How often have you seen “This too shall pass” embroidered onto a throw pillow? It’s one of my family’s favorite sayings, something to be intoned after a layoff or a breakup and I find myself reciting it on the regular – usually while stuck in traffic. But realistically, ‘This too shall pass’ applies to the good stuff, too. This season of life when my friends and I have free time and discretionary income, when everyone in my family is healthy, when my husband and I like our jobs and home … it won’t last forever. That’s okay! Smooth seas never made for a skillful sailor. I’d like to make the argument for banking our happiness.
Let me begin by acknowledging that the internet probably doesn’t need another post about how to be happier. (If you do need one, here are 101 ways to cheer yourself up.) You’re smart. I bet you already own this book. I bet you’ve read eleventy listicles about exercise and journaling and self-care. You’ve read all the happiness tips from The Well-Intentioned Internet People. But, uh, what if you don’t actually know what makes you happy?
If you had to guess – how many times have you clicked on a headline that says something like 53 Ways To Organize Your Closet So You’ll Reach Nirvana? Or Meal Plan Your Way To Personal Enlightenment? Or maybe You’ll Love Your Life If You Can Just Outsource More Of It?
I probably clicked on all of those. I probably clicked on all of them and tucked them in my favorites folder and tried to implement them.
I’m sure I marched around my kitchen chopping vegetables and rifled through my closet, clutching every item of clothing to my chest, trying to decipher if it “sparked joy.” I’m sure I announced to my husband “So, I’ve got this new thing I’m doing.”
Here are some ‘treats’ that I regularly give myself because I ‘deserve’ them:
* An entire block of Parmesan. Not on something, mind you. Just the cheese. Just the brick. I just hold it in my hand and take bites of it like an apple.
* Piles of $5 lady magazines
* Not brushing my teeth before bed (??!!??)
In case you’re keeping track, exactly zero of those things are good for me. In excess, each of those things is pretty detrimental to my physical and emotional well-being.
But here I sit, ‘rewarding’ myself with things that – if I’m not careful – will give me a stomachache, make me feel less-than, and give me cavities.
And what’s even more ridiculous is that I’m often treating myself after a hard, frustration-filled day. And what am I frustrated about? Oh, you know, feeling less than or drained or urpy.
I am literally engaging in ‘reward’ behavior that will make me feel worse in the long run!
Stop it, self. Stop. It.
I want better for myself. And if you are human and occasionally treat yourself in not-particularly-healthy ways, I rounded up 23 ways we can reward ourselves that don’t involve buying or eating anything.
1. Take a nap
Sleeping is awesome and I bet about 99.7% of us aren’t getting enough of it. Make your nap even more treat-like by changing your pillow case (it gives you that ‘new sheet’ feeling with less work), taking off your bra and spraying a bit of lavender or eucalyptus essential oil onto your pillow.
2. Give yourself a mani or pedi
Add a few drops of essential oil and body wash to a pretty bowl of warm water and soak your extremities while you watch an episode of Broad City. If you don’t have a manicure or pedicure set, push your cuticles back with a wet washcloth. If you’re feeling fancy, exfoliate with a brown sugar body scrub and slick on a few coats of a color you love.
3. Re-read a favorite book
Resist the urge to treat yourself to a new book purchase! Trawl your local library the way you’d trawl a used bookstore or just re-read one of your favorite ‘comfort reading’ books. I’ve been reading a few chapters of this book every morning and I JUST LOVE IT.
4. Take a day off work for no reason at all
And then don’t run a single errand or go to a single appointment! YOU CAN DO IT I HAVE FAITH IN YOU. Use your day off to do awesomely unproductive things: sleep in, make yourself a big pancake breakfast, explore new parts of your neighborhood, Skype with friends in other time zones, write a letter to your Grandma. Nap.
5. Take a hot bath
Add powdered milk. Or flower petals. Or Epsom salts or bubble bath. Turn on your favorite mellow music, light a few candles, and stay in the tub so long you wrinkle and raisin.
6. Have a Netflix movie marathon
Now, this is a personal preference, but I think the best movie marathons are movies that you’ve already seen and/or movies that don’t require rapt attention. You need to be able to fall asleep halfway through or get up and make yourself popcorn! Suggested marathons: The Anne Of Green Gables movies, BBC’s Pride & Prejudice, all the Wes Anderson movies, all the Judd Apatow movies, everything Dolly Parton has ever starred in.
7. Listen to your favorite music
Make a playlist of all your absolute favorite music, choosing not to care if it’s thematically similar, segues nicely, or is ‘embarrassing.’ My favorite playlist goes like this: Dolly Parton, The Knux, Pharrell, Kasey Musgraves, Ke$ha, Flo Rida, Beirut. WUT.
8. Visit a pet shelter
So many snuggles and cuddles! And you don’t have to clean fur off your sofa or worry about that spot on the rug!
9. Take an aimless walk WITHOUT YOUR PHONE
Getting out into nature is lovely and calming and centering. Getting out into nature without the temptation to tweet, update, or Instagram about it is exponentially more lovely, calming, and centering. I’ll do it if you will.
10. Make a DIY face mask
It’s a cliché for a reason, that reason being: it’s awesome. You probably have everything you need for a face mask in your kitchen right now.
11. Go for a drive
Do you live near a body of water or a mountain/bluff/large hill-type thing? Go for a drive near it or on it. It’ll be sweet and relaxing and refreshing. Promise.
12. Watch a Youtube makeup tutorial and experiment
Do you, too, have a whole drawer of lipsticks and bronzers and eyeliners you’re not using? Have a search through Youtube and see if you can find some new ways to use them. Do you know how to contour? Do a real, serious cat eye? I don’t. Let’s learn!
13. Walk near some water with someone you love
Ahhhhhhh. Feel those shoulders come down from around your ears and your blood pressure drop.
14. Devote some time to self-pleasure
15. Go for a nice bike ride
Not to get exercise. Not to pick up some milk or tire out the dog. Ride someplace pretty and scenic and not overrun with other cyclists. Ride at a pace that feels easy and good and notice what’s happening around you.
16. Listen to an awesome podcast
No, but really listen to it. Lay down on the sofa, open your ears and just soak it up. Like everyone else, I love This American Life and Awesome Etiquette.
17. Go window shopping
This is almost as fun as actual shopping. Pack yourself a travel mug of something sip-able and then wander through your city’s swankiest shopping district. Peek into the windows and imagine where, exactly, you’d wear that avant-garde cape that costs $3,000.
19. People watch
One of my all-time favorite activities is watching people and making up stories about them. Second favorite activity: going for ‘house walks’ with my BFF and making up stories about the people who live in said houses.
A few of my favorite people-watching places: the airport, any public transportation hub, any downtown area during lunch hour or after work, flea markets, farmers’ markets, anywhere near a stadium on a big game day.
20. Take time to do your hair and makeup
Even if you’re not going anywhere. Every time I take the 10 minutes required to apply eyeliner and curl my hair I’m floored by how different I look and how confident I feel.
21. Watch a Youtube yoga or dance tutorial
Youtube dance tutorials are The Actual Best And Most Fun. No one ever has to know what you look like when you’re twerking! You can just keep rewinding and re-trying till you either a) get it b) collapse from laughing at yourself.
22. If you already have a gym membership, go there and take advantage of the non-athletic stuff
I mean, you can also go to the gym and work out but I don’t think that’s much of a treat, do you? Does your gym have a sauna? Or a hot tub? Go have a soak or a steam!
23. Shave your legs and put clean sheets on your bed
This is probably the best any of us will ever feel in our entire lives.
Do you ever find yourself ‘treating’ yourself in ways that aren’t actually …. beneficial? What are your favorite non-buying, non-eating rewards?
P.P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!
Let’s imagine for a moment, dear readers, that I invited you over to my house for a barbecue.
And let’s imagine that when you went into my bedroom to throw your purse on the bed, you took a peek at my bedside reading. You’d see a copy of Spookand my friend Rachel’s new book. You might see some ubiquitous lady magazines and one of those weird round lip balm things. You’d exit my bedroom believing that I was a lover of non-fiction who happened to have dry lips.
What you wouldn’t see is the pile of books that I hid under the bed:
Two months ago, I found myself at a run down coffee shop on a college campus, picking at an over-sized muffin and working on a pretty good anxiety stomachache.
I was there to meet with a financial adviser. I anticipated a terrifying, math-y, money-based conversation that would somehow make me feel both poor and stupid. (Like most people in the world, I prefer to feel not-poor and passably intelligent.)
My advisor turned out to be a lovely, helpful, totally normal human who used normal human words to explain complex subjects. I did not, however, expect her to be a source of Buddha-like insight.
As we were poring over my savings and retirement plan, she turned to a multi-colored graph and said “So there are basically three approaches to saving. You can work more. You can save more. Or you can want less.”
And then the skies cracked open and a choir of angels tootling on reasonably priced horns announced a personal paradigm shift.
I am not unfamiliar with the minimalist movement. I love a good capsule wardrobe. I know how to make do and mend. I don’t have a tv blahblahblah. I’ve lapped up a million magazine articles and life coach-written blog posts about the importance of less. But there was something thrilling about hearing this from a numbers-based, decidedly non-woo woo financial professional.
She was simply relating a numbers-based reality. I could stop working and spend more time by the water if I adjusted my vision for the future. I could have an apartment on the water in Minnesota before I could have a house on the ocean in California.
Now, I’m not saying we should collectively ‘aim lower.’ I’m not saying that we should all take mediocre jobs or date boring humans who don’t light our fires. I’m not saying you should stop wanting a vacation home in Italy BECA– USE I ALSO REALLY WANT A VACATION HOME IN ITALY.
But what if we took a look at the things that we believe we want and really, actively considered them? Are they goals that we set for ourselves? Or are they wishes that seeped into our brains via women’s magazines and billboards? Do we really want a fancy car or are we just enamored of our friend’s 2015 Audi?
What would our lives and futures look like if we gave ourselves permission to want a little less? To not quite strive so hard? To make a conscious decision to shift our focus?
I’ve given myself permission to want less. If you want it, here’s yours.
I’d love to hear about your relationship with wanting, striving, consuming. Have you spent a lot of time considering your goals and dreams? Have you ever found yourself chasing a dream that’s too big for you or not really yours to begin with?
P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!