It may not be easy to find happiness, especially if you’re not a big eater, but it can be simple. Here are a dozen ways to cheer yourself every day.
Tell the truth. Even little lies can corrode your soul, making it rusty and less resilient, eating away at its integrity from the inside. Telling the truth is like brushing your teeth; it’s a good habit, it doesn’t take much effort and it’s healthier. Plus there’s a lot less slime.
Attitudes toward the future differ. As an Italian American, I grew up loving the song “Forget Domani” by Connie Francis. It insists “domani” - Italian for tomorrow - “never comes,” which means we should enjoy the moment now. As an American, I’ve heard 5,853 versions of “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” a song promising that tomorrow is the golden time, when all our wishes will come true. Most days I feel more like Connie and less like Annie, but we have to embrace both perspectives.
Take your medication every day. No kidding around whatsoever with prescribed dosages, either. If you think you need more, or less, or that you shouldn’t be on medication at all, then talk to your health care provider about it immediately. No changes without consultation, please.
If you have a car, keep it clean. My husband believes a clean car is as important as a clear conscience but far easier to maintain, and I’ve come to agree. A car that doesn’t smell of fast food, wet wool and old freshening-trees is more fun as a ride. Keeping our spaces free of detritus can make our lives calmer, easier and more pleasant, as pedestrian as that sounds.
Speaking of pedestrian, I do not own a Fitbit; I do not count my steps. But I’m trying to move around regularly. I’ll get back to you about how it goes, but I suspect we should all get going.
Accept that some people will never love, admire or respect you in the way you’d like. And don’t break your heart over what you can’t have.
Read promiscuously. Every surface in your house, apartment or yurt should have something to read within reach. Always have a book in the car (books are not detritus) or to take with you on the bus. Reading from a screen is also possible, but I’ll take paper, please.
Figure out whether you’re hungry or tired. One of my best friends at Cambridge in England was Maria, a graduate student in physics who grew up in Mexico City. I’d come back late from the library whining, “I’m starving!” But Maria, in her lovely, lilting voice would say, “You’re not hungry. You’re tired. Don’t eat - go to sleep.” On other days, when I’d be wandering aimlessly around the house looking for trouble, falling asleep on the couch in the hall, Maria would say, “You’re not tired. You’ve only been awake five hours. Make a snack.” Maria grew up hearing, “Hungry and tired live next door to each other, so make sure you go to the right house.”
Buy yourself new underwear, and make sure it’s comfortable. Let’s be honest: Your day can be made or broken if your bra doesn’t fit right. This is especially true if you’re a woman. If your socks are cutting off natural blood flow to your feet because they’re gripping your ankles like a python, it’s time to get new socks.
Eat before you go, because you never know what they’ll be serving. Get there early so you can relax for two minutes. Carry tissues, or better yet, a clean handkerchief: When people need them, you’ll be a hero.
As my friend Kari Lynn Collins says, “Look up.” Looking up is an essential daily activity. Remember that the most intricate architecture, the most graceful foliage, all the stars and the only sun are always above us. All we need to do is raise our eyes and be willing to see.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books.