Low-Cost Ways to Brighten Someone’s Day

I like to think of myself as a positive person — someone who can shake things off and always believes blue skies are around the corner. But during these last few weeks in quarantine, it has been way too easy for me to fall into a slump and linger there for a while. The news is depressing, social media is a minefield of gut-wrenching posts, and my own home feels isolating and blah. It’s a really, really tough time to stay positive. 

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But what’s been keeping me going is the knowledge that this is a universal experience. We’re all going through this together, and all feeling mixed emotions. 

On those inevitable bad days, I’m lucky to have friends and family to bring joy back into my day and remind me that the struggle is worth it. On good days, I want to return the favor to them in whatever small ways I can! Keep reading for four easy, low-cost ways to brighten someone’s day — not only during this lonely time, but also whenever you sense they might need a pick-me-up!

Grab a pen and paper and send some snail mail

I love getting mail. I jump with excitement when I see an envelope addressed to me even if it ends up being from my health insurance company. Sending postcards is a personal favorite pastime of mine. They’re short, sweet, and just as fun to write as they are to receive! 

Another option is seasonal greeting cards, if you have them… and you’d be surprised at what you can find just rummaging around your house. I’ve found everything from Easter cards to Halloween cards to “just saying hi” cards tucked away in my basement from years ago. And if all else fails, you always have good ‘ole looseleaf. Chances are, your pal is going to be thrilled that they received anything handwritten in the mail, even if it’s not #HallmarkApproved. Just the gesture itself is special!

Send a digital greeting

If you’re all out of stamps, send a text or email with a personal video or voice note.

It might seem insignificant, but hearing a friend’s voice or seeing their face after not connecting for a while can make such a positive impact on my day. One friend that I don’t get to see often will randomly send me a voice note to check in and say hi, and it always brings a genuine smile to my face. I never think to send these, but knowing how happy it makes me to receive them, I want to start! 

In your video or voice note, you can be sappy and tell your friend how much you miss them and why they’re important to you, or tell them about something that reminds you of them. You could even recount something funny that happened in your day, or just say hi!

Bake or cook 

The author’s blueberry muffins

If you live in close proximity to your loved one (or are quarantining with them), baking/cooking is a really special way to make them feel cared for. The act of cooking and creating something yummy can also bring joy to your own day. I’ve found baking to be extremely relaxing, and definitely want to continue the hobby even after quarantine is lifted. Since this all started a month ago, I’ve made a lemon loaf, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, and more. There’s no feeling like taking that first bite of your creation, or sharing it with someone else and seeing the joy on their face. 

If you’re not super savvy in the kitchen, don’t worry! You can make something as easy as a breakfast smoothie, a grilled cheese, or these no-bake Oreo Balls. Just the act of making a meal or snack for someone else is a kind and loving gesture, and will go a long way toward brightening their day. 

Perform random acts of kindness for strangers

There’s no doubt about it — the world is hurting right now. Random acts of kindness are a way for us to bring positivity and light into the world, even for people we don’t know. It can be as simple as letting someone cut in front of you in bad traffic. Reply to a social media post you enjoy, or leave a positive comment on an article you read. Praise a local business on Yelp (or better yet, order takeout from them!). Write positive sticky notes and leave them on water fountains or park benches. You never know who needs a sign to keep on going, even when the going gets really tough.

Originally published April 28, 2020.

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