Days are getting darker and the winter blues are fast approaching. We're all in need of some positivity, treating ourselves to resupply the stores that the world seems determined to sap.
Last year, we asked you how you treat yourself without spending money or indulging in food. Here are some of your answers. (Feel free to keep the ideas coming in the comments!)
Enjoying the creative work of others or making some of your own is a great way to replenish your soul. Hobbies and crafts may take supplies, but they can be cheap or free. IMJoeKing says:
If you play music, spend time doing that. If you are a visual artist, create something in your favourite medium. Not only is this relaxing and enjoyable, but you may also get a great feeling of accomplishment having created something.
I sit down, put an audiobook or some nice calm music on and just sit and colour. There are so many pages that you can print out, so you don't even have to buy a colouring book that you'll only use a couple of pages from.
SeastarSarah gets crafty:
I'm a knitter, so I'll work on a project while bingeing something on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu. If you're a creative person, I'd recommend giving yourself time to work on a project is a great "treat."
Brad Kuhn goes for video games:
Generally, whenever I feel accomplished enough to think I deserve some type of reward I play a video game. I feel I have the best ability to enjoy it knowing I'm not simply procrastinating and deserve the time to turn off my brain for a while.
No. 1 Sing, either sing along to your favourite music or even better sing with friends/family.
or No. 2 play an instrument if you have one. It doesn't matter how good or bad you are just play it.
or No. 3 just play some mp3s, cds, vinyl, cassettes… or even stream with youtube/spotify.
You can also seek out free cultural institutions, like museums, galleries, and concerts. IMJoeKing says:
Some museums are free, or at least have days where entrance are free or reduced. It can be relaxing and enjoyable to take a few hours to stroll through a museum at your leisure.
The paragon of free culture is the public library, which many commenters suggested. Books are a beautiful escape -- Llancier says, "I find rereading an old favourite is the best way of getting myself out of a slump."
Setting aside real time to just READ. An investment of time, rather than money.
I used to spend entire days reading as a kid, getting lost in the story. Life seems to get in the way now. Setting aside a whole morning/afternoon/evening (or two of those!) on a weekend to blow through a book, or a good chunk of an epic read, is just amazingly enjoyable.
First person who says books cost money gets a knock upside the head from this librarian.
Tinyhipsterboy adds, "They have books, but they also have movies, music, and magazines, and if you have a card many libraries have e-book collections."
Taco Bebe has this extra wisdom: "Go to the library and pick up some impulse loans. Really itches that "shopping/spend money" spot for me.
Make Your Body Feel Good
If your first thought for treats is junk food, it can be super helpful to find other physical pleasures to scratch that indulgence itch.
Several commenters suggested a good, hot bath. Wallflower points out, "It's hard to get distracted from the million other things I need to do when I'm physically restricted from doing them."
Cyprian knows how to make a bath a relaxation event: "Pour in the epsom salts and have a book and a drink handy. Turn the radio to the classical station (or whatever relaxes)."
Speaking of making your body feel good, there were plenty of votes for one activity that doesn't cost a dime: masturbation. Go to town.
As long as it doesn't feel like a chore, making the time to exercise can be a way to reconnect with your body and set aside time for yourself.
For Andrew, exercise works:
"As I've explained to my girlfriend and mother that is my version of church and/or therapy. Go out for as long as I'm able to recollect my thoughts and let out my frustrations."
CiceroCicerareCiceraviCiceratum says, "I particularly like a nice slow run. It makes me feel like I'm doing something good for myself while simultaneously not getting in a damn hurry to do it."
It doesn't have to be strenuous, though. Taco Bebe goes for "A good stretching session. I've been foam-rolling after I work out lately, especially my neck and upper-back. Very relaxing and feels so good!"
Molly says, "I go to the YMCA close to my home to sit in the sauna and stretch."
Get Away From Your Stress
Baths and exercise both have the benefit of disconnecting you from whatever's stressing you -- as long as your stress isn't exercise or your water bill. Sometimes all it takes is disconnecting.
Several commenters suggested unplugging from the internet, whether it's the news flood of social media or the pressures of work. Gl21133 says:
Time is my best "free" treat, specifically time away from something. Usually time away from my work, my phone, the constant poop-stream of news. It doesn't have to be alone, often I'd rather spend it with my girls or my dogs, but solo has its merits.
Spending time outside has the double benefit of getting you out of your stresshole and into nature.
Niftium goes outside whether it's pleasurable or not:
Take a walk outside! I don't want to hear "but ew it's cold" or "but what if my shoes get wet" or "that's what the treadmill is for" - take a walk outside. If you can, try not to turn around until you've forgotten about whatever you were stressing about. If it's raining or snowing, so much the better. Nothing like fighting the elements to help put things in perspective.
Even without leaving home, you can make the deliberate decision to shut out your stress. Nov15-22 suggests "Carving out time for yourself. There is always going to be something that needs to be done. But it doesn't mean it has to always be done NOW."
Wallflower says, "I also sometimes just have to force myself to have a lazy day. Like yes the house could be cleaned but I'm going to lay on the couch and watch Netflix."
Shutting off the "shoulds" for a few hours or a day can be a magical thing. Budgetrockshowcase indulges by stealing a day away from work:
I take a day off from work w/o telling anyone except my boss and "disappear" for a day. I turn off my cell phone and spend a few hours hiking around a park, walking around a big city, etc. Free and healthy.
Make a Connection
On the other hand, making a connection, with loved ones, strangers, or pets, can also be relaxing and restorative.
Clovis Sangrall believes in attending a social outreach function through a religious or community organisation:
For me, that means Old Lady Book Club, Compline (attending a lovely all-sung service with other music lovers), or doing a charity event.
IMO, the times I feel happiest are having social situations that don't require any work of me. Show up, plop the kids in the care-program that most churches/synagogues/etc have, and then, like, make wreaths, discuss a book, feed homeless people, do a "fun" run (not my thing, but I believe other people do this type of thing) or what have you.
It's nice... usually the other people in these situations will be familiar, but not people you know well, so you don't get the stress of a cold relationship, but you're still branching out from your usual scene. You don't have to clean your house or spend money on a meal. And free childcare! And often, you end up talking about things that most of us don't really discuss in our day-to-day lives.
On a similar front, Butterfly047 says, "Reading the bible and connecting with God helps me emotionally, mentally and spiritually."
Courtney says that social dancing can be the ultimate treat:
I enjoy the connection that occurs when dancing to a really good song to a point where you and your partner have synced up to the point of breathing the same.
Molly calls her mum. Even texting a friend to say hi can help.
I disconnect from everything and brush my dog. Sounds weird, but he loves getting brushed so much and I often don't have time to brush him as often as I should (if he had his way, it'd be 24/7). So I like to listen to music, sit on the floor, and get some bonding-brush time. He loves it, I love that he loves it, and it's so calming and soothing. It feels like a treat to not have to "time" myself or worry about everything else I could/should be doing. We both feel better afterwards.
Whatever You Do, Do It Mindfully
Even regular activities can be treats when done with extra joy.
Tinyhipsterboy turns simply cooking a meal into something wonderful:
I'm also really partial to turning on some music and dancing and singing while I make lunch or dinner. Yes, it's food, but it's a meal I'd already be making and eating, so instead of trying to get work done or truly multitask during it, I make the cooking time time for myself.
Absotively does something similar, making a meal a special event:
Make a three-course dinner for yourself. Use your nicest dishes, tablecloth/placemat, etc. If you feel really fancy, add a candle. Maybe try to ignore your phone while you eat.
This doesn't require fancy or unhealthy food to feel a bit decadent, though it does require a little bit of planning and time. Pretty much any salad or soup makes a perfectly nice starter, even if it's from a bag or a can. A piece of fruit, cut up and sprinkled with a half-teaspoon of sugar, is a fairly tasty dessert. The middle course can be whatever else you were going to eat anyways.
The most important thing is that when you treat yourself, you let yourself really enjoy it. Sing.electric says:
This sounds dumb and obvious, but I stop and ask myself "what do I really want to be doing right now?" and do it. Sometimes, it's curling up and reading a book, sometimes its watching a TV, sometimes its spending time with my dog.
The real trick is telling myself "I've [accomplished a lot/had a rough day/whatever] so I deserve a treat, even if I've still got [chores/to-do list/laundry]. What do I actually want to do right now?"
Asking myself that question helps me break habits of quasi-mindlessly going for "treats" (like grabbing chocolate, opening a bottle of something, or going shopping) just because I "need to treat myself." (Level 202 of this is realising that sometimes, treating yourself can involve those things, and that's OK).