Did I have you at cheap, or was it the cheerful part that grabbed you? It doesn’t matter if you’re a cheapskate or a cheerleader… all that matters is that you want to join me on this mission of dying happy.
“Wait, what,” you ask? “Who said anything about dying?”
Oh! That part.
Since everything I write is sponsored by the Grim Reaper, I’ll get the death plug out of the way now:
Life becomes valued to the extent we recognize how totally temporary we are. We tend to snap to attention and live with more intention when we do the Monday countdown timer thing, for example… so let’s get you focused momentarily on your unfortunate but inevitable demise, and now let’s get you making the most of your remaining Mondays. Deal?
Why cheap and cheerful?
Happiness is so much more within reach than we think. When we’re in hot pursuit of it, it seems slippery and evasive, doesn’t it? We think the happiness solution requires more time than we’ve got, more money than we’ll ever earn, and more effort than we can summon up from the depths of despair. Au contraire.
When I wrote “10 Ridiculously Simple Things I Do to Like My Left Better,” I heard from many of you with exuberant yesses… yes that you like the easy path to happiness, too… yes that you like do-able ways to increase your life satisfaction without having to take a second mortgage out on your home… yes that happiness comes in bits and pieces that we can string together to make a mighty life worth living. So here are five happiness hits you just might choose to string together…
5 Cheap and Cheerful Ways to Become a Happier Person Overnight:
1. Send yourself a recurring gift in the mail.
Who doesn’t love presents?
I was on a zoom call last week with someone who ran to answer their door… to receive the flowers she had delivered to herself. She spruced up her life during Covid by arranging recurring weekly flower deliveries, and in a post-lockdown reality, she decided the flowers weren’t going anywhere.
Another client of mine subscribes to a monthly tea service, using the deliveries as an excuse to curl up with her cat to read and enjoy whatever flavor of oolong they sent her way that month. (Yes, there are subscription services for the hard stuff, if oolong just won’t cut it for you. *I’m mouthing “thank God” right now.*)
Google “best subscription boxes” and prepare to get swept off your feet with gift options… for yourself. (Can we all just agree that our lives would become incrementally better if we joined a Pickle of the Month Club? I’m happier just imagining the pickle-filled suspense every 30 days.)
2. Plan a “Best Day Ever” (or a best weekend ever, if you can get rid of all the annoying people in your life for that long).
Imagine a dream day, full of the things that make you happy from morning until night? You can arrange for that, because you’re the boss of your life. (If you are reading this and you are 12, you are not the boss of your life, so you will just have to run away from home to make your Best Day Ever come true.)
Step 1:Block a day off in your calendar within the next two months. (I’m being for real: RIGHT NOW, BLOCK OFF A DAY FOR YOURSELF. YES I AM ALL-CAPS YELLING AT YOU.) You can make it a weekend day, or you can make it an “I plan to call in sick on this working day.” I am obviously partial to taking Mondays off.
Step 2:Make a brainstorm list of all the things that would bring you joy in a day (read here for help) — from the wee little things (like eating Oreos and ice cream for breakfast) to the things that might require more planning (like going to that sweaty yoga class with a colleague you also convince to play hooky) to the bigger things (like orchestrating a deliciously mischievous practical joke, if that’s what floats your boat).
Step 3: Map out your day. This will feel equally joyous and tortuous, because on one hand you’ll be planning for a glorious day of glee, and on the other hand you won’t be able to fit all the fabulous things from your “Brainstorm of Joy” into 24 hours, and it will feel like only getting half the things you asked Santa for. You will be able to handle it though.
Step 4: Tell everyone in your life who might conceivably interrupt your Best Day Ever to crawl into a hole and die (or something slightly less intense, if it’s your boss). Boundaries must be set! No one must ask you to pick the kids up at the last minute! No chicken parmesan requests for dinner! No one gets to join you to watch the 4pm matinee if you want to watch it alone!
Sample Best Day Ever #1: 6:00 am: Wake up and promptly go back to sleep
7:30 am: Meditate and drink warm water with lemon because you are a model of Ayurvedic health
8:30 am: Go out for that cheesy omelet and crispy hashbrowns you love at your favorite diner, because screw Ayurveda
9:30 am: Walk around the forest preserve while listening to your favorite podcast
10:30 am: Meet a friend for coffee and a scintillating gossip intellectual discussion
12:30 pm: Enjoy lunch with your special someone, maybe with a glass of Prosecco?
1:30 pm: Start that online course you’ve been excited about and haven’t had the time to start
4:00 pm: Go to a matinee (ideally at one of those theaters with reclining seats)
6:00 pm: Take the dog for a walk while waiting for your favorite pizza to arrive
7:00 pm: Eat by candlelight, using the good dishes and glasses
8:30 pm: Hop in the bubble bath with your beverage and book of choice
9:15pm: Chocolate and TV — a marriage made in heaven
10:00pm: This isn’t an X-rated blog, so you can fill in your own Best Night Ever plans here
Sample Best Day Ever #2 (for the spontaneous type): TBD am: Wake up when you feel like waking up
TBD am: Do what you feel like doing in the morning
TBD pm: Do what you feel like doing in the afternoon
TBD pm: Do what you feel like doing in the evening, going to bed when you feel like going to bed
3. Get outside already.
Homebodies like me will ignore the abundance of research that says life gets better in nature, but nothing’s stopping you from enjoying the great outdoors. I wrote all about it here, if you want 9 ½ pieces of proof that nature is in fact the path to happiness. How can you build more outdoor time into your life? Even in a concrete jungle, you can spy a bird or a cloud or a weed sprouting up… signs of life that connect you to something bigger than yourself. Can you spare 10 minutes to start or end your day outside? Can you walk barefoot in the grass through the park? Touch the bark of a tree? Smell the herbs growing in your neighbor’s garden? Marvel at the enormity of this beetle you found in your pool? Marvel at how you managed to keep your shit together after finding said beetle?
4. Hang out with happy people.
It’s time to ditch Debbie Downer once and for all, friends. Researchers make it clear: “The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people.” Happy Harry is contagious and will make your life happier. Call on Harry! What friends light up your life, and how can you make a plan to see more of them? What friends make you laugh the most (since studies show that social laughter is associated with happiness and elevated pain thresholds)? What deadbeats downers might you need to distance yourself from, bit by bit? Are YOU an upper or a downer within your social circles?
5. Dear diary…
If the word journaling makes you a little squeamish (like it does to me for some reason), let’s refer to it as expressive writing. Regardless of what we call it, studies show the ‘disclosure phenomenon’ that occurs when we write about our thoughts offers “consistent and significant health improvements.” Taking a few minutes to jot our thoughts down helps boost our immune systems, decrease stress, and improve our well-being.Read more about expressive writing and its benefits in this book… and then go buy the most inspiring notebook you can find, and start pouring your little heart out onto the page. Write yourself happy!
We overestimate how much we need to happify our lives, and underestimate the happiness that’s already at our disposal (or well within reach). Most of these five ideas are free or affordable (unless you plan a Blow Your Brains Out Best Day Ever that involves caviar, Dom, and a shopping spree at Saks) — so which one will you dive into this week, to spruce up your experience of being alive?
Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!