of what I do or how much I accomplish, but simply because I am His beloved creation. Remember, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The world gives us a gold star for achievements and accomplishments. But God’s love for us is based on Who He Is, not what we do for Him.

How can you practice doing nothing and meditating on His love for you? Breathe in His grace and breathe out praise to Him.

Sit Around a Campfire

There’s just something about a fire that ignites all the senses—the warmth of the flame and the smell of wood smoke as it crackles and hisses and dances toward the sky.

I think lots of people from all walks of life have discovered this truth. Most outdoor spaces these days seem to include some type of fire pit. The gas version is convenient but I don’t think it has the same effect on all the senses the way a wood fire does.

We have a fire pit on our deck and enjoy it several nights a week year ’round. Sometimes these empty nesters get a little crazy and break out the marshmallows, too!

Do you have a fire pit in your yard or a place to add one?

Sleep Outside Under The Stars

To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. —Helen Keller

Eric and I have a tent but we decided to bring our hammocks for sleeping. They’re easy to pack and comfortable. I love laying in the hammock and looking up through the trees. The temperature dropped a bit at night on this trip so we packed a sleeping bag to stay warm. I sleep like a baby cradled in a hammock, gently swaying each time I move.

Our hammocks (purchased at Walmart) came with a mosquito net and we purchased a rainfly separately. The hammock, mosquito net, and rainfly all fold up into a small bag. They’re lightweight and easy to throw into a backpack if you’re hiking, too!

Maybe sleeping under the stars isn’t your idea of fun but a comfortable place to sit or lay at night after the stars come out would be nice. City lights make it difficult to see all the stars but they’re there if you’ll just look up.

When was the last time you sat outside at night and just looked at the stars?

Hang Out With A Dog

Maddie and John brought their lab puppies on our recent camping trip. Bear and Margo are littermates and full of energy. They never tire of chasing that ball! We spent hours watching them and laughing as they tried to beat each other to the ball. Of course, they loved the water!

There have only been a few years in our life when we didn’t have a pet (student housing didn’t allow it) and we were always happy to visit friends and family and enjoy theirs. Our German Shepherd, Coco, is our only dog right now and she loves getting all the attention when we’re outside. Agnes, the fat black cat, is the queen of the house (at least she thinks so). She likes a little attention from time to time. Maddie and John and Jon and Molly both have the sweetest cats! They’re very snuggly and I love it when I get to visit them!

Do you have a dog or a pet that makes you happy?

Watch the Sunrise

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. —Rachel Carson

On this recent camping trip, Eric and I both got up early as usual. He stoked the fire and I made the coffee just in time to enjoy the sunrise. We’re usually up before sunrise every morning and enjoy the view through the trees from our living room window. But there’s something special about being outside and having a wide-open view of sunrise.

I can’t think of a better way to deal with stress than to get up early, step outside, and take a few deep breaths as the sun rises on another day.

Are you an early riser? When was the last time you saw a sunrise? What’s your favorite place to watch the sunrise?

Get Down Close To The Earth And Pay Attention.

All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. —Marie Curie

The flowers in the photo below were so tiny I almost missed them. But I stopped, looked down, and looked closer. When my kids were small they taught me how to see the things I’d learned to overlook. As a child, I saw the things—all the tiny things—that the adults around me had learned to overlook. And then I became the adult who overlooked. I became busy with other things.

One day I woke up and realized that I was too busy and I realizeded I was overlooking the small things which really were the big things.  These days I’m paying attention.

Are you too busy to pay attention to the small things?

Pick Wildflowers

The Amen of nature is always a flower. —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I didn’t pick these flowers but I don’t think there’s ever been a camping trip that was flowerless. Picking flowers in the wild is just what we do. Picking wildflowers is who we are.

Maybe you can’t pick wildflowers but when was the last time you bought fresh flowers, for yourself, for no reason?

Give Hugs To Those You Love

I’m not a hugger. I mean, if I know you and I love you, I’ll hug you big, but otherwise the best you’re gonna get if you come at me with a hug, is an awkward side pat-hug or something. But the people in these photos—I’ll chase them to their car to give them one more hug.

Hug the people you love.

The world needs more hugs.

Take Photos “As You Are”

It’s hard to know what anyone really looks like anymore with all the filters and editing being used on social media. This is what we really look like when we’re camping!

And for the record, I’ll print these pictures and stick them in a box. They won’t be organized in a photo album because I stopped doing that years ago when I remembered how fun it was to rummage through an old shoe box full of random photos at my parents’ house. I did go to Hobby Lobby and buy some photo boxes when they were 50% off but that’s it. And about once a month I print photos at Walmart or Shutterfly depending on my mood. I don’t edit the photos. They’re straight outta the camera, what you see is what you get.

Take real pictures of the real you. When was the last time you did that? Don’t worry about a fancy camera or a new iPhone (I still have an iPhone 7!). Professional photo sessions are fine but I really believe what our loved ones in the future will most enjoy are the real life, unedited, unprofessional photos of us, doing life and being happy.

In all these photos I see one thing over and over again—happy smiles! Being outdoors has always been one of our favorite places to be together as a family.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve shared but more than anything I hope you’ve been inspired to deal with the stress in your life and create your own instant happiness!



4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Feel Instantly Happier”

  1. You have a beautiful family and great, real life tips for getting happy. I love this post, because it’s all doable stuff, most of which doesn’t require any money or planning. Less stress indeed!

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