Sometimes in today’s culture it feels like the only way to be happy is to spend money. After all, we’re constantly bombarded with ads — in our morning newspaper, on the radio and bulletin boards during our commute to work, and of course all over our Internet browsers. It stands to reason that with so many companies telling us we need to buy their products in order to be happy, we’d eventually start to believe them.
But of course, the reality is that spending money rarely offers us lasting happiness. Sure, the charge of excitement from buying a fancy new outfit or gadget can make us feel good temporarily, but unless the product was something we truly needed, our long-term sense of happiness won’t really change.
However, there are certain things that are easy to do that really will make you happier without even having to open up your wallet! Below, we’ll describe 4 happiness-boosters you can start doing today (without spending a dime):
1. Lend a Helping Hand
It might seem counter-intuitive, but shifting your focus toward helping someone else is one of the best ways to improve your level of happiness. Doing so makes us feel productive and capable, not to mention needed. These are core aspects of fulfilment and happiness.
The best way to start helping out is to get involved with a group in your neighborhood that is helping people in your community. Whether it’s building low-cost homes for people who need them (see: Habitat for Humanity), giving at-risk kids a place to study and play after school (see: Boys and Girls Club), providing mentorship to a young man or woman (see: Big Brothers Big Sisters), or something else entirely, you will feel part of something meaningful and more importantly, you’ll see the impact you’re having right in front of you.
2. Feel the Breeze In Your Hair
It seems crazy to contemplate now, but humans were originally outdoors-all-the-time creatures. The modern conveniences of air conditioning, padded office chairs, water coolers, and pizza delivery make it easy for us to sit inside all day if we choose, but in succumbing to that temptation we alienate the ancient part of our mental makeup that craves fresh air and dirt between our toes.
So get outside. I mean, really outside, not just to the corner coffee shop and back. Take a hike along a mountain trail, relax on a nearby beach, ride your bike on a deserted country road, or simply sit and read a book at your local park. You’re guaranteed to feel happier and more centered afterward.
Admittedly, not everyone lives close to a beach, a mountain trail, or even a deserted country road. And many people find that their work or family schedule makes it hard to get away from the office and/or house. That’s understandable. But no matter what constraints your location and schedule may put upon you, it’s imperative that you find some way of getting outside.
Our bodies are hard-wired for it (remember, we get Vitamin D from exposure to the sun!) and our brains are recharged by it. So get out there.
3. Be a Person of (Many) Interests
There are about as many hobbies as there are people, which means there are probably a few out there you’ve never tried. Brainstorm some things you have always been intrigued by but have never done… and go try them!
Maybe you’ll take up bird watching, play soccer, learn hip hop dance, become a pro at board games, or start mastering knitting. If you do, you’ll absolutely feel a greater sense of satisfaction and you’ll have something to look forward to every day or every week.
Of course, not all hobbies are free, but many of the best ones have very little cost over time. Things like tennis or drawing might require a small initial investment in equipment/materials, but on a per-day basis the cost is minimal.
4. Meet the Friends You Didn’t Know You Had
A lot of us hesitate to introduce ourselves to new people, but it’s a great way to broaden our perspective on life and potentially make lasting friendships. With the power of the Internet, it’s now easy to find people who share similar interests. Meetup.com has thousands (maybe even millions) of groups listed on its site, and most of them are open to whoever wants to join.
Browse the groups and if the first one you try isn’t a good fit, give another one a shot.
The bottom line is, there are some amazing ways of improving your level of happiness without spending money, and most of them are pretty easy to do. A wise person once said, “90% of life is just showing up” — so show up and help a cause, walk a windy trail, or shake a stranger’s hand.
And let us know how it goes!