One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”

This quote is attributed to the writer, Iris Murdoch, but it’s something I’ve always said too. Well, maybe I didn’t actually say it, but I thought it.

It makes sense that if the occasional really big treat makes us wildly happy occasionally, then continuous small treats will keep us mildly happy on a continuous basis.

Which is why the Puritans and the Calvinists are so grim in their portraits. Small pleasures were as sinful as the big ones. People who don’t allow themselves — even search out — small pleasures have nothing to smile about.

It makes interesting conversation to find out what other people’s little pleasures are. To get better acquainted with somebody, instead of inquiring how they are or commenting on the weather, ask: “What small treats do you like best?” Because, like treasures, one man’s pleasures may be another’s bore.

After I read Iris Murdoch’s quote, I started thinking about the small treats that make me happy.

Reading the paper on the patio with a second cup of coffee is my first treat of the day, weather permitting. Just being outdoors, watching the hummingbirds, the butterflies and bumblebees, looking at the flowers, the grass, the sky, the clouds makes me happy.

Sitting outdoors in the cool of the evening, watching the sun go down and the moon come up is a pleasure.

Working the crossword puzzle every day is a treat I give myself when I should be doing something useful. Reading in bed is a treat I look forward to all day.

Chocolate is a treat. I love Snicker bars and Lady Godiva chocolates, homemade chocolate cake, cookies and brownies.

Good food, in general, is one of the secrets of a happy life. That’s why dieting makes you so miserable. There’s no pleasure in diet food and your face tends to look sour as a result.

By good food, I don’t mean fancy food in expensive restaurants. I’m talking about the food that reminds you of the happy times in your childhood: comfort food. I’m thinking about home-fried chicken and fluffy mashed potatoes, stew, cornbread and beans. Ice cream and watermelon always made my husband happy. I can take them or leave them.

Whenever we eat food we don’t like just because it’s good for us, we might as well be eating gray cardboard and we’ll probably end up taking Di-Gel.

We know when we’re happy. There’s a small surge of anticipation just before a small treat — a feeling of well-being and contentment nudges out anxiety and irritability.

When we notice we’re getting too uptight, too anxious, too hurried, too short-tempered — if we look in the mirror and declare: “By golly, you look like a Puritan today” — it’s time to go sit on the porch. Watch the birds, smell a rose, listen to some music. Eat a Snicker.

Works for me.

Mary McClure lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.