This year hasn’t exactly got off to a roaring start for most people. 2022 feels more like, as one friend put it: “2020 – the trilogy”. As much as we’re hungry for change, many of us do not have the energy to make big, sweeping shifts; and even if we did, it’s entirely possible that the world will have other plans.
So, what little things can we do to feel better right now? This January, Guardian Australia staff and contributors embarked on a month of easy wins – sharing the small discoveries and changes that improved their lives. Some involved giving back, some giving yourself a break, and a few involved personal admin – because if you just need to achieve something, anything, you can always turn to paperwork.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, treat this as an incrementalist, feelgood laundry list. Try one, or try the lot – whatever feels easy for you.
Give yourself a break
1. Do something nice for yourself first thing in the morning. Whether your bliss looks like a bubble bath, a good book, a run or a video game, make it the first thing you do when you wake up, even if it’s only for five minutes.
2. Chronic people-pleasers, listen to this one: write a not-to-do list. When you find yourself trapped in a commitment you loathe, write it down. Keeping a list will help you remember to say no next time.
3. Dress like a seven-year-old. It’s fun, it saves you from fashion agony, and no one knows what to wear now anyway.
Improve your health and wellbeing
4. Extend your on-foot commute. Getting off the bus a stop or two early will certainly lift your step count, and it might just lift your spirits too.
5. Want to cut down on booze? Impose alcohol-free days. A hard rule about when you can’t drink will give your body a break, and might make you more mindful on the days you do indulge.
6. Remember caffeine has a quarter life of 10-12 hours, so it’s best to stop drinking it after midday. Cutting out afternoon coffee and tea is a game-changer for troubled sleepers. And if you’re really lucky, you could even replace that 2pm piccolo with a nap.
7. Do kegels while the kettle boils. For men and women, a strong pelvic floor is core to all sorts of bodily functions (including fun ones like orgasms). Look after yours by incorporating a few minutes of exercises into your existing routine – you can do them anywhere.
8. If you’re having problems like acne, dryness or redness, treat your skin like what it is – the largest organ in your body – and ask your doctor for help. A scientifically sound skincare plan might involve a script or two, but it will be more effective (and maybe cheaper) in the long run than experimenting willy-nilly at the cosmetics counter.
9. You don’t have to sit still to meditate. Much like pelvic floor exercises, meditation can be incorporated into all sorts of daily activities. “When you give something the awareness and concentration to realise its causes and effects, that is meditation,” writes Bertin Huynh.
10. Do a cooldown without the workout. You’ll benefit from a few stretches or mobility exercises any time of day, but they’re particularly good before bed.
11. Speaking of nighttime routines, read for six minutes before bed.
12. Renegotiate a bill. We might think loyalty is a trait to be rewarded, but when it comes to your utilities, insurance and other regular bills, it can be costly.. Contact your provider and call them out for it.
13. For an instant drop in stress levels, switch your Siri to the voice of an Irish man. It just sounds so much nicer.
14. This one is a bit of a pain at first, but the rewards are ongoing: set up a password manager. You’ll never have to remember a stack of random passwords again – or worse yet, use the same one for everything.
15. Consolidate your superannuation. It takes less than five minutes and could compound into a more comfortable retirement.
16. Keep your memories private by archiving your social media history. It will allow you to hide whatever you want from prying eyes, while still retaining a copy for your own records.
17. Buy imperfect produce. It may not look as cute, but it’s cheaper, better for the planet and tastes just the same.
18. If your pantry is causing you panic, clear it out one shelf at a time. An orderly and decluttered fridge or store cupboard will make your life more pleasant, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all at once.
19. Learn to make chilli oil. It goes with basically everything.
20. While you’re at it, learn to make dal. It’s healthy, easy and freezes well – so a pot tonight is a gift for your future self.
21. Plant an edible garden. Nothing tastes better than food you’ve grown yourself, and you’ll only need to tend to it five minutes a day.
22. Instead of frantically Googling what to cook for dinner every night, keep a written copy of your favourite recipes on file.
23. Or, prepare even further in advance and meal plan before you go grocery shopping. It’ll prevent that weird situation where your pantry is “simultaneously full of food … without the constituent parts to make a decent meal”.
Saving time (and money)
24. If you miss having a coin jar that actually gets full, set up a round-up savings account.
25. Find a good tailor. Your clothes will look better because they fit better, and they’ll last longer because they’ll be fixed when they break.
26. You can’t mindlessly scroll what you can’t open: delete your social media apps from your phone.
27. Set up a throwaway email. Rather than climbing a mountain of unsubscribe buttons, if you use a different email address for commercial transactions, you’ll never have to deal with the ensuing spam.
28. Keep yourself organised the old fashioned way, and use a no frills, lo-fi notebook.
Reconnect and give back
29. Get in touch with an old friend. A weird time to be alive is a good time to reach out – don’t worry if you’re in email debt or missed their last birthday, they probably feel the same way.
30. Directly help someone with something your body makes for free, by giving blood. How else can you save three lives in 10 minutes?
31. Set up a monthly charitable donation. Automating your philanthropy is quick, easy and better for the charity, because their cashflow is more predictable.