Gretchen Rubin

A key to happiness: over-the-counter medication. Don’t take it for granted.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood (see bottom left-hand column) is “Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.”

Why is this so hard for me to remember?

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I was so uncomfortable. I had a scrape on the back of my thigh that was in the itchy stage of healing, and a rash on my other leg was also intensely itchy.

I lay there, in the heat and humidity (no air conditioning in our vacation spot), trying and failing to resist itching one leg and then the other.

Then I remembered: “Wait, maybe I can put some MEDICINE on my legs!”

I’d packed a tube of Lanacane for the trip. And you know what, although it surprises me every time, over-the-counter medication really DOES work. The itchiness stopped almost entirely.

Somehow, although I’m a firm believer in medicine, I always assume that the anti-itch creme, the cough suppressant, and the allergy medicine won’t really make much difference to my condition. But they DO. They really do work.

One habit I’ve developed as part of my happiness project has been to try to do a better job managing discomfort. Not letting myself get too hungry, too sleepy, too cold, or too itchy, makes it easier for me to stay patient and light-hearted.

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