Photo by Luísa Schetinger on Unsplash
By Stella Orange
Our test kitchen has been busy experimenting with all kinds of goodness to make your life feel, well…better. Our methods may be slightly unconventional, but our testers have been rigorous with their trials. With summer in full swing, here are their tried-and-true picks to give your day a boost:
Public displays of affection
No, we’re not talking about teenagers making out in an alley or corny photos of wrinkly old people holding hands. We’re talking about going public with your love and care for others, in whatever way suits you. Whether you smooch your sweetie, hook your arm into your walking buddy’s elbow, or bend down to pet the neighbor’s miniature horse is up to you. Play around with making your affection visible to those around you.
Sending cards to someone you love on their birthday
Receiving fun paper mail (or a serendipitous phone call) is a great pleasure. But for many of us, our days and brains are already so full—it’s a good day if we can put on pants before leaving the house, let alone remember the dates our people joined the party on planet earth. Start small. Pick one person you want to celebrate, and then pick up the phone or a greeting card when you’ve got five minutes. If the thought of figuring out when their actual birthday is stresses you out, send a belated birthday greeting.
Ignoring social media
If looking at feeds, scrolling, and swiping leaves you feeling hollow and slightly sad, eject. Our testers report finding more time for more pleasurable hobbies, like making out in public, sending cards to people on their birthdays, or reading more poetry and fiction.
‘How To Survive the End of the World’ podcast
Sisters Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown started this project in 2017 to facilitate “learning from the apocalypse with grace, rigor, and curiosity.” The writers, activists, and facilitators go deep on topics ranging from ancestor wisdom to social justice movements to climate vulnerability. It sounds dark, but it’s the clearest-eyed, grounded, and uplifting work on imagining our future as a species that our testers have come across in their travels. Find it wherever you listen to podcasts.
Pretending your home is a castle
Our testers have been experimenting with the idea of home as a miniature kingdom over which they rule. As the king (we use the term devoid of gender; women can be kings, too) of the realm, how is the state of your kingdom? Are its borders well-fortified and maintained? Are the royal coffers robust and healthy? Are its subjects generally peaceful, or is dissatisfaction burgeoning, threatening revolt? For some reason, pretending you’re royalty ruling over a country a skosh smaller than Monaco or Liechtenstein is way more generative and exciting than the regular-old being responsible.
Spending too long in the bathtub
Before writing this article, our testers took a midday bath, which was so long that the other people in their household were knocking on the door and wondering what on this good earth we were doing in there. We were listening to the Bossa Nova channel by candlelight in the middle of the day, sitting in hot water with Epsom salts, baking soda, and bubbles with a Korean face mask. Oh, and deep conditioning our hair with banana, honey, and olive oil. Oh, and reading a magazine. We’re planning on taking an evening bath every night this week, for the sheer decadence and joy of it. If the idea of baths doesn’t gross you out, give it a whirl.
Drinking beverages and eating snacks
After a spring trip to Europe, our testers have become somewhat evangelical about the beauty and restoration of a morning hot beverage, afternoon tea, and the occasional evening libation. “Europeans are no dummies,” the sermon goes; “They sit in cafes drinking coffees in the morning and afternoons, or beer or the local booze in the late afternoon and evening. It’s really just an excuse to be social, or take stock of the day, or rest one’s feet, or take a break.” In our testers’ kingdoms, regular beverage breaks are now customary across the realm, and have improved morale by thirty percent.
Befriending the baker, the tailor, and the coffee-maker
Our testers may not know who makes candlesticks locally anymore, but they make a point of chatting up the people who make their bread and fancy weekend coffee. They chat up Joe, too, the guy who owns the tailor shop they’ve paid to mend everything from a reusable lunch bag to a fabric satchel with a too-long strap. While our tester’s husband, a more reserved sort, is all “Why are you talking to those strangers, honey?,” we know that communities are built one conversation at a time. A little banter with the guy who works at the pet supply store is good for the soul.
Writing in the mornings
This time of year, it’s easy to get swept away in all the doing and bustle of summer activities. But after they brush their teeth and empty the dishwasher, our testers report the first thing they do is sit in a quiet spot for their daily writing practice. And that it has made all the difference to the quality and enjoyment of the rest of the day. Part contemplation, part exploration of what has yet to happen, writing for fifteen or thirty minutes in the morning—whatever it takes to feel like you’re ready to join the world—sets your life right, getting you out of reactivity or much of whatever else may be sapping your life force. What king wouldn’t benefit from this?
Stella Orange is a copywriter and co-founder of Las Peregrinas, a business advising and marketing service company. Find out more about her work at www.lasperegrinas.org