Nine Things You Can Do Every Day – Even When You Can’t Do Anything Else.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Nine things you can do every day — even when you can’t do anything else.

We all promise ourselves to do better, but it can sure seem impossible, some days. I try to keep a list of things that I can do every day. Even when I forget to write in my one-sentence journal or I don’t make it to the gym, I try to make sure I hit all these items.

That way, even if I feel like I had a day when I got nothing accomplished, I can comfort myself, as I climb into my smooth, tidy bed, “Well, at least I went for a walk. I ate an apple. I hugged my daughters.”

Every day…

1. Make your bed.

2. Wear sunscreen.

3. Wear your seat belt.

4. Jump up and down a few times.

5. Pick up one object that’s in the wrong place and put it away.

6. Go for a ten-minute walk outside.

7. Eat a fruit or vegetable.

8. Put your keys away in the same place.

9. Touch everyone in your house with affection.

Bonus: 10. Go to sleep as soon as you’re sleepy, if you possibly can.

How about you? Are there things that you try to do every day, even when it seems impossible to get anything done?

* I often check out Michael Hyatt’s blog — “leading with purpose” – and thought this post, Six keys to achieving big goals, had a lot of great ideas and information.

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 37,000 people get it)
Buy the book — #1 New York Times bestseller, yay!
— Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
— Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • qconklin

    Some items on my list of do every day. Breath consciously, laugh, joke

    • gretchenrubin

      Laugh every day! That’s an especially great one!

    • Donna

      That is true for everyone, breathe as much as you can and enjoy the feeling it’s so good for you. I have massive lung damage so being able to breathe for what is a good day for me is truly a treasure. It’s very frightening when you cannot breathe, and of course that makes doing anything else impossible at those times. God Bless and appreciate your good health if you have it, it’s truly a blessing!

  • Hi- I love your blog and your book. I’ve been trying to spread the word for you, because I agree that word of mouth can be the best advertisement! I posted a summary of your book and link to your blog on mine. I just wanted to post my blog here too if you don’t mind. Confessions of a Wannabe Runner-

    • gretchenrubin

      Wonderful, thanks so much!

  • Cat

    Sunscreen? That one might be location and skintype specific. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Good point! Substitute flossing, maybe!

    • 423

      At the risk of sounding preach-y…dermatologists recommend you use facial sunscreen every day no matter where you live because of damaging sun rays that get through even on a cloudy day. It is easy once you start doing it. And speaking as a woman it is the ONLY wrinkle product that actually WORKS.

      • Amen, 423! I’m very fair-skinned, and I’ve been wearing sunscreen religiously, summer, winter, rain or shine, since I was 26. Now, at 46, I usually pass for being in my 30’s. My “lay out in the sun” friends from my youth? Definitely look 10 years older than they are!


    Drink plenty of water. Somehow I find a way to fill up a big jug and finish it regardless of the lack of time. Also to say thank you to the universe can easily be done at whatever time!!

  • candef

    Something to add to the list… listen to those around you. Seek out something that will make you smile: a quote, a story, an inspiring photo. You may be surprised at what you find, and how fulfilling it is!

  • At minimum, I pray Morning and Evening Prayer of the Divine Office (prayer of the Catholic Church, based on praying the Psalms). I usually also pray the Office of Readings (selections from the Bible and other spiritual texts) with Morning Prayer, and also stop in the middle of the day for the short Mid-Day Prayer and say the brief Night Prayer with a 5-minute reflection on the day just before I go to sleep. I also get a lot out of 1/2-hour daily Mass each day, with a communal lunch at my university chaplaincy afterwards every weekday. I try to also take some extra quiet time after finishing my prayer first thing in the morning to sit and recollect myself for the day. And before I leave the house, I pick a “thought for the day” (currently going through the Sayings of the Desert Fathers) to meditate on as I walk between classes and while running errands. Moving through busy streets downtown is definitely when I need to breathe and practice the presence of God!

  • This is very cool!

    I always try to make my bed, wear my seat belt and put my keys in the same place every day.

    I try to build in other habits into my routine such as meditating, smiling and so on. I have actually written things down that I should do everyday: working out, eating healthy foods, waking up and going to sleep on time, making a to do list and so on.

    The most effective thing to have a great day is actually to make your bed the first things in the morning and do not turn on your computer the first. If you can do that, then you are off to a pretty good start!


  • Kim Simpson

    Hello – If you’re looking for common sense strategies for making and keeping New Year Resolutions via small daily steps AKA ‘Daily Resolves’ drop by IResolveTo.Com.

    Consider taking the Second Annual I Resolve To . . . Challenge: 365 Resolutions For Health & Happiness. The Challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to do at least one (or more) things each and every day that promote health and happiness for you. Choose among hundreds of small daily steps, illustrated with photo-resolutions, that you can take each and every day. Here’s to making resolutions, keeping resolutions, and enjoying the journey . . . Be a Resolutionista in 2010!

    Kim Simpson

  • Great Idea! I’ll try it out this week 😉

  • geoks18

    Yes…Gretchen I LoVe You!…After I read tip#4 it suddenly dawned on me…And I would Love for you… if possible…to drink one 6 to 8 oz cup
    of freshly brewed (not too hot OK) Green Tea..everyday OK!
    I Love You!, Geo.

  • Love these 9 things you posted, Gretchen! No matter how busy are lives are, we should make it a point to do simple things that can relieve our stress.

    Another one that maybe some of you do is to cuddle their pet everyday. 🙂 It works wonders if you’re feeling down and out.

    • Donna

      Yes! This is a good one for me, my mom is alone since my dad passed away this past year, and she can’t even have a pet. I think that’s awful.

    • dahlia

      you right linda

  • Love these 9 things you posted, Gretchen! No matter how busy are lives are, we should make it a point to do simple things that can relieve our stress.

    Another one that maybe some of you do is to cuddle their pet everyday. 🙂 It works wonders if you’re feeling down and out.

  • Donna

    Hmmm I’ll have to try and come up with a list that people who don’t have good health, can’t get out, and don’t have anyone around most of the time can do. It’s hard on my end being housebound since I turned 40, being on an oxygen machine, I do get to see my DH at night, I can’t do the things on the list above, I do try to come up with my own , but sometimes thinking about it is as far as I get, and the trick is not to get depressed, or be able to accept that this is how I am, or how things are today, and make the best with what I DO have and can do. The things I can’t do are hard for me to think about!
    I’ll try to come up with a list that works for me and write you.

  • alexfayle

    I do all those things every day except for eat a fruit or vegetable. Food is my big happiness/someday challenge…

    At some point I’ll figure out a way to get over that one.

  • Nice list. Doubt sunscreen would be useful over in the UK though. 🙂

    • elemjay

      It doesn’t need to be actively sunny to start making wrinkles you know – even in Blighty a bit of sunscreen on the face is a good idea

    • isabellagarden

      UVA and UVB rays are present around the globe; wherever there is sunlight, even through clouds. Protect yourself and wear sunscreen.

  • Amy H.

    I like it! I have one more for me: Pull your shoulders back and down and really stand up straight — and walk anywhere you walk with good posture as well.

    • Lina

      agree,people look much nicer when tray stand up straight 🙂

  • Rose Ann

    # 11 would be ~ Thinking of someone else every day, by sending them a letter, card, e-mail, e-card or telephone call, can be a blessing to that person & to yourself 🙂

  • Carol

    I always start my day this way: as my two feet hit the floor when I get out of bed, I say “Thank You”– one word for each foot. It reminds me of how joyous it is to live to see another day and puts me in a mindset of gratitude for the rest of the day. So easy, yet so powerful.


  • amyweisberg

    Here is something I have on my daily “to do” list: write.

  • amyweisberg

    One thing on my daily “to-do” list is: write.

  • Tensy Marcos-Bodker


    Great advertisement in the NYT today. Wow, a full page ad! I’m reading a very interesting novel by Richard Powers, Generosity: An enhancement, which posits the question, what would humanity do if someone was born with a genetic predisposition to happiness? Powers, author of the National Book Award–winning The Echo Maker, packs a punch in this novel, and if you have time in your hectic schedule, it might be worth reading on the plane.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much! I’m a longtime, huge fan of Richard Powers, so I read
      GENEROSITY as soon as it came out. He is a wonderful writer.

  • It is amazing what a difference making your bed makes. I’ve been trying to incorporate that habit into my life and I’m amazed by how a 30 second activity can give me such a boost.

  • elemjay

    Kiss my husband when I leave the house to go to work and kiss him when I come back home again. The days may be long but there’s always time for (at least) 2 kisses…

  • Layne

    I saw this post on facebook the other day and wanted to come read it and the comments again because I have a 3 month old and have been thinking a lot about the minimum things I could do to take care of myself every day! Here are mine–very minimal, but remember I’m a new mom!
    1. Take a vitamin
    2. Take a walk
    3. Take a shower
    4. Email, call, or text a friend or family member

    I think I’ll add sunscreen and jumping! Thanks, Gretchen!

  • happyuws

    Shine my sink before going to bed – even if I have to take out the dirty dishes and put them aside! Great to wake up to.

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, a fan of FlyLady, I see! I love her strategies.

  • scotiagirl

    For a minute a day, I try to bring attention to my posture especially while on the computer or walking. While typing, I picture a yard stick up my spine as my yoga teach taught us and while walking, I continue the yard stick straight back, shoulders down, neck long, eyes forward for a feeling of being taller, thinner and a bit like a model on a catwalk – only smiling:)

  • I need to make my list today. Let’s see, I think some of the things on my list will be some of what’s on your list. I like that list. Thanks for posting this.

  • My list is almost identical to yours–but I didn’t know about the jumping part! And I don’t really think about these things; they’re just habits. Making the bed I do recognize as a gift to myself. I also always get dressed and fix my hair and put on make-up. Another gift to myself, which I have to remind myself of when I get tired of it. But I’d be much less happy without it, so I do it! Thanks, as ever!–Susan K.

  • One thing that I do every day before I go to work, is to open all of my curtains, so that when I come home from work, I will come home to light. What a difference it makes is changing my mood no matter what type of day I had.
    Gretchen – loved your list! Making your bed, the easiest and best way to add a bit of happiness after a long, hard day.

  • nlouisek

    Hi Gretchen,

    I made copies of the nine things to do every day and tucked the sheets into my journal pages. I check off the ones I do during the day and it feels great. No more frustration. No more, “Oh I should have done that” .

    Now I am creating my personal list. So far –
    Wash my face at night.
    Practice my flute 30 minutes.
    Write something in my journal everyday.

    Why jump up and down?

  • adorita

    Sometimes I look at my hands and thank my body for letting me do what I want to do.
    I had terrible back pain last year that kept me in bed for weeks. Even simple things like going to the bathroom can cause pain down my entire body. It must be some kind of cosmic joke that I got “Diving Bell & Butterfly” from netflicks and “1 Litre of tears” from Amazon Japan that week. I had ordered them months before I got sick. Since then, I am more conscious with my body and thankful that I can move around.

  • Teresa_0222

    Thank you for this idea! 🙂 This technique certainly helps relieve the pressure of considering work-related activities as the only productive tasks we could accomplish in a day. This way, we get to feel useful and fulfilled every day, based on little things like making the bed, cleaning up one area of the house at a time, decluttering a portion of my desk per day, smiling and holding a meaningful conversation with our loved ones and the like.

    P.S. Check these out to see how being quiet ( and getting out of your way ( could help you be more productive and accomplish more.

  • sylviadiane

    Take my vitamin supplements.

  • Kelly

    I love your website!

    • gretchenrubin

      Awww, thanks! I’m so HAPPY to hear that!

  • m65

    Consider taking the Second Annual I Resolve To . . . Challenge: 365 Resolutions For Health & Happiness. The Challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to do at least one (or more) things each and every day that promote health and happiness for you. Choose among hundreds of small daily steps, illustrated with photo-resolutions, that you can take each and every day. Here’s to making resolutions, keeping resolutions, and enjoying the journey . . . Be a Resolutionista in 2010!


  • Carmel

    I really needed this today-..ah! Thank You..

  • Spoiledbrat1258

    this is a very helpful list for all and i think especially for people suffering from depression – i would add 11. brush your teeth and floss 12. bathe 13. care for your pets (if applicable) 14. water your plants (if applicable)

    a component of my journey in navigating life is developing my “attitude of gratitude” – finding good in everything and being thankful for difficulties as well as victories – my approach “adversity asks us to find creative (positive) solutions to life’s difficulties”

    thank you for the gift of this website/blog – i view it as a “treat”

  • Tangzy662000

    wash my face,brush my teeth,wear shooes,walk awhile,open my pc,smail,eat food

  • Brendaaaldrich

    Live each day to the fullest, love one another, do what you can, when you can, even if its just making a phone call to comfort a friend, or family member to let them know you are thinking about them and love them. You just might put a smile on their face.

    We all get lonely at times, so call someone today, it will make their day a little brighter!

  • Monarchval

    I have a favorite cartoon “Rose is Rose” which is now online. I read that and one other first thing in the morning. It makes me smile/and or makes me think.