My Spearmint Gum List – 5 absolutely free things to brighten any day

summer in winterI’m trying to keep focused as I drive down the road
On the ditches and the curves and the heavy load
Ain’t bitching ’bout things that aren’t in my grasp
Just trying to hold steady on the righteous path

Trying to hold steady on the righteous path
80 miles an hour with a worn out map
No time for self-pity or self-righteous crap
Trying to stay focused on the righteous path

(Drive-By Truckers)

Any time I open a newspaper or read the news online, the headlines always include something to do with the current unemployment rate, the economy, or some other crisis that involves money. The experts continue to tell us about it as some sort of reminder, “You’re not worrying enough,” or “Stop spending money.”

I’ve never been an extravagant person or spent an enormous amount of money on unnecessary things. However, I do have days when I worry excessively about not getting by or something unplanned happening that will require an infinite supply of ready cash.

It’s very scary, and many times, if I let myself, I will fill my days with fears of the future, unseen monsters who want to ruin my life and visions of dying in a box on the side of the road, where people walk by, uninterested, and eventually I am taken to the morgue and marked as “Unclaimed Jane Doe No. 5271302.”

It’s outrageous, I know, but it’s fueled by the media, acquaintances, and the current state of the world we live in today. To offset these worries, I see many articles listing things that people can do for entertainment or enjoyment that cost nothing, or very little. Some of the suggestions include things like “Go to a local festival in your area.” Festivals and carnivals are great, and I enjoy them a lot. However, even when admission is free, have you ever gone to a festival and not spent any money? Another suggestion might be to visit the local museum. This is a great suggestion for someone who lives in a larger city. I live in a small town, and going to a museum, which is FREE, requires that we drive 30 miles in the car, find a parking space (which is hardly ever free). If the plan is not to spend money, then that requires plenty of planning to pack snacks or a lunch or leaving in time to make the drive home before anyone gets hungry. This seems extremely stressful and complicated for an outing that was supposed to be free and cost me nothing. My sanity and stress level are worth something, right?

So I’ve been thinking, what about people who truly want to do something that costs NOTHING, or what about someone like me, who doesn’t live near a metropolitan area? Surely I can do things to bring happiness into my life without a lot of effort, time, money, or even leaving my neighborhood?

Yesterday, I was talking to someone who offered me a piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. I almost declined, then changed my mind. As I put the stick of gum in my mouth, I remembered my childhood and my grandmother digging in her purse for a stick of gum to give me and how exciting it always was to taste the sugary gum. The taste of that gum made me happy and made me smile.

That’s when I decided to make my own Spearmint Gum list — My own list of really free things to do that cost me absolutely nothing, but still make me happy and reduce stress. Technically, that pack of gum costs about 50 cents, but I thought I could splurge for such a sentimental memory.

Smile at a stranger. This is probably more common in the south, but we all know that a random act of kindness from a stranger can change the direction of the day. I’ve decided to consciously be that random stranger, instead of always referring to other people who do something that lifts my spirits. Therefore, I plan to remember every day to smile or say hello to one random person I see every day. Smiling costs nothing, and even cheers me up when it’s returned or someone says hello.

Get up 15 minutes early, just for me. This is really not as difficult as it sounds, but I am the worst at hitting the snooze button because I know that I can rush and still make it and get my son out the door for school. However, the times that I wake up early, before the alarm, and spend a few minutes just thinking about the day or enjoying the quiet time, have made a huge difference in my attitude that day. The challenge now is to not turn this into a chore or obligation, but to do it because I enjoy it and it makes me happy.

Eat lunch outside. With spring nearly here, the weather will be mild in Texas and it’s the best time to sit outside and just enjoy the pretty days. Since I work at home, I want to make a commitment to fixing my lunch, taking a break, and enjoying my back yard. This will help me stay on track with my goals of cooking at home and remaining on a practical grocery budget.

Take more photographs. I have a really nice camera that sits in my camera case more than it’s used. I really regret this because I love taking pictures and enjoy the creativity those photos can inspire. Life gets in the way and I find myself making excuses daily as to why I’m not spending more time with my camera. No more excuses. I plan to combine #3 and #4, along with daily neighborhood walks and bike rides, to take pictures, enjoy the outdoors, relax and feel creative.

Smell the lavender. I think smells are important. I love scented candles, essential oils, lotions and herbs. Everyone enjoys the smell of something, and three of my favorite smells are lavender, rosemary and peppermint. When I put lotion on my hands, I can sit there for several minutes just enjoying the fragrance. It’s relaxing.  Fill in the blank with your scent, but stop and smell the lavender.

Creative Commons License Photo credits Flickr users: celine nadeau, icools, twoshortplanks, dotbenjamin

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About the author: Trish