1. De-clutter. Why are you saving those old Christmas cards from your Granny? They’re taking up space in your physical world, and they’ll eventually take up space in your emotional world, too. Clutter affects you negatively. Ever notice how much more productive you are at work with a clean desk and an empty inbox? Take a weekend to get rid of the junk you’ve managed to gather over the years. Designate one small space in your home where you can put the junk that you must keep. This is why we have junk drawers. Clutter equals chaos. Unless you are my jewelry chest. Then clutter equals fabulous.
2. Stop caring what others think. Quit worrying what other people will think of you or your choices. That includes Mom and Dad. Whether you’re mulling over changing jobs, taking an expensive vacation, or putting an offer down on a house, viewing and considering your decisions from the outside-in wastes time and energy.
3. Unplug. It’s okay to put your phone down for an evening; social media will still be there when you get back. Constantly posting where you are and how much fun you’re having can get exhausting, and it detracts from the moment. You end up seeing the night through the lens of your iPhone screen instead of enjoying it. The exceptions: you have a sexy encounter with Ryan (Gosling or Reynolds) or you’ve been kidnapped, in which case — post away.
4. Volunteer. Every January 1st, I always say I’m going to “do something good for humanity this year.” And it never happens. But! There are scientific studies (and by scientific studies I mean a couple of articles I found from a Google search) which prove that volunteering your time is good for both your physical and emotional well-being. Even a small amount of volunteering gives us a boost, so devoting just a few hours of our time to a worthy cause is a win-win.
5. Do something you’re scared to do. For me it’d be something stupid like touching a rat tail — the animal body part, not the redneck hairdo — because that’s the type of thing that freaks me out, but really it should be something more significant (and less weird). If you’re terrified of singing in public, go to a karaoke bar and sing your heart out. If you’ve wanted to try boxing but are afraid you’ll suck, go take a boxing class and suck away. Challenging yourself gives you a huge sense of accomplishment, even if you crash and burn. The benefit isn’t in success; it’s in stepping out of your comfort zone. It will invigorate your life and you’ll feel like a badass, even if you’re terrible at it.
6. Write a letter to a far away friend. Yes, an actual pen-to-paper letter, not an email. I’m basing this on a couple of things. First, how much fun will the envelope have? (Oh, the places he’ll go!) Second is how much fun it’ll be for your friend to get said letter; and third — hopefully you’ll be on the receiving end of a reply letter soon. Everyone knows getting mail is fun as shit.
7. Cook a gourmet meal. If you cook regularly, try your hand at a dish you’ve never made before; be it difficult or exotic. I’d choose some kind of cephalopod because even saying that word is hard. If you don’t know the difference between a frying pan and a saucepan, though, pick something delicious yet foolproof. Nothing is so satisfying as going “man vs. food” and making a feast out of mere mortal ingredients. The challenge of creating something you’d normally only see on Iron Chef can bring you real joy, so can stuffing your face. If you want a challenge, pick one of Paula Deen’s recipes and try to lighten the calories and fat. Who knows what kind of frankenfood you’ll come up with?
8. Hang out with a dog. Animals, specifically dogs, have a wonderfully simplistic view of the world. Either they love something and want to sniff and/or lick its nether regions, or they don’t and they leave it alone. No hard feelings, no drama, no wondering where you stand. Just enough love and doggy drool to turn even the hardiest of frowns upside down. A few hours playing with and petting a furry friend can provide a healthy dose of uncomplicated happiness.
9. Get physical. Whether this means riding a bike or riding your hot neighbor, it’s your call. But scientifically speaking, breaking a sweat releases those happy hormones known as endorphins (which for years I thought were called “endolphins” and named after the animal because they always look like they’re smiling.) A good physical challenge can lighten the stress load we tend to carry around on our shoulders. There’s something oddly satisfying about getting so sweaty and stinky that even the sweaty-ass guy at the gym doesn’t want to get near you.
10. Get back to nature. Unless you live in a secluded cabin somewhere, odds are you deal with the daily stressors of city life. Too much traffic, too much pollution, and too many stupid people. Go somewhere you can be surrounded by trees, a lake, or mountains, even if it’s just the park in town. Nestling down in the grass and sun with some snacks and good company can help you re-center. At the very least, it’ll get some color on your pasty self. And that’s really a service to us all (See #4).