When you’re unhappy and think of what you can do to cheer yourself up, most of the things you usually hit on have a price tag associated with them. Some people decide to go shopping to alleviate their unhappiness, while others might head to the movie theater to catch the latest blockbuster.
Fortunately, you don’t actually have to spend money to improve your mood. In fact, I’d argue that the saying that the best things in life are free rings true. Here are free activities I love doing, along with some of what other people do to cheer themselves up.
1. Exploring the Neighborhood With Family
One of the free activities that always boost my mood is taking my son and dog for a walk around the neighborhood.
I don’t know if it’s being outside and enjoying the weather or simply getting away from the constant barrage of information from the computer and television, but exploring the area where I live almost always puts me in a better mood. Plus, it helps me clear my mind.
2. Hanging Out at the Local Park
Heading to the local park is a free thing to do that's fun for the whole family and always makes mine happy. My wife and I get a kick out of watching our son take advantage of the playground and bop around the area. It’s even enjoyable to watch other kids play.
There are also other nearby parks without playgrounds that we visit from time to time just to be outside and keep our spirits high. And even without playgrounds, parks can provide great spots for seasonal activities like sledding.
While reading can get expensive if you’re always buying books from Amazon or your local bookstore, it can be free, too. My family likes heading to the library to check out new books.
Reading is a great way to imaginatively explore other areas of the world without leaving your hometown.
Remember, though, that if you need to boost your mood, you should probably choose an uplifting book.
4. Nature- and People-Watching
One of my favorite ways to raise my spirits is to watch both nature and people at our local beach. We simply bring some beach chairs, find a spot in the shade under one of the piers, and take in the scenery. The sun, sand, and ocean — along with the other sights, sounds, and smells — almost always make us happier than we were when we arrived.
5. Bird- and Butterfly-Watching
One free activity that always makes Charlotte Baker, a partner at TeensGotCents, happy is watching the hummingbirds and butterflies in her backyard.
Baker struggles with the feeling that she has to be productive all the time — something I deal with, as well. Escaping to her backyard to observe the birds and butterflies there allows her to kick back a bit without feeling guilty about taking the time to relax.
6. Enjoying Your Kids
Holly Johnson, a co-founder of Club Thrifty, loves playing with her daughters, as well as watching them play with each other. In particular, she enjoys seeing her kids experience the same sort of carefree moments that she did as a child. Sometimes these moments pop up at home, while other times they happen on a bike ride.
7. Viewing the Sunset
Ashley Jacobs, the founder of Sitting for a Cause, enjoys a no-cost activity that you can do whenever it isn’t a cloudy day.
Watching the sunset is a peaceful and enjoyable experience that always makes Jacobs happy.
It doesn’t hurt that she lives on the West Coast and can head to the beach to watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean. The best part of this activity is that depending on the weather and where you are, every sunset is different.
8. Taking a Hike
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, the founder of Making Sense of Cents, loves traveling the country, an activity that definitely isn’t free. However, whenever she reaches a new location, she loves to go hiking, which is one of her favorite ways to improve her mood.
Hiking helps clear Michelle’s mind and is a great workout, too. And hikes often offer amazing views that further lift your spirits. Check out both local and national parks to see if there are any trails near you that you can take advantage of.
9. Visiting Friends and Playing Games
Corey Fick, the founder of 20s Finances, likes hanging out with his friends and playing board games. Spending time with others, especially while engaged in a fun activity, is an excellent way to raise your spirits.
Board games are just one great example. Between the games you already have and those that your friends own, this will likely cost you nothing. However, if you don’t have any, you might be able to find some for free on Craigslist or at the end of a garage sale, when people are just giving stuff away.
The Bottom Line on Free Activities
No matter what you like to do, these ideas will hopefully help you find something you can do for free. At the very least, perhaps they’ll inspire you to think of some other no-cost activity to turn to instead of heading out to spend money the next time you find yourself in a bad mood.
Even if you take advantage of these free activities only occasionally, you’ll still probably end up saving a decent amount of money over an extended period of time.