File photo: In further proof that the best things in life really are free, laughing with friends, clean sheets and stroking a pet were also at the top of a list of little pleasures. Picture: AP

London - If giving presents to your loved ones is proving increasingly difficult in these straitened times, take heart.

For it seems that nothing is as pleasing to us as a simple kiss and cuddle.

In further proof that the best things in life really are free, laughing with friends, clean sheets and stroking a pet were also at the top of a list of little pleasures that make us happy.

In a survey of 2 000 people, 56 percent said a kiss and cuddle was their top treat – although 47 percent complained that they didn’t receive enough of them.

Sharing a laugh came second with 54 percent, the tingle of clean bedding pleased 38 percent, and petting the family cat or dog came fourth on 30 percent.

If you did very little yesterday, you are among 18 percent who enjoy lazy Sundays.

Doing a good deed and giving someone a present also appear on the list, as does being on the receiving end of an unexpected act of kindness from a stranger, such as having a door held open for you.

Other well-known boosts included enjoying the smell of freshly mown grass, sitting in front of a log fire, relaxing in a warm bath or listening to morning birdsong.

The study was commissioned by entertainment channel W for the next episode of Davina McCall’s series The Davina Hour, which focuses on happiness.

Steve North, general manager of W said: "People can go to great lengths and expense to buy lavish gifts, throw sumptuous parties, or go on outlandish holidays but as often as not, we get intense pleasure from the simple things in life.

"With the cost of living rising at a faster pace than salaries, people are more conscious of budgets and what they spend, focusing more on what really makes us happy."