Friday, March 14, 2008

3 Ways to get happy without spending money

Lately, as I've been scouring the Internet and reading self help books looking for ways to get happy without spending money, I remembered some advice I learned from my family very early. When I was a little girl, if my dad saw me spending too much time moping on the couch or watching TV, he would immediately require that I go do something "outdoor, physical, and/or social." Looking back, that's pretty good advice (although I would often get clucked at for sitting at the picnic table in the backyard playing solitaire or reading a book, which I insist to this day fit the requirements - and still sounds like a nice way to spend an afternoon).

My dad hit upon three of the best ways to fight the blues, and none of them costs a cent. Natural sunlight, physical activity and social interaction are all natural mood boosters and will help you to get happy for free. So, here are some strategies I'm going to try to enact over the next couple weeks to try to boost my mood without spending my savings:

Get out

Not only is sunlight a natural mood booster which will automatically make you get happier, fresh air and interaction with nature help you to leave your stress behind. With daylight savings time, we have an extra hour that we can spend out in this natural sunlight, so get outside! Go for a walk, on a nature trail or down the sidewalk. Play with your kids if you've got 'em. Toss a frisbee with your honey. Stretch out on the grass with a good book. As for me, I'm going to grab some coffee in a warmed ceramic mug, throw on a sweater, and sit in a camp chair on my balcony watching the sunset. It doesn't get much better than that.

Get moving

One of my favorite movie quotes, from Legally Blonde: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't kill their husbands. They just don't."

I say this often enough that my own husband seems to be exceedingly willing to part with me when I want to make time to get on the treadmill and run. :)

Besides the endorphins, though, there are plenty of ways the exercising makes you get happy. It is a great way to relieve stress and to stop yourself from going over and over your worries in your mind. It gives you more energy, helping you to get through all the tasks of your day. It makes you sleep better, so you wake up feeling refreshed. Then, of course, it reshapes your body, making you feel leaner and stronger and often building up your confidence in other areas of your life.

It doesn't take any special equipment either. Put on some music and dance. Jog or march in place, or around your neighborhood. Touch your toes. Just get moving and soon you'll start to get happy.

Get together

I've read again and again that, especially for women, the best way to lift your mood and improve your health is to socialize on a regular basis. This is the hardest thing for me, as I tend naturally to be a bit of an introvert. While I do enjoy the intimate company of close friends, I tend not to initiate it. I'm sure I could come up with plenty of excuses for not calling friends - I'm too tired, I'm too busy, my house is a mess, I dont' want to spend money going out - but the truth is, I just need to do it. The only way out of feeling drained is to feed the spirit, and I know that some of my happiest times have been simple dish sessions with a girl friend over tea on weekday afternoons.

So, at least once a week, set up a time to meet with your friends or to make some new ones. It doesn't matter what you're doing: play Uno for hours at an outdoor cafe, take walks, have tea and cake or cocktails. What matters is that you take the time to nurture your relationships and yourself. You'll be happier before you know it.

View other great tips at Frugal Friday


E.C. said...

I think your ways to get happy without spending money are all great, but the big challenge for me is what to do when I'm short on both money and time. I tend to get stressed out when things get really hectic, and I've been turning to junk food too often as a result. It makes me feel worse in the long run, but in the short run it is a low cost, low time consumption, mood boost.

louie said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I just found out that there are plenty of techniques which can be used to relief stress. I tried some of them and they work pretty well for me. Give it a try at

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