15 Incredibly Satisfying Things That Cost No Money At All

Flickr / Nathan Congleton
Flickr / Nathan Congleton

Money may buy some people happiness, but I’m not one of them. To all those who love cash and luxury: you can enjoy eating lobster tails on your yacht. I’ll be here – enjoying the finer, cheaper things in life.

1. Listening with interest.

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – more frustrating than having a conversation with someone who obviously doesn’t give a damn about what you’re saying. On the contrary, if you’re talking to someone who seems interested, who is evidently soaking in your words, it’s incredibly meaningful. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who, unprompted, brings up something you mentioned only briefly in a previous conversation? How amazing is that feeling of having been heard?

2. Smiling for real.

A genuine smile is better than a Michael Kors purse: it costs you nothing, can withstand a torrential downpour and will never go out of style. They don’t need to be translated. They radiate warmth and kindness, regardless your language or country of origin. Even infants, little things with no grasp of language – they get it. That’s because smiling has an organic, positive impact on our moods. Smiling triggers our brain’s reward mechanisms, helping (even more than chocolate) to relieve stress and sadness. And they’re free!

3. Giving compliments.

We all want to be accepted and appreciated. Whether our self-esteems are cripplingly low or stand above the norm, receiving a compliment can be a day-changer. Why keep quiet when you’re having a positive thought about someone else? What better time is there to open your mouth and speak? Boldly declare that you like your mere-acquaintance’s haircut. Tell the stranger in the checkout line that you like her coat. Your words may mean more than you think.

4. Mailing and receiving handwritten letters.

I check my mail every three or so days. In all honesty, I’m not too thrilled about opening bills and junk every night when I get home from work. Every now and then, however, I’ll peek inside my box to find a handwritten envelope, addressed to me in familiar script. It’s homey to read my sister’s words, to hear my mother’s voice as I read her message. Letters brings this feeling – the feeling of authentic connection that can’t be replicated through email.

5. Going for a walk.

Endorphins + fresh air = all we need.

6. Asking “Are you okay?”

Bad times befall every human at one point or another. To have support, to know that someone cares, can make the difference between a sour mood and utter despair. Be the person to bring light to the situation. Inquire about hardships; offer your time to listen and understand.

7. Taking a vacation day.

Our society doesn’t emphasize enough the importance of rest. We’ve come to accept 4-6 hours of sleep each night when, in reality, we need at least seven to properly recharge. When we’re awake, we work ourselves to the bone. This combination creates stress and essentially ruins our lives. A single day off may not be the ticket to a complete cure, but it can help.

8. Watching the sunrise.

Beautiful and consistent, the rising sun marks a fresh start. The previous day is gone and we remember: this too shall pass.

9. Cuddling with a pet.

My dog is an unfaltering source of love and affection. Because I give her a roof, some water and two bowls of food each day, I am the best thing that will ever happen to her. She knows this, and will never let me forget it. She’s the most expressive creature in my life and her emotions are solely positive: grateful, caring, loving. Her feelings are completely uncensored, and spending time with her is sure to help me even on the shittiest of days.

10. Acknowledging birthdays.

Pick up a card, etch a note inside, stamp and mail it – the entire process costs $5 at most (if you live far from the store and you chose the most expensive card). It’s a relatively cheap, simple gesture that could mark the difference between a crappy and a sensational birthday. Frankly, it’s nice to know that people are thinking of you, that they’ve actively taken the time to bid you a good day. It brings feelings of love and appreciation, sentiments most humans desire on an almost constant basis.

11. Looking at the stars.

The full moon is amazing, but the night sky is no less beautiful without it. Observe the stars on any given night – it’s something humans should make time to appreciate: nature’s beauty, the universe’s vastness, the overwhelming nature of it all. The sight reminds us how insignificant everything is, how our strife is only temporary. The night sky shows us that we’re damn small in the grand scheme of things – a humbling yet necessary realization.

12. Sharing an uninterrupted conversation.

With all the distractions plaguing today’s world, we rarely make time to just talk. We have to make dates, mark them in our calendars weeks in advance. We have other priorities like taking care of the kids, finishing something for work. To exchange meaningful dialogue makes us feel purposeful, alive; it actually lifts our spirits. It should play a part in daily human life – communicating through texts and emails just isn’t cutting it.

13. Hearing a child giggle.

A child’s laugh is sweet, authentic – it is the absolute epitome of innocence. The sound reminds us that there is good in the world, that some things are untouched by the many evils existing all around us.

14. Reading something that moves us.

There’s something to be said about being sucked into a text. Whether it’s a great piece of classic literature or a simple article – finding and digesting something that triggers an emotional response, content that relates to us and makes us feel understood, is worth devoting time to.

15. Other small acts of kindness.

A woman with a cartload of items let me – a girl with two soups and some popcorn – pass her in line the other day. I will probably remember this gesture for many years, although it only set her back a minute or two. A man held the door for me at the gym the other day – just because he could. That’s why we should be cordial and graceful – because we can. It’s these little tokens of courtesy, of selflessness – they’re the absolutely priceless pieces of a human existence. TC mark

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