It doesn't take deep pockets to treat yourself. Indulge in one of the following simple pleasures for an immediate mood boost.
1. SHAKE UP YOUR ROUTINE.
Even little changes can be very refreshing. Try taking a different route to work, meeting a friend at a new coffee shop, or listening to music you’ve never heard before. Cook something unusual for dinner. Give your senses something fun and unexpected to explore.
2. START A "WARM FUZZIES" FILE.
The next time somebody says something encouraging or flattering about you, write it down. Did they say it in an email? Label the email “warm fuzzies” or something similar. Over time, you’ll amass a precious collection of personalized little boosts that you can pull up when you’re feeling down.
3. TAKE A GOOD, LONG LOOK AT THE STARS.
There’s nothing like the night sky for a good dose of perspective. On a very clear night, you might be able to see hundreds or thousands of stars, each of them light years away. What you can’t see are the rest of the 400 billion stars in our galaxy, or the septillion (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars in the universe. We are, as they say, a speck on a speck on a speck. (Tip: If you can’t see the cosmos from your house, a stroll through NASA’s Hubble Telescope image gallery ought to do it.)
4. ASSESS YOUR INTERNET DIET.
Your time and attention are limited resources. How are you spending them? Take a look at your social media accounts and the websites and apps you use. How do they make you feel? Are you following people or taking in content that brings you down? If so, are you getting anything out of it? If your feeds are full of pointless negativity, it may be time for a purge.
5. GET YOUR GIGGLE ON.
What makes you laugh the hardest? Maybe it’s your favorite cartoon or a comedy special. Maybe it’s your sister, or your next-door neighbor's dog, or cooking shows hosted by a foul-mouthed toddler. Whatever it is, seek it out. It only takes a few minutes of laughter to get the dopamine and endorphins flowing.
6. GO FOR A STROLL.
The simple act of getting outside can do wonders for your outlook. Even a short jaunt offers a host of benefits: fresh air, a change of environment, an opportunity to move your body, exposure to nature (even if that’s just grass and fenced-in trees, it counts!), and the opportunity to see and interact with other people and animals.
7. ZOOM IN ON THE GOOD THINGS.
Everybody’s got their something. Maybe you collect sneakers, or are a wizard with nail art. Maybe it’s cute algae, or crafting, or museums, or basketball. Start taking pictures of your favorite things at least once a day. You could share the photos on social media or keep them to yourself; the point is to take a closer look at the things that make you happy.
8. SNUGGLE SOMEBODY.
Cuddles are like some kind of wonder drug. Cozying up to someone you love (or a stuffed animal, or even a well-compensated stranger) can lower your blood pressure, reduce your stress levels, flood your body with happy-making hormones, and even boost your immune system. Having a bad day? There is no shame in asking someone you trust for a solid hug.
9. TAKE A 3-MINUTE BREAK.
By now you’ve almost definitely heard about the myriad benefits of mindfulness meditation. But you probably haven’t heard that even tiny doses can help refresh your system. Not sure where to start? Try apps and websites like Calm.com, which guide users through tiny meditation breaks and offer soothing sounds and images like thunderstorms and waves on the beach.
10. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY.
Most of us spend many of our waking hours sitting at the computer, using our hands only for typing and clicking and our eyes for reading and watching. When’s the last time you baked a cake, or assembled a piece of furniture, or patched a bike tire? It doesn’t have to be complicated or hard. If you’re out of ideas or energy, just picking up a coloring book and pencils or petting a dog can send some good feelings from your fingers to your brain.
11. CREATE A BAD-DAY BOX.
Sometimes when you’re feeling down it can be hard to figure out what would make you feel better. You can skip that step entirely by starting a bad-day box today. This is just a box (or tin or bucket) in which you put little things that bring you comfort or joy. That could be stickers or nail polish or miniature chocolate bars; it could be a mix CD you made for yourself, a friend’s phone number, or some really silly jokes. It could be a book of poetry or a slapstick comedy on DVD. Whatever does it for you, throw it in the box, and when the bad day comes, you’ll be ready.
All images courtesy of iStock.