What are some small things that you do for yourself?
June 2, 2024 7:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some new small enjoyments that I can implement.

One of my small joys in the summer is making lemonade from scratch. Unfortunately, I recently realized that I have to give that up as it is negatively impacting my tooth enamel. It seems like a small sacrifice, but I'm a mother of a young child in the middle of a career switch, so I don't have a lot of excess time or funds to treat myself, and I found a lot of joy in the simple and affordable process of making lemonade now and again.

I'm looking for ideas of other small things that people do to find joy that don't involve a ton of money or time, but are not just extensions of obligations. For example, using a deluxe shampoo would not apply to this question because like, I have to wash my hair anyway so regardless of the shampoo quality it is tied to a bare minimum thing I need to do for self care. What I am really looking for is things that are completely unnecessary, that serve no other duty aside from creating a simple and small joy.
posted by donut_princess to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (48 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Buy the good coffee beans. So when you take a sip in the morning it's, "that's a damn fine cup of coffee. And hot!" Rather than just slucking it down to get to the caffeine. Good beans are cheaper per cup than any take-out junk.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:38 AM on June 2 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Buy or harvest flowers for your house! We now have a cat who eats non-food constantly, so we can’t do this anymore, but it made me really happy when we could.
posted by eirias at 7:40 AM on June 2 [13 favorites]

When I was on an extremely limited budget, I'd go by the farmer's market and shop around for deals so I could make myself something nice and extremely fresh. The sellers in this case knew me and were extremely friendly, but I could walk away with a box of imperfect tomatoes for penny on the dollar and make a really nice fresh sauce using them.

One thing I really love in the summer is fresh herbs in food. If you have space for a planter, you should be able to grow basil/mint/etc. and be able to sprinkle a little over top of a meal for next to nothing per serving.

I've also studied self massage and that's nice. It's often better if someone else does it for you but knowing how to work your tension out on your own can be great.
posted by Candleman at 8:00 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]

Bring spare socks in your bag with you and at some point in the day, change into fresh socks. If you have the opportunity to wash or wipe down your feet with a moist owlette, that's a bonus. It's the nicest little treat!
posted by Iteki at 8:06 AM on June 2 [16 favorites]

I have a nice chair on my covered porch and try to take at least fifteen minutes each day to sit out there with coffee and read a book, at least until the weather gets too cold.
posted by synecdoche at 8:07 AM on June 2 [8 favorites]

This may or may not work for you, but I got a subscription to the NYT to do the crosswords and other games. Sometimes I even read an article! To be clear, I'm not amazing at crosswords - I usually only do the Mon-Wed crosswords. But I like doing the puzzles and it's $4 a month for a relatively lot of joy.
posted by jeoc at 8:07 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This question that I asked a while ago isn't quite the same, but you may still find some relevant ideas in the comments. I'll be watching this thread for my ideas for my thing too!
posted by Eyelash at 8:10 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]

If you’re still a coffee drinker, I found pleasure in switching from automatic drip or even French press to pour over (I bought a lovely 3 cup capacity set from Melitta that is no longer in production so now wildly overpriced, but any setup that works for you will do). High quality whole beans I grind at home and this pleasant, unnecessary little ritual and just for the boost in taste/experience feels like self-care and morning “slow down just for me” time in a similar way to your lemonade ritual.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:19 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Your favorite cookie dough living in an easily sliced log or pre-shaped balls in your freezer. A fresh baked cookie in the evening is truly a delight.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 8:22 AM on June 2 [18 favorites]

In late summer I like to find fig trees in my neighborhood with lots of fruit and grab a few and then have them on crackers with cheese or butter for breakfast.
posted by vunder at 8:42 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]

I agree with the ‘get the good coffee beans’ suggestion above!

Also - have a bath occasionally. I shower every morning, but from time to time I have a bath at night, after the kiddo is in bed. I keep a bottle of the pricier bubble bath, I turn off the lights and light a couple of scented candles. It feels like a real indulgence. (Maybe for your purposes this is a little too close to an extension of an obligation, since one has to keep clean anyway, but a daily shower serves very adequately to keep me clean - I never *have* to have a bath, which is why making the time for it feels good.)
posted by damsel with a dulcimer at 9:19 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]

I make cappuccinos at home and order beans from a local roaster. My coffee is special and relaxing every day. Maybe someone can gift you the machine?

I also buy loose leaf teas from a tea shop. I have a fine china tea set, and sometimes drink tea like royalty. You can often find tea sets at thrift shops or estate sales.
posted by shock muppet at 9:34 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]

As the parent of a young child who has a lot of night waking issues, I have found a way to add some joy to the hell that is not getting enough sleep - when the timing makes sense, I submit to the lack of sleep and catch the sunrise. I can try to go back to bed afterwards but taking the 10 minutes and just stopping is helpful mentally. Ditto for sunsets - any time I notice one, I try to take 10 minutes and just watch it happen.
posted by openhearted at 9:41 AM on June 2 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Giving myself 15 minutes to read whatever I want to read (usually a library book) in the nicest possible place I can find. Today that happens to be on my apartment balcony. This is currently the nicest place because it is hotter inside my apartment than on the balcony and because if I scoot down I see trees instead of the parking lot next to the building. This is a really hard question and I am hoping you get some good answers that will help me as well.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:15 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]

Hummingbird feeder. It's like making lemonade (minus the lemons) and you'll discover you have so many little friends. There's peace in the simple act of making their sugar water and cleaning the feeder and hanging it back outside for them, plus the added benefit of so much dopamine when you see them coming around to enjoy it!

If you have a place to hang it, get yourself a hammock or a swinging chair and treat yourself to a little sit outside with your phone or a book or just your own thoughts. It is so nice to just lazily drift.

Would making yourself fruit popsicles help with the teeth issue? You might be able to use less acidic fruits than lemons and enjoy a lot of the same process.
posted by luzdeluna at 10:16 AM on June 2 [15 favorites]

going for a walk in a new neighborhood, especially in Spring! exploring new knowledge, e.g. reviewing books recently received by my local library & then browsing nearby books, finding new spices, i.e. dukkah, vadouvan...
posted by HearHere at 10:31 AM on June 2

Order myself a "chocolatier's choice" box of artisan chocolates. Each piece is a tiny little indulgence. Am usually able to limit myself to one a day, and really savor it, with a nice cup of tea.
posted by evilmomlady at 11:39 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]

I have started to put art and other sensory treats in unexpected places/

My favorite holiday card from friends that says CHEERS and has them all making a funny face now greets me when I get my tea from the cabinet (it's tucked behind the cups).

A stuffie of my new favorite bird, the northern flicker, is dangling next to the bathroom mirror so I can squeeze it and hear its call, before I floss my teeth.

We had a friend come visit and when they asked what they could bring as a gift, I requested a nice soap. It's a delicious, bright but not overwhelming scent and every time I open the door to the bathroom it makes me smile.

I bought a bunch of small stickers off of Redbubble, mostly ones that resemble our tabby cats, and have started sticking them to frequently viewed surfaces.

I'm drawing mostly from the ideas in Aesthetics of Joy.

Next up, replacing the utilitarian runner rug covering the anti-fatigue mat in the kitchen with something vibrant.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:05 PM on June 2 [7 favorites]

Your favorite cookie dough living in an easily sliced log or pre-shaped balls in your freezer. A fresh baked cookie in the evening is truly a delight.

In our house we call these emergency cookies.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:13 PM on June 2 [7 favorites]

Best answer: One of my joys in the summer is making homemade ice cream. It's a little more work and expense than lemonade but it's worth it to me. (And the amount of work involved is really pretty low.)

When I was the mother of young children I liked to take them to a stream where I could sit and read with my feet in the water while they splashed and waded and tried to catch things with nets.

Picking (and eating) berries is another thing I enjoy. Wineberries are my favorite and there are places where lots of them grow wild in public places and are free for the picking. If those don't grow where you live, there's probably some kind of raspberry or blackberry that does.
posted by Redstart at 12:17 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I recommend the moon!!

Just try and make a point of looking for it / noticing it. Every time I look at the moon I’m like, wow, the moon looks great today.

I’ve been doing it long enough to have a sense of where to look and when but you can also enlist technology — install a lunar calendar on your phone, or if you wear a smart watch you can even get a widget on that, to tell you the phase. The gist of it is: waning crescent (very hard to catch, generally just before sunrise, in the east); waxing crescent (just before sunset, in the west); near full (in the east around sunset; in the west around sunrise); waxing/waning gibbous (day moon of varying degrees and times).

Costs nothing, changes every day, always makes me happy, occasionally inspires awe, and gives your sense of time a new dimension to boot! Combines well (during the right weeks) with the sunrise and sunset suggestions above which I also endorse.
posted by cabbage raccoon at 1:23 PM on June 2 [21 favorites]

I also recommend the Visiting Tree:

Identify a tree in your neighborhood that you particularly like for one reason or another, preferably within a five minute walk of home. Go visit the tree as frequently as possible. See it on different days and in different seasons. When I’m sad and tired and I don’t wanna do anything and I don’t wanna go for a walk, going to visit the tree never hurts.

(I actually don’t have a Visiting Tree yet, having moved in the past year, but I do have a little stream that serves the same function)
posted by cabbage raccoon at 1:26 PM on June 2 [32 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps experimenting with infused water (cucumber and mint is a mix I like) or iced herbal tea might lead you to something else that is similarly enjoyable to lemonade without causing tooth issues?

Sachets or scented soaps in drawers or linen cupboards are a small enjoyment I like.

Taking a few minutes to just sit or lie down and only listen to a song. Not having it on in the background while doing something else, really focusing on the song.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:27 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]

Something a little similar to your lemonade making, is making pure pear juice or mango juice fruit popsicles. Get pure high-end pear juice from Ceres or you can make your own pear juice (which is delicious on its own). Pour pear juice in popsicle molds. You have a cold treat to enjoy for the summer!
posted by ichimunki at 1:56 PM on June 2

And another alternative to the lemonade:

Iced herb teas. If you're a lemon fan you may especially like lemon-flavored herbs like lemon balm or lemon verbena. This also couldn't be easier: Take like a quarter cup of dried herb and chuck that into a quart mason jar, then fill with water and let that sit for like a day. Then strain into a pitcher and let that sit in your fridge. If you have fresh herbs, even better - then you need iike a half cup of chopped herb. If you have a French press just use that instead of the mason jar (and it will make the straining super easy). You can add sweetener to taste, but I personally don't add any sweetener at all, it's fine as it is.

You can go even easier if you use tea bags - make sure you use a pure herb tea as opposed to "herbs with tea leaves". Then you just drop one tea bag per cup into a pitcher, fill with water and stick that in the fridge a few hours and there you are. Peppermint tea is especially good this way.

I've made tea out of lemon verbena, mint, and sage and all are lovely. Sometimes I even have it hot - or more like "warm," because I like to let it sit for a while and get quite strong, and that cools it down a little.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:35 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]

I got into tarot for this reason. Shuffling and drawing a card and then contemplating the results in a completely frivolous way can be very meditative. When you have a little extra cash you get the bonus of going and buying yourself a nice art deck for no reason other than it makes you happy. But you can obviously just use one deck and be set.

I did the same thing with crystals. I don’t believe they have any magical power but I do believe in the power of the placebo effect, and also I simply like looking at pretty rocks. So I’ve bought a variety of small rocks and crystals, assigned my own meanings to them (just for fun and to have something else to think about), and will pull them out just to stare at them for a while. I even got a little jeweler’s loupe to look at them in detail.

I have a little pocket sized journal that I sketch or scribble thoughts in. Being a combination of art and writing frees me up from the obligation of documenting my day… I just doodle things I see or am thinking about, or scribble a note here or wherever without worrying about how it fits into anything else.

I bought a weighted plushie that I’ll sometimes just sit on the couch and hug and squish and toss around for a bit.
posted by brook horse at 3:50 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]

I like making flavored syrups, which I put in coffee, seltzer, and cocktails. Examples include strawberry, lavender, and jalapeño. It’s super easy, and can be changed up with the seasons.
posted by bluloo at 5:34 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]

If you’re a person who writes things down, find a kind of paper and a pen / pencil that feel GREAT to use. JetPens has great guides, and MetaFilter has
(FWIW, I’m currently loving a Blackwing Pearl pencil or a Uni-Ball Jetstream 0.7 pen, on Rhodia “webnotebook” paper.)
posted by D.Billy at 6:14 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]

(Meant to say: this will hopefully develop into a joyful albeit nerdy stationery shopping pastime.)
posted by D.Billy at 6:16 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]

To go along with some of the “spend time outside” suggestions, I’ve recently been playing with the Merlin bird ID app, which lets you ID birds by song. It’s fun to sit outside with a warm/cold drink and put names (and faces/feathers) to the sounds of some of my noisier neighbors.
posted by bettafish at 6:44 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]

Fun or especially beautiful earrings serve this purpose for me; I just get a cheap set if I stumble across one that sparks joy. Going to work on a lousy day is a tiny bit better if I’m wearing my cute little alien earrings.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:54 PM on June 2

Greasing up my boots.
Sharpening my knives with stones.
Reorganizing my guitar effects pedalboard.
posted by signal at 7:43 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]

If you don't already have a bird feeder and/or bird bath, and you have a suitable garden or balcony, I would strongly recommend it. For me and my partner, it's a remarkable source of happiness and absorption all year round. Learning to identify species is an optional part of it.

Learning to identify trees was also a personal source of joy for me, and makes walks more interesting, but probably not the sort of thing you're looking for.
posted by snarfois at 2:37 AM on June 3

I go to craft markets and antique / vintage / second-hand shops and buy inexpensive things that make me smile. Art, ornaments, pins and brooches. I get to choose a pin or brooch to wear every day, and as I walk around my house, nice things catch my eye.

I've also hunted down some things on Ebay and similar that I remember from my childhood. Books I read over and over from the library, a silly penholder that my grandparents had, a board game I used to play a lot with my brother (who managed to end up with the original set). I enjoy the memories they spark.

And I take photos of things I notice and am pleased by as I walk around. Colourful flowers, amusing signs, street art, butterflies, sunsets. Sometimes I share them with friends, and enjoy their reactions; sometimes my phone decides to remind me about them later; sometimes I see them as I flick through the photo albums; sometimes, I'm sure, I never look at them again, but even so, the act of taking the photo has helped me feel happier and more engaged with my surroundings.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:45 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, I literally smell the roses as I pass. And the lavender, the rosemary, the cherry blossom, and so on.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:12 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]

Got myself a photo editor and started working (or, mostly, playing around) on some photos saved on my computer. Just doing all the crazy things, like hair or eye color changing, creating wild photo montages of my friends as their favorite characters, etc. It's entertaining and imo a better way to spend time than scrolling the feed mindlessly, and you don't have to be a Photoshop pro for that, there are tons of easier programs like Photoworks or Photopea that work fine, too.
posted by torturedpoet at 5:16 AM on June 3

Not free, but one of the most surprisingly delightful gifts I’ve bought myself was a subscription to a podcast that I listen to on my commute. I thought I was OK with fast-forwarding through ads on the unpaid version. I also felt no need for access to more content from the podcaster. However, the $40-50 it cost for one year has resulted in so many pleasant listening experiences, I seriously can’t believe how much joy it brings me to have that ad-free experience and longer versions of a pod I enjoy. Emphasis on surprising— This one purchase added a dimension to my life that feels like a bit of self care and entertainment in one.
posted by shocks connery at 5:42 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Great suggestions above, some of which I'll try myself. My fave go-to is reading a poem or two from a really great poet with my beverage of choice. (I'm big on flavored sparkling water with bitters.) Favorites are Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. James Tate's poems rarely fail to leave me with a slightly confused but delighted smile on my face.
posted by cross_impact at 11:44 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]

My boss got herself a BirdDock and takes great joy in showing the birds at it, and it gave me joy, so I bought one too (well I told my spouse to buy for my birthday)

I'm looking forward to it being set up.

I enjoy doing the WORDlE, and the mini crossword and the connections. I do them at work as a break usually.

Fresh flowers, and herbs. Making recipes that I like even though the rest of the family don't love them. ie I love Hazan tomato butter sauce, and the rest of the family prefers the ground beef sauce I make. But I decided that I get to eat what I love too, so they have to put up with it. I like having picky plates for dinner, or scrambled eggs, and sometimes, I do that just for myself and let them fend.

I like having treats in the house, and they make me happy, so I choose to do so.

Camping. I love camping so much, and I booked a 3 night yurt for just myself.
posted by Ftsqg at 1:48 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]

Oh I just realized another one.. Etsy has so many downloadable art prints, and they are reasonably cheap. So I buy art work.
posted by Ftsqg at 1:52 PM on June 3

Response by poster: Thank you for all these ideas!! I look forward to trying some!
posted by donut_princess at 5:52 PM on June 3

Going to add one that I did last year: we bought a very nice and not cheap wind chime from a dealer at a Renaissance fair we visit regularly. I've wanted a nice chime for years and we're now in a position to have one. When there is wind and I hear it, it makes me happy. The purchase/installation is a thing I did, but the listening is ongoing.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 9:51 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]

Mod note: [btw, this post has been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog! 🌷]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:29 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]

I like a nice beer, and the definition of that changes depending on my mood. Sometimes the nice beer is a cheap lager that's ice cold. Those go down really fast. Other times, and most often, I try a beer that I haven't had before, preferable an ale of some sort, usually not a pale ale, but sometimes, from a small brewery. Or a sour beer. Or a fruity beer. Grapefruit beer on a hot summer day is truly amazing.

The key to this is that it's not 5 beers, it's a single beer, enjoyed while I have the time to savor it. It's "me" time that starts at the store as I browse and read the labels and look at the pictures on the labels and enjoy the silly names that breweries come up with - kind of like buying a book or a record.
posted by ashbury at 8:48 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

Many years I was at a particularly low point – my social circle and support network had evaporated, I was unemployed and racking up debt for rent, food, medication and therapy. I wasn’t in a great place emotionally and really had no money and no one, except my dog. So I um, started planning dates with my dog. I scheduled them on my calendar and treated them like I would any other date – I’d groom, pick out nice clothes, and search for interesting experiences and stuff we hadn’t done together before. I endeavored to treat her. That pushed me to branch out and find an enormous number of dog parks I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered, as well as cafes selling pup cups. Caring for her was a total hack for caring for myself. Also, she’s five pounds and won’t eat more than 3oz of food at a time no matter what, so all in all a pretty cheap date.

These days I still have one event on my calendar each week where I require myself to go someplace I haven’t been before. I don’t have to stay for long, but I do have to go, and since it’s on my calendar it’s easier for me to protect that time and schedule around it. Also, twice a week I spend half a day working in a nearby cafe – I lose the benefits of my nice WFH setup, but I gain the benefits of surrounding myself with other people’s energy and not getting cabin fever. This was not my idea, but an assignment by my coach. It’s worked. Making intentionally breaking my routine a part of my routine has had a pretty great effect on my mental health.
posted by 1024 at 10:31 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]

Compound butters are delicious! Try them on toast, roasted vegetables, pasta, rice, soup, etc.

Spicy Moroccan Butter
Saffron Butter
Herbed Butter
Mustard Butter
posted by nikoniko at 11:55 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]

I think I recommend this every single thread, but GET A HEATED BLANKET. I have one in my bed, one on my sofa, a little heated pocket foot mat under my desk, and a heated pad for travel. Even if you think you're "not that cold", being snuggled under a silky heated thing is THE BEST. I'm lying under one as I type this, even though it's June.
Avoid the"sherpa" sheep wool texture as it gets matted and linty - get the silky minky kind.

Related: if you menstruate, take iron supplements. You're very likely on the low end of hemoglobin and ferritin and you'll feel way better if you're on the higher end.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:12 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you drink your lemonade with a straw, you can bypass a lot of teeth enamel, and if you drink water after to rinse (don't brush for a couple hours - as you need to remineralize softened enamel before agitating it), and then eat some cheese to remineralize your enamel, it might be easier on the teef!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:24 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]

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