Shift your vibe! 60 quick ways to make yourself slightly happier
Things feeling a bit stale? These small tweaks to your routine will turn things around, boost your mood and could even make you a better person …
1 Go on that second date
(Remember, people are often nervous on their first.)
2 Borrow a dog
It will force you to get outside, says Rhik Samadder. “If you want the joy of a pet without the expense and commitment, mooch with someone else’s pooch. Try BorrowMyDoggy, or a more informal arrangement. There’s a trend for house- and pet-sitting – which is how I come to be in charge of my friend Chris’s labrador, Mumbles. Taking a dog for a walk is instant serotonin. You play with the dog, plus you’re plugged into a community of dog people. Everyone talks to me. I feel like a California mayor, or a minor celebrity. Only when we return home do I recognise I’m flush with fresh air and social interaction, and have more energy. ‘Who’s a good boy?’ I say, ruffling the golden head, before realising it’s me. I feel good.”
3 Get a wifi extender
Then work from your garden/balcony all summer long. Invert screen colours to make it easier to see in the sun.
4 Forget reality TV and try watching surreality TV
Start with Old Enough on Netflix (a Japanese hidden camera show in which toddlers run errands); The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge on Channel 4 (Grand Designs but with doll’s houses); and Is it Cake? on Netflix (bakers make cakes that don’t look like cakes). Real people + weird concepts = utterly distracting entertainment.
5 Eat more salad
This chopper will make that more likely.
6 Go to an art gallery and stare at a picture for ages
Here’s Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones on how to do it. “Think of looking at a painting as physical exercise – gym for the eyes. You’ll get more out of paintings the more you move around them. Stand back, then really close, look from the left, then right. Dance around. Above all, give it time. Views from different angles add up to slow absorption that will open the door to a life-affirming experience that can take you out of the ordinary, into the happy.”
7 Start a recipe club
Like a book club but for food – challenge yourself to try one new dish each week, and share it (with any tweaks) on email. Start with Meera Sodha’s dal. Cheap, delicious, freezes well, plus is meat free.
8 Listen to country musicfor a week
It might save your life: in a University of Maryland Medical Center study, participants who listened to country music found their blood vessels dilated, increasing blood flow and leading to better cardiovascular health.
9 Tune in to the Japanese concept of micro-seasons
We’re between Mimizu izuru (“Worms surface”) and Takenoko shōzu (“Bamboo shoots sprout”). There are 72!
10 Learn to do a great front crawl
Not many of us can. Here are four tips from Peigh Asante and Nathaniel Cole, co-founders of Swim Dem Crew.
“Putting your face in the water and keeping the water at your hairline helps you stay on the surface.
“Use aids such as floats and buoys. Floats will help you practise your arm and leg movements, and breathing, while keeping you safe. Buoys allow you to focus on your arms for better technique.
“Kick from your hips. Think about making long, smooth kicks in the water rather than bending your knees too much and splashing lots of water.
“Cup your hands over your ears – this is the shape to keep your hands in as you use your arms when swimming front crawl. That way, you push plenty of water away.”
11 Discover secrets about your immediate surroundings
With Wikipedia Around (insert the address and it’ll tell you all about the area). Don’t forget to turn off your location when you’re done.
12 Get some proper bin shoes
AKA garden/backdoor shoes that you aren’t embarrassed to be seen in by the postie. Also for: hanging laundry, watering plants, feeding the birds and barbecues. You can’t go wrong with a pair of Birkenstock Bostons.
13 Paint your nails in rainbow colours
With each a different shade, looking at them will instantly cheer you up.
14 Wear one colour head to toe
It will make you see your wardrobe in a new light, says Jess Cartner-Morley. “‘Any idiot can face a crisis,’ Anton Chekhov said. ‘It’s the day-to-day living that wears you out.’ Cheerful clothes can be your armour against a day-to-day that threatens to grind you down. So forget about looking cool. Ditch the black. Bye-bye, Coco Chanel. See ya later, Jack Kerouac. Now is no time for the sociopathic elegance of inky skirt suits or the brutalist chic of a black T-shirt and faded jeans. Embrace colour. Think pink today, be true blue tomorrow. Mellow out in yellow to bring the sunshine in. Make the world a little jollier, one pair of red socks at a time.”
15 Try to join in a game with strangers
Whether they’re playing catch, football or Frisbee, on the beach or in the park, the worst that can happen is they say no. The best? You join a new community, however temporary. It’s worth carrying a tennis ball or football around just in case you need to start the game.
16 Put up a bird feeder
Here’s how to get birds to come, says the RSPB’s Anna Feeney. “Finches, tits and sparrows love sunflower hearts; the latter will also enjoy a mesh feeder with peanuts. Many birds like fat balls, though robins, blackbirds and dunnocks prefer a ground feeder tray (avoid this if there are cats in your area). Place hanging feeders and bird tables high, and a couple of metres away from thick cover so birds can retreat from aerial predators such as sparrowhawks. Avoid anything with salt, cooked food, loose peanuts and dry, hard foods or bread in spring and summer (chicks can choke on them). Clean your feeder with a mild disinfectant and hot water once a week.”
17 End your working day properly
Do something, anything, when you clock off – a walk; a swim; a free online yoga class. Especially when WFH.
19 Do a DIY, cheapo face steam and/or hair mask
Give it a go once every few weeks, says beauty and lifestyle journalist Lisa Niven-Phillips. “Boost skin glow by mixing oats or coffee grounds with water or milk; gently buff into face, then rinse with warm water. As for your hair, shampoo twice, apply a mask to towel-dried locks, cover with a shower cap (the heat generated by your head will increase the mask’s penetration), then take a hot bath for even more heat. Rinse with cold water to seal hair cuticles.”
20 Pick some flowers and foliage
Head to your garden (or a consenting neighbour’s), pick, then arrange beautifully, says Alys Fowler. “A simple jar of the soft, brilliant green of new growth is uplifting and needs little else to adorn it. There are plenty of grasses in flower now and you’ll be surprised how elevated they look once placed in a pretty vase. A single arching branch of foliage can make a statement, or think of the vase like a clock: looking from above, place beech leaves, say, at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, lime leaves in between, then add the next thing. Knock the symmetry off with the odd stem placed here or there. If foraging, remember to pick sparingly from a number of plants. With woody stems, bash the bottom to help water uptake.”
21 Head to the water
Barge, kayak, pedalo, it doesn’t matter – just enjoy the change of pace and perspective.
22 Do something to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee
Even if you’re a republican, it’s an excuse to let your hair down after the constrictions of the past two years and to feel part of something bigger. If monarchy-hater Polly Toynbee can, anyone can. “As a devout republican, my ideal jubilee party would be on a boat with Johnny Rotten, reprising the Sex Pistols’ trip down the Thames in the 1977 jubilee, blasting out God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the UK in front of parliament until the police came along. Neither Johnny nor the boat is available, so I will celebrate the long life of Elizabeth the Last with friends and family instead. Never mind the bollocks, just enjoy.”
23 Get a bath pillow
You’re never too young for a comfy soak.
24 Learn a new, achievable skill on YouTube
It could change your life, says Tim Jonze. “If nobody had invented YouTube in 2005, the world would look completely different: not least because I wouldn’t have a clue how to clean out the inside of my Kamado barbecue. These days you don’t need to worry about not knowing stuff. Just type your personal failings into YouTube and there’ll be a big, beardy American come along to explain that, hey, you simply fire up charcoal to about 4,000 degrees, then brush all the charred gunk off when it’s cooled down. From simple life hacks such as destalking thyme (pull it through a colander) to longer-term projects such as teaching your child to ride a bike (thanks, Chris Hoy), YouTube is here to enrich your life. Right now, I’m learning how to draw Bluey, and in six minutes I’ll be able to do just that. It’s a kind of magic, really. So, fix that leaky tap, discover the joys of rollerblading … or dare to dream bigger. Maybe there’s a new career awaiting me as a kids’ TV cartoonist. If not, I’ll scrub your barbecue out for 20 quid.”
25 Read a vibe-shifting new book
The Guardian’s deputy literary editor Justine Jordan recommends these five.
Bless the Daughter Raised By a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus, £12.99): poetry is a sure-fire way to change your mental landscape and this long-awaited collection from the Somali-British poet/Beyoncé collaborator combines poems about war and migration with celebrations of joy.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, £8.99): shortlisted for the Booker and now the Women’s prize, this is the story of an early female aviator and the Hollywood star who investigates the mystery of her disappearance. A gloriously immersive historical epic.
The Expectation Expect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life by David Robson (Canongate, £18.99): a revelatory pop science book on the idea that it’s not so much what happens to us as what we expect to happen that determines our health and wellbeing.
Here Goes Nothing by Steve Toltz (Sceptre, £18.99): Australian Toltz is the king of pitch-black comedy and personal catastrophe. Partially narrated from the afterlife, his new novel grapples with big existential questions but is also stuffed with zingers. If there’s no cure for being alive, laughter is still the best medicine.
Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell (Faber, £16.99): a book to spark curiosity and make history feel fresh. Rundell’s enthusiasm rises off the page as she introduces the metaphysical poet and preacher, a man whose revolutionary mindshifts in articulating sex, death and eternity were produced against a backdrop of plague and persecution.
26 Invent a cocktail
Here’s ours: lemon juice, vodka, ice, sugar and crushed verbena leaves.
27 Draw something every day
Make a quick sketch of one interesting, funny, uplifting, memorable thing that happened. Keep in a notebook to build a visual diary, instantly carving out a moment’s breathing space and lifting your spirits; zero talent required.
28 Change your lighting
It will shift the mood of a room, says Habitat lighting designer Tom Sullivan. “Switch off bright overhead lights in favour of side lamps that emit a softer, more soothing glow. A rule of thumb is: three light sources per room, with a mix of floor and table lights, alongside task lighting for activities. If you do want overhead lights, soften with rattan or bamboo shades and use ‘warm white’ LED filament bulbs.”
29 Grind your coffee beans
James Hoffmann, a former world barista champion and author of The World Atlas of Coffee, explains why. “Coffee goes stale quickly – you can notice a big difference between fresh ground and coffee that has been ground for a day or two. The other benefit is you can tailor the size of the grinds to how you are brewing. Burr grinders are the best, as they allow you to control the size of the grounds.”
30 Keep a commonplace book
Use it to jot down quotes, lines or jokes you like. For private consumption or Twitter.
31 Get some ‘peel and stick’ wallpaper
Great if you’re renting and can’t make permanent changes; if you tend to change your mind; or if you’re rubbish at DIY. Chasing Paper and Marimekko do especially cheery ones.
32 Switch to silicone-free shampoo
Ideally, in soap bar form to save on packaging. Your hair will be thicker, and you’ll barely need to wash it.
34 Try roller-skating or skateboarding
35 Surprise someone with something small but nice
Think a takeaway (picked up, ideally) or a home-cooked meal, rather than a puppy.
36 Follow @Fesshole on Twitter
Odd how others’ confessions make you feel better about your own behaviour.
JBL Go 3 Big sound in a tiny Bluetooth package with a loop to hang it from; £29.99.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Booming Bluetooth speaker with 13-hour battery, which floats if you drop it in the bath; £89.99.
Sonos Roam Top-class, hard-to-beat sound, Bluetooth or wifi; £159.
38 Get an analogue alarm clock
Not only is this a good way to keep your phone in another room, but it’s harder to read a clock face than a digital one at 3am, meaning insomniacs won’t (hopefully). Ditto get a wristwatch.
39 Improve your short-term memory by building a memory palace
Take your next shopping list. Pick a place you know well (a room, office, short walk), then plan a route around it. Decide what you want to memorise (say, garlic and crumpets), then place a mental image of each thing in a particular spot. Visualise the room again, really thinking about the items in situ, and head to the shops. You’ll be staggered at how much you remember.
41 Watch monster wave videos on YouTube
With a cup of tea, when it’s raining. Trust us!
42 Sign up to be a telephone befriender
Try Age UK’s service.
43 Don’t be greedy
Greed, says Guardian advice columnist Annalisa Barbieri, is competition in material form. “It’s about wanting more, often as a result of needing to feel safe or superior to others: accumulation as protection. At its heart is vulnerability. And unless you address the root cause, nothing is ever going to be enough. (Look at Elon Musk.) Think about why you want something and what need you think will be fulfilled by having it – will it fill that need? Having ‘stuff’ feels exciting to begin with, but then we habitualise possessions; experiences actually get more golden as time passes. Being generous takes confidence, and it shouldn’t be about leaving yourself with very little. It shouldn’t hurt. So get a round in.”
44 Try false eyelashes
They’ve come a long way from Gaga and cabaret. Honestly, try a weirdly natural-looking pair by Lashify for a day: we promise you’ll look more awake.
46 Go outside every day before 9am
Morning light, says Russell Foster, director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, kickstarts two important components of health. “For most of us, it acts to synchronise our biological clock, or circadian rhythms, and the sleep/wake cycle, to the 24-hour rotation of the Earth. This harmonisation allows the delivery of the right materials, to the correct organs, at the optimum concentration, at the right time of day. Without this daily reset, our health slides into mush. But flicking the bedside lamp on is not enough! The clock needs bright light. So fling back the curtains and sit by the window for at least 30 minutes. Better still, go outside for that 30-minute ‘photon shower’. Bright morning light also drives an increase in alertness and mood. In winter, use a light box that can deliver an intensity of 1,000–2,000 lux.”
47 Change the default typeface on your email
We recently went from sans serif to Georgia; it was like starting a new job.
48 Rent a few nice pieces of fashion
Rather than panic-buying your first holiday wardrobe in two years, try Hurr, MyWardrobe, Essentiel Antwerp and Rotaro.
49 Buy a single share in something non-evil
Then enjoy watching it go up and down. Let’s call it green-vesting! Rupert Jones, the Guardian’s deputy money editor, has some suggestions.
Ørsted The world’s biggest developer of offshore windfarms, this Danish firm was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential companies.
Enphase Energy A California-based supplier of solar and battery systems which in April reported record revenues.
SSE A leading generator of renewable electricity, including wind and hydro power, and a FTSE 100 company.
50 Make a playlist for a friend with different music tastes from yours
Then ask them to make one in return.
51 Find one practical way to make a difference
Since October, Sirin Kale has been meeting people doing just that for Saturday magazine’s Guardian Angel column, and this what she’s learned. “Few people set out to be a community champion: instead they find something they’re passionate – even angry – about and try to change it. They’re appalled by litter on their street, or feel lonely and want to reach out to others who feel the same, or have a skill they’d like to share. They start tentatively making changes: they organise a litter pick, a coffee morning or a workshop. One event turns into many. Friends are made. People begin to know them for their community efforts. But, really, they just noticed something small and decided to do something about it. That’s how it starts for them, and that’s how it could start for you.”
52 Posh up your toast
Add olive oil, a rub of garlic and a few tomatoes; or butter, cinnamon and brown sugar; or butter, salt and pepper.
53 Literally count your blessings
Sounds a cliche, but writing them down can help you focus on the good things in your life, in the midst of bleak times.
54 If you wear glasses, attach a chain
A bright resin or acetate one, like this from Etsy) could improve your life.
55 ‘Double’ the size of your garden with a mirror
Make sure it’s one birds won’t fly into, for instance with a trellis on.
58 Arrange your socks like the late Richard Rogers
Think separate cells making colourful order of chaos.
59 Stock up on your spices
Thomasina Miers picks six favourites.
Star anise Add a petal to braised beans, and whole stars to poached fruits and jams.
Cinnamon Whole or ground, it gives gently aromatic body and sweetness to Middle Eastern rice dishes and Mexican braises, and extra flavour to chocolate cakes, muffins and porridge.
Cumin seeds Add earthiness to Indian and Mexican dishes, and roasted vegetables.
Coriander seeds Bring citrussy notes to marinades and pickles.
Nutmeg Both comforting and sophisticated, and great in souffles, braised greens, custard tarts and patés.
Dried chilli Adds spiky accents to sauces, salsas and braises.
60 Film an entire party on your phone
Then transfer it to your computer with a USB, so it’s there for ever.
Compiled by the Saturday Guardian team