50 Truly Doable Ways to Make Any Day Better

The little things we do to improve drab days.
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The little things we do to improve drab days.
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When I created Cupcakes and Cashmere's motto, "Elevate everyday life," nothing embodied that more than the tiny little things we do to improve our daily routine. I had our team share the simple things they do each day to make drab days feel a bit brighter. 

1. Set alarms with encouraging, cute names.

This is such a small thing, but I've recently taken to naming alarms on my phone that remind me of special moments. During a recent bronchitis bout, I had to set a daily alarm to take antibiotics, and rather than create an alarm called "Take Antibiotics," I re-used an old alarm named "Call Terrapin Creek," which reminded me of the time I secretly called the restaurant where my parents were eating for my dad's birthday and treated them. My dad had called me after the meal in tears and seeing that reminder come up still makes me swell with happiness. - Emily

2. Do something with friends first thing in the morning.

In high school, I'd meet up with my best girlfriends, who all went to different schools, in the morning at a diner a few times a month. Even though we lived on the same street and ended up at each other's houses most afternoons, it felt almost rebellious to meet in the morning. Now, I make an effort to meet friends for a morning work out, like a group class at my gym or to go rock climbing. Laughing before 7 a.m. with them is better than any cup of coffee (though that helps, too!). - Leslie

3. Purchase a bottle of wine that pairs with the dinner you're making. 

Yes, that bottle of $2 Chardonnay you unearthed from the back of your pantry will absolutely do the trick in a pinch, but there's something so rewarding about buying a bottle of wine to pair with your meal. It doesn't have to be expensive or sommelier-recommended, but Googling, "What wine goes with spaghetti and meatballs?" and choosing a great red feels much more intentional and special. - Emily

4. Volunteer.

It sounds so cliché, but I always feel so good after volunteering my time. Whether it's a few hours in a neighborhood garbage clean up or a shift at my local animal shelter, I always know that I'll walk away from it feeling great from having done something for someone other than myself. Consider signing up for a social volunteer opportunity that's outside so you can soak in sunshine and meet people at the same time—in L.A., two organizations I love are Tree People and FarmLA. - Hannah, Graphic Designer

5. Dress up your tech.

One of my resolutions this year was to be more present and mindful of each moment. To give myself a little reminder of this I changed my phone background to a cute graphic that says “Be Present.” When I open my phone to this throughout the day, I like to take a few seconds and appreciate my surroundings, be aware of my current feelings, and just take a few deep breaths. - Raven, E-commerce Coordinator

6. Light a candle while getting ready in the morning.

I generally find that people light candles in the evening, but there's something so special about lighting a candle in the morning—it immediately forces you to slow down and enjoy your morning. See my tips on scent-layering a home here! - Emily

7. Make time to have a home-cooked meal with my family.

With my husband's long work day (he works 12-hour shifts) and our busy schedules, we don't get to sit down for dinner all together every evening. I definitely want to make more of an effort to squeeze this time in since it's definitely my highlight when we get to share stories about our day over a thoughtfully prepared meal. - Ann, VP of Retail

8. Touch-up your lipstick

As Emily mentioned in her post yesterday, "look good, feel good" is so true, and when it's 2:00 in the afternoon, a little self-esteem boost can fuel me until the end of the day. - Lisa, E-Commerce Buyer

9. Put flowers on your bedside table.

I usually put flowers in parts of my home where visitors will see them—on the table at our entryway or in the middle of our kitchen island—but I've started separating a few blooms to place in a bud vase next to my bedside table so it's the first thing I see when I wake up. - Emily 

10. Join a book club at your local bookstore.

Reading a book is one of my favorite things to do, but it's also isolating. To make it more social, and enhance the experience of reading the book, I recently joined a club at my local bookstore that meets once, at the end of the book. Many independent bookstores offer them for free (just the price of the book!). If you don't have a good small bookstore by you, consider joining an online bookclub—I also love RW Book Club! - Leslie

11. Make an afternoon treat for yourself.

Cutting out sweets altogether definitely is not the way to go in my book! It never fails that when I take away sweets, I usually will give in a week or so later and completely indulge until it hurts. So instead, I like to pack a little treat for myself. I like to buy the Milano Dark chocolate cookies that come in packs of 2. It helps me not eat an entire bag in one seating. - Raven

12. Create a playlist of your favorite albums to listen to on the way to work. 

What a perfect way to get through a long drive and not think about the traffic jam I'm in! You can usually find me dancing in my seat. - Ann

13. Rearrange an area of your home.

I always find that a new layout can totally change my perspective. Even if it's just changing the angle of your chairs in the living room, I find that making subtle shifts like this are not only helpful to improving your space, but also make me feel productive which always brightens my day.- Hannah

14. Don't underestimate the power of nostalgia—watch an old show while eating your favorite childhood food.

G and I have always kept frozen chicken nuggets in our freezer for dinnertime emergencies, but it wasn't until having Sloan that I recognized the power of preparing and eating "kid food." Few things are as comforting as a bowl of mac 'n' cheese and a childhood flick—even if Sloan's already tucked in. - Emily

15. Take a break mid-day to plan dinner. 

I do a mental audit of my fridge and pantry throughout the day, and when I get some downtime, I look up new recipes or get excited about some old favorites then stop at the store on my way home. Having my meal planned gives me something to look forward to when I get home (that isn't just plopping down on the couch and not moving until bedtime). - Lisa 

16. Stop for a coffee on the way to work (then drink it there!). 

Most mornings, I make coffee at home, but when I buy coffee on my way to the office, I've started to drink it at the coffee shop instead of taking it to-go. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to drink, which I do while sitting with a book (and turning off my phone so I don't get distracted by a must-answer work email). Since I'm always in a rush, the simple ritual forces me to slow down, at least for a few minutes! - Leslie

17. Take a 10-minute walk.

When's the last time you took a post-dinner stroll or a leisurely walk after your morning cup of coffee? On days when our team eats lunch at the computer (not ideal, but it happens!), we always make it a point to go for a 10-minute walk immediately afterward or later in the day. Meander, with no set destination, and you'll be amazed at how much stress just a short walk can relieve. - Emily

18. Take yourself out to a movie.

This is a classic self-date, but it's classic for a reason. Now is the perfect time to go see that movie everyone's raving about. Bonus: you don't have to share your popcorn. - Hannah

19. Reserve Wednesday nights for friends! 

My friends and I like to pick a new show and usually drink wine and hang out. It gets tough to see everyone all the time so it's nice to at least dedicate one night a week to seeing my friends and getting out of the house.- Raven

20. Learn a new skill. 

Any evening I'm home alone and don't have a clear show to watch or book to read, I search for online classes. I've learned to play Sweet Child of Mine on the guitar (I don't play guitar, but honestly YouTube can teach you anything), a few words in Vietnamese for an upcoming trip, and the ethics of memory from a Brown professor. The internet is like an entire university! Even if it wasn't a particularly rewarding or productive day, learning something new can make it feel like one. - Leslie 

21. Make your bed.

This is the first thing I accomplish in the morning. It really launches me into a mindset of being neat and setting the scene for my day's organization. - Lisa

22. Take a break for 5 minutes to FaceTime my daughter.

This is a good way to break up the workday. My daughter always puts a smile on my face and I want her to know I'm always thinking about her! - Ann

23. Make a beautiful meal, even if you have no one to feed but yourself. 

I'm not much of a bath person, and I always resent face masks as soon as I have to get off the couch to wash them off (just me?), but one self-care ritual I can absolutely get behind is cooking a big, beautiful meal for myself. When I ate meat, I'd roast a chicken for myself then eat it directly off the bird (bonus of cooking alone is no one's there to see you make a mess with chicken bits). Nowadays, I'll make a beautiful pasta, making as many pieces of the meal from scratch, from the ricotta to the pasta itself. The act of cooking alone is a meditation, with a meal at the end as the reward! - Leslie

24. Select "gift wrap" for an online gift you're buying for yourself.

When you buy a particularly nice item for yourself online—think, those $200 flats you've been eyeing for months—select the option for "gift wrap." It may cost an additional $5, but receiving something wrapped truly makes it feel like a gift, To: Me. Love: Me. - Emily 

25. Explore a new neighborhood. 

When I have a free afternoon, I love to drive to a new neighborhood, park my car by a cute coffee shop and just wander around and see a part of the city I'm not familiar with. Through doing this, I've found some of my favorite boutiques and coffee shops in L.A. - Hannah

26. Start the morning with a workout. 

Instead of jumping straight to the coffee pot, my roommate and I walk the mile and a half to our fave yoga studio at 6 a.m. Even on my laziest morning, knowing my roommate is in the next room also getting ready definitely holds me accountable and I never regret going! - Raven

27. Re-write your to-do list. 

Crossing off finished tasks feels so so good, but once most are crossed off, I like to transfer remaining to-dos to a new list. This shorter list makes me feel accomplished and ready to add more without feeling overwhelmed. - Lisa

28. Learn the names of the people you interact with every day.

You can easily go through life not knowing the names of the people you see nearly every day—especially when we spend so much time staring at our phones, answering emails or looking at photos of people we already know. Take the time to ask your barista / barre instructor / mail man / neighbor / parking attendant / grocery store clerk, "What's your name again?" then go from there! Soon enough, they'll feel like another friendly face. - Emily

29. Write a hand-written letter to a friend. 

There's something about sending a handwritten note that feels so much more thoughtful than a quick text or phone call. Take a few minutes to write a letter to a close friend or family member. Who knows? They might write you back! Hannah

30. Take an extra ten minutes to plan a fun outfit for the day. 

As Lisa said, when you look good, you feel good. When I take that extra time to put together a fun outfit and do my hair and makeup, I always so feel so much better about myself and it definitely starts my day out on the right track! - Raven

31. Play a board game. 

G and I have always loved playing Scrabble together (even though it gets a bit too competitive at times), and a few times a month, we make an effort to turn off the t.v. (our usual go-to after a long day at work) and play a game, which feels like a fun break from the norm. - Emily

32. Eat breakfast for dinner.

This was something my parents would always spring on us as a fun surprise when I was younger. I now realize it was likely a result of them not wanting to spend a long time in the kitchen, but to this day, breakfast for dinner feels like a special occasion to me, even if its just scrambled eggs and toast.- Hannah 

33. Write in a diary.

I haven't kept a diary regularly since middle school (and when I look back on those it is cringe-worthy. There are only so many ways you can doodle a crush's name, lemme tell ya.), but I still find it helpful to journal once in a while for the enjoyment of writing and the sake of getting things off my chest. Often, I'll write until I feel like stopping—which can be as short as a page, or as long as twenty—but it feels so cathartic and relaxing to handwrite whatever happens to be on my mind that day. - Leslie

34. Start my morning by making a cup of my favorite coffee.  

Honestly, is there anything more effective at brightening a day than coffee? Since my commute is an hour each way, I always bring a mug of coffee in my car with me in the morning to help the commute feel a little less like L.A. traffic purgatory and (the tiniest bit) more like a café. - Ann

35. Get something you've been dreading out of the way.

Whenever I come across a challenging email or something I've been struggling to respond to, my first instinct is to put it off and get back to it later, but then it only ends up bothering me for longer. It always feels so much better to take those challenges head-on and get them over with! - Lisa 

36. Spend twice as long talking at the table as you did preparing dinner.

I first heard this tip years ago and it's still one of my favorites since it has the power to truly set the tone for an evening. Even though G and I spend all day together at work, sitting together to enjoy dinner helps us reconnect as a couple, rather than business partners or parents. - Emily

37. Listen to your favorite playlist from last summer.

Every summer, I make a 'driving playlist' that has all of me and my friends' favorite songs, so that we can just hit shuffle anytime we get in the car and know that we'll have a good soundtrack. Whenever I'm feeling a little down, putting on a past playlist is a surefire way to bring me right back to long drives in the summer sun. - Hannah

38. Call your parents!

Sometimes, the workload can be a little overwhelming and we all just plug in our headphones and dive in for the day. On these days, I look forward to my 6:30 p.m. phone call with my dad. He has jokes for days and if I’ve had a rough day, can quickly turn it around. - Raven

39. Buy yourself a treat every time you do a big grocery store run.

Every time I do a big grocery store run, I like to buy myself a treat for checking off the major errand. I'm not sure if the cashier has caught on yet that I buy a "mini brie" every time I check out, but it's become something I look forward to each week! - Leslie

40. Wake up a few minutes early to get glammed up for my workday.

I love it when I have time to curl my hair and do my complete makeup routine before my workday. It not only makes me look better, but it makes me feel better when I can present myself in the best light. - Ann

41. Have a florist put together an arrangement for you.

Yes, an arrangement is more expensive than, say a bunch of grocery-store daisies, but it's also a beautiful gift to buy yourself on special occasions and will be your favorite arrangement you've ever received since you curated it. Visit your local florist and tell them your favorite colors, flowers, and how much you're willing to spend. The best part is the delayed gratification: waiting, then picking it up a few hours later or after work. - Emily

42. Use a face mask. 

One of my favorite ways to wind down after a taxing day is to apply a cleansing mud mask, and then follow it with a moisturizing mask. It's such a nice way to pamper yourself at home, that can be really cost-effective depending on the masks you use. - Hannah

43. Do exactly the opposite of what you're "supposed" to do.

There's a lot to be said for embracing a breakfasty breakfast or a season—cozying up with hot chocolate in the middle of winter is a perfect way to spend an evening—but there's also a lot to be said for switching it up. It's hardly rebellious, but: Braise in the summer, cook a burger in the winter. - Leslie

44. Drink bubbly water. 

This tip is so simple that I'm not even sure if it belongs here, but it's really something that improves my day and brightens me right up! I sometimes feel sluggish after lunch, and a cold, bubbly drink helps me feel a little peppier. - Lisa 

45. Create a "relaxing time" playlist. 

Whenever you hear a song you love that puts you into a relaxed and happy mood, add it to a specific playlist. Once you have a good number of songs in there, you can play it when you get home from work, or whenever you need help winding down. (Mine is mostly songs from the soundtrack to The Hours and folky French songs, but it does the trick.) - Emily 

46. Master your favorite cocktail, then make it on a random weeknight. 

Both my parents work from home so they adopted something they call "Cocktail hour!" where my mom usually announces the phrase at the end of her workday, at which point they'd both head into the living room and have a drink together (sometimes a real drink, sometimes sparkling water with cranberry juice), and just chat about the day. As much as I like to get dinner started as soon as I get home, Jonah and I often announce, "Cocktail hour!" when we walk in the door which means we pause dinner, make Negronis, and just chat about our day before diving into the meal. It's a brief moment of respite amid a crazy work week—plus, I love a Negroni. - Leslie

47. Reconnect with an old friend.

One of my favorite ways to brighten my day is to catch up with a friend over Facetime. It's the closest thing to an in-person conversation, and I always feel great afterward. - Hannah

48. Make after-work plans.

We live in such a fun city that I feel like I never take full advantage of. My roommate and I are usually in bed by 8:30 p.m. so we decided that once a week after work we would start going to a happy hour in our area—even if just for one glass of wine. - Raven

49. Pick up takeout (even if you had well-meaning intentions to make dinner). 

Even though G and I try to cook at home most nights during the week, we'll sometimes abandon dinner plans for a takeout pizza. It always feels so indulgent and can make even a blah day mid-week feel that much more special, and more like a date night. - Emily

50. Google "cute baby animal videos."

Trust me on this. - Hannah