As a kid, whenever I went to the doctor I’d get to pick out a toy from the drugstore afterward.
My selection was always the same: A small, plastic horse. I’d spend a few minutes picking which horse I wanted — the brown one, the black one, the one with spots — and by the time I was back in the car, I’d have forgotten all about the doctor’s cold stethoscopeand the shot he gave me.
We’redealing with a lot more than a needle in the arm, but the point is that small things canprovide a much-needed pick-me-up. So if you’ve got the post-Inauguration Day blues, here are some easy and inexpensive ways to boost your spirits today – and any time, really.
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1. Read “Seven Brief Lessons On Physics” (Trust us!)
Head to your nearest bookstore and pick up this quick read. Yes, you’ll learn about general relativity and quantum mechanics. But the book also takes a philosophical tone at times, including when author Carlo Rovelli reminds us that “within the immense ocean of galaxies and stars, we are in a remote corner.” Perspective.
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2. Study the Beatles’ performance of “Don’t Let Me Down” from the Apple rooftop in Savile Row
Is it Paul’s sashay at 0:39? Ringo’s total look of bliss at 1:17? His red leather jacket? It’s all of it. The Beatles singing the songs that only they could have written on a London rooftop in January 1969 is pure magic.
3. Go look at art — really, really look at it
Whatever your city, there’s a museum somewhere — go. Then, pick a single piece, and focus on it for several minutes as a meditative exercise. You could possibly get a little brain boost as a bonus. Dr. Wendy Suzuki calls this practice a “visual-cortex brain hack” in her book, “Healthy Brain, Happy Life,” as it’s been shown to engage the brain and improve memory and motor function. Consider it proof that art is good for you in myriad ways.
4. Send someonea postcard
Buy a postcard or make your own, write a quick “hello” and send away. Postcard stamps cost 34 cents, and everyone loves a new postcard for the fridge. Especially when it has a little vote of confidence from a friend on the back.
5. Foot bath with Epsom salt
Find a plastic container, any plastic container. Fill that plastic container with warm or hot water according to your preference, add Epsom salt, slip your feet in and let the relaxing begin. Remember to keep a towel nearby. Consider it your cheapest trip to the spa.
6. Invite friends over forhot toddies
Hot toddies got me through a rough bout of bronchitis, so I figure they might ameliorate political pains as well. They’re simple to make: A basic recipe for one serving is 2 oz. boiling water + 1.5 oz. whiskey + 1 tsp. honey + a squeeze of lemon. Stir all of that together, then add the cinnamon stick. Warm hands = warm hearts.
8. Breathe (but really)
Close your eyes and take three deep breaths — making sure to inhale slowly, wait a second, and then exhale slowly each time. Pausing to focus on your breath can serve as a mini “reset,” and you can do it as often as necessary throughout the day. Another option? Consider downloading a meditation app like Simply Being, Headspace or Buddhify.
9. Light some candles and get your hygge on
The Danish are masters at making the best of darkness — in the depths of winter they have as many as 17 hours of darkness a day — so use their (increasingly global) custom of hygge to create a sense of coziness and warmth. Grab some candles — try birchwood pine to dial up the cozy factor, or lavender for something more soothing — a plaid blanket, fuzzy slippers and a book, and settle in for the evening to tune out the dark. Focus on feeling warm.
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10. Go for a walk sans music or podcast
Silence. Weird right? And amazing. Just you and your thoughts and looking at the sidewalk andhouses and trees. No texting while walking, either. Not just because I’ve twice twisted my ankle that way, but because it’s rejuvenating to disconnect and simply observe your surroundings.
11. Then call someone you haven't talked to in a while just to say "hi"
In my phone-gabbing heyday it was torture to be told to get off the phone. Now people thinkit’s torture to talk on the phone. Yes,there can be some minor awkwardness in those first few seconds when you’re “hello”-ing over each other, but then things unfold into a delightful conversation you’d never have had if you’d merely texted.
12. Bake a chocolate cake
Make it gluten-free, or Paleo, or vegan if you must, but make it. You can find an online recipefor any skill level, and homemade chocolate frosting couldn’t be easier: Powdered sugar, butter, cocoa powder, milk and a splash of vanilla. You just can’t feel bad after baking a cake. Unless you happen to drop the cake. So be careful.
13. Invite others over to eat that cake
It’s like a birthday party without the birthday, and you don’t even have to scrounge for candles.If you’re a sucker for a theme, make it an Alice in Wonderland unbirthday party.
11. Or indulge them in wine + cheese
Unwind the French way: Wine and cheese. Try some creamy Langres — a stinky-but-not-too-stinky cow’s milk cheese – with some bread and crackers, or snack on a few slices of Comte — a firm cow’s milk cheese aged for at least a year. Or go all-out stink and try some Epoisse de Bourgogne, a smelly-yet-approachable cow’s milk cheese that pairs well with a crusty baguette. Listen to Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, or Coeur de Pirate for added effect.
12. Buy yourself new underwear
Regardless of whether you need underwear or not, go get some. Not just to link your underwear-buying to the election cycle — ensuring you buy a few new pairs every four years, at minimum — but because fresh undies can put a little spring in your step. And ladies, if you’re looking for more than an emotional lift, throw in a new bra as well.
13. And then donate something to someone — anyone, anything!
Give your time, money or belongings to help others. You can volunteer, donate to charity, or bring items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army (or Boomerang’s, if you're in Boston, like me). For charitable giving, just be sure to check in with a “watchdog” group like CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, or BBB Wise Giving Alliance — all of which evaluate thousands of nonprofit organizations based on how they collect and spend their money, how transparent they are to the public, and how well they’re governed — to find an A-rated charity.