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10 Small Changes for Daily Happiness

Feeling joyful doesn’t require major adjustments. Start the new year off right with a few simple updates.

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I used to think of self-care as things that require a lot of time, money or effort. Things like massages, pedicures, facials and spa days were my go-tos. But those could be cost- and time-prohibitive, limiting my ability to do them.

The onset of the pandemic, paired with living as an ex-pat in Germany, caused me to rethink self-care. As social activities have become more isolated and increasingly difficult, I have chosen to reimagine what self-care looks like. Now, for me, self-care is participating in enjoyable things and being present in the moment, no matter how small the activity may seem.

Here are 10 small things that I do to promote happiness in my life. Hopefully this list will inspire you to create your own list of small things for happiness, self-care and positivity.

  • Wearing lipstick. Wearing red lipstick, especially, always makes me feel like a boss. When the pandemic hit in 2020 in Germany, a mask mandate came with it. Wearing lipstick seemed pointless since no one could see it. But I realized that wearing lipstick had always been a self-care technique for me. I just didn’t know how important that had been until it seemed like I could no longer wear it. So I started wearing it again, under my mask, at work, at the grocery store, sometimes even at home. I feel great!
  • Ordering low-cost subscription boxes. I think there is nothing better than receiving a surprise gift in the mail, even if it is one you sent yourself. There are many options for subscription boxes starting around $10, including those for makeup, snacks and books. I like those that can be canceled or skipped at any time. (Editor’s note: Our friends at The Girlfriend offer a subscription box called the Relax & Radiate crate. Learn more here.)
  • Dyeing my hair fun colors. I recently dyed my hair hot pink, which made me feel like a new woman. I used a permanent color, but brands like Lime Crime and Manic Panic make temporary dyes that cost around $10-$20. This is a great thing to do because the fashion dyes are inexpensive and easy to do.
  • Binge-watching TV shows. I used to beat myself up about spending a lot of time watching TV, until I realized that it is like a release for me. For me, it’s an hour (or more) that I don’t worry about stressors, and it helps me relax so I can better deal with stress once the show is over.
  • Trying out recipes from other countries. I am an avid traveler as well as a foodie. Those two things usually go really well together, so not being able to travel has caused me to get creative. At least once a week I look for recipes for dishes from other countries and attempt to make one. They don’t always turn out amazing, but I always have fun.
  • Unplugging from social media for 24 hours. This one is really important to me, now more than ever. Disconnecting for just 24 hours every few weeks does wonders for my mental health and allows me to get back to the people and things that are most important to me. With our current travel and gathering restrictions, I have embraced things like video chats, Zoom meetings and good old-fashioned phone calls with friends and family.
  • Doing my own mani-pedis. I used to be at the nail salon every two weeks like clockwork. But the salons have been closed in Germany on and off for months, so I had to think of something. Luckily there are lots of kits that you can buy, including tools, polish, nail art stickers and more. After all the money I have saved, I am now an at-home mani-pedi believer.
  • Saying daily affirmations. What you put out you get back, so why not put out something positive? My personal affirmations only take a few minutes each day, and I recite them in the mirror while getting ready. I tell myself things like, “Today is going to be a great day” and “Everything you want is already yours.” Repeating these affirmations helps to keep me in a great mood all day, no matter what I am faced with.
  • Getting dressed up. Whether I’m going to work, the park or just to the living room, getting dressed up always makes me feel good. I like to pull out one of my prettiest dresses and a pair of heels, get dressed and take selfies that I can admire later. Whether or not I leave the house has no impact on how good getting dressed up makes me feel.
  • Cuddling a pet. Cuddling with a pet can have actual health benefits such as lowering your blood pressure, WebMD reports, but for me, snuggling with my adorable kitten just makes me happy. Living alone and abroad has its difficult moments. But I am always happy to come home to my furry companion and know that he loves to cuddle as much as I do.