10 Extremely Simple Tips to Eliminate Stress From Your Day

Gretchen Rubin on creating your own personal happiness

When I was little, I was always puzzled by the maxim, “A stitch in time saves nine.” I couldn’t figure out what that meant. Finally, light dawned: a single stitch, made in good time, saves the trouble of making nine stitches later. In other words, a little effort now saves a lot of effort later.

That notion underlies several of the tips below. The other notion: when I have a reasonable amount of energy, life feels a lot less stressful.

1. Keep some cash in the house. For years, I badgered my husband to get cash so we had cash in the house. Finally, light dawned: Why did I get to decide that this was his problem? Now I get cash when we need a reserve, and I feel much better.

2. Never let your car’s gas level fall into the “empty” zone. Special note to my fellow under-buyers: if you can afford it, fill the tank! Save yourself from having to return to the gas station in two days.

3. Have an over-the-counter pain reliever at hand at all times.

4. Put your keys away in the same place every day. This sounds so easy — and it is. It will make you so happy.

5. Turn out the light as soon as you’re sleepy. Since I started my happiness project, I’ve become a sleep nut. Getting enough sleep makes a huge difference in my sense of energy and cheerfulness.

6. Walk around the block.

7. Take ten minutes before bed to tidy up.

8. If you have to pack a lunch for anyone, get it ready the night before.

9. Have at least one good friend who lives in the neighborhood.

10. Make your bed. This sounds trivial, I know — but try it, it really helps!

Samuel Johnson pointed out that “To live in perpetual want of little things is a state, not indeed of torture, but of constant vexation.” By making the effort to stay on top of the little things, you can keep the vexation to a minimum.

What am I missing? What tip would you add to this list?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project. Each Wednesday is tip day on her blog.

5 comments so far.

  1. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    As the most important thing in our lives is our love of family, the greatest joy in my life each and every day is to give hugs to my husband and children before we set off in the morning.  I usually whisper (whispering helps) some version of “I love you so much” and I may get all that and more back in return.  I think the greatest reliever of stress is knowing that we have loved ones to share our lives and care when we have both successes and bad times. 

    I always think “warm and fuzzy” when I think of love and hugs — and at that moment I am in another world within and stress is lifted.  .  . with no pills needed. 

    As you are thinking of the practicalities on your own list, then I must add that I am never without an umbrella in my car in case of cloudbursts.  Looking like a drowned rat can otherwise happen at VERY unfortunate times. . . and I have learned this the hard way.  A spare pair of flats in the trunk for the race to the grocery after work is a very very smart idea after a day in the city.

    Ohh — my morning newspapers are delivered in waterproof plastic tubes (I will not tell you what I call those tubes~!) but I immediately put the plastic tubes to use by emptying my coffee grounds from the morning in them before heading for work. No wet, no mess, and a fast, magical disappearance to keep the kitchen tidy in a second.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Smart. In addition to the umbrella I also keep an old pair of sneakers and leather gloves in the car, in case I get a flat or some other surprise while wearing dressy shoes. There are also a couple of old towels which have come in handy occasionally.

  2. avatar MWH says:

    Great points! I would add to try and keep your sense of humor, don’t take life quite so seriously, enjoy it!
    And, always keep nail clippers in your purse, your can fix a rough nail, or cut off a string or tag.

  3. avatar ThomasMorgan says:

    Great post.

  4. avatar ann penn says:

    Toss unwanted mail into the recycle bin when it arrives.

    My big problem is the clutter and I am trying to rid myself of “stuff” I do not need. It is a battle, but I know that the more I can make my environment simple and orderly, the easier my life will be.