5 Small Steps Toward a Happier Life


Cloisters sketch
From a trip I took to the Cloisters a few weeks ago.


Life gets frustrating. And sometimes you want to overhaul everything, all at once. But I’ve found through plenty of trial and error that overhauling rarely works. Too much change at once can entrench those unhealthy habits deeper into your life. So I’ve been trying out the reverse: smaller changes I can stick with right away. Here are a few that have made my life better:

  1. Making my bed – I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand the point of this for a while. The most I’d do was throw my comforter back over my sheets. But I’ve realized it can be a great “small win” to start off your day, and resist the temptation to jump back into bed.
  2. Morning Pages – Two years ago I read The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s classic creativity book. The first tenet is writing Morning Pages: 30 minutes of freehand, stream-of-consciousness writing. It’s a great way to acknowledge all of your worries, annoyances, and to-dos. Once they’re on paper, I have the necessary distance and objectivity to act on them. They also help me with “real” writing later in the day.
  3. Green tea (and L-Theanine) – Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with caffeine. I love its bitter taste and thrilling boost, but I hate the jittery anxiousness I get when I drink too much. So I’ve started switching to green tea after my first half cup of coffee. Besides the 5mg of caffeine per serving that keeps me from crashing, green tea also contains L-Theanine, an amino acid which induces a relaxed but not drowsy mood. Perfect.
  4. Sketching – I bought a sketchbook in July, and that purchase has brought me a lot of joy. I love the creative outlet of sketching, but also how it keeps my hands busy and my mind clear. Sketching has been a much more satisfying activity than reaching for my phone, and it’s been fun to watch myself improve through practice.
  5. Foam rolling – The latest trend in fitness? Foam rolling, aka myofascial release, aka self massage. If I were a billionaire I’d get a professional massage every day. But since I’m not, I use foam rollers and massage balls to work out my (many) muscle knots. For covering large areas, I like the Grid Foam Roller, which has a pleasantly textured surface. My new favorite purchase are the Yoga Tune Up Balls, which are like mini foam rollers that release trigger points one by one.

The downside of these habits can be the sense of obligation – “oh no, yet another thing I should do.” But if I take a positive stance – “ooh something fun I get to do” – I’m a lot more likely to stick with it. I hope you have a lovely rest of your week!


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