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50 Steps to Simple Happiness

From eating Greek yogurt to chatting up strangers, some suggestions for regular daily contentment.


Illustration by Jim Stoten  

With apologies to Jay-Z, the current Empire State of Mind might not be something to brag about—at least according to the recent study ranking New York as the least-happy state in the nation. In the nation! Which seems, to us, rather unbelievable. Yes, nearly half of the state’s residents live in a city that’s inordinately stressful (expensive, noisy, crowded, pushy). Yes, it’s hard to find a peaceful place to sip coffee, much less live. But on the flip side—everything else! Still, mired in the middle of January, you may need a little mood enhancement. What to do? On the following pages, you won’t find long-term, expensive fixes like therapy, pharmaceuticals, or a three-week jaunt to the Maldives. What you will find are quick, easy, and affordable ideas for feeling good in body and spirit, as well as bits of modern folk wisdom, some goofier than others, from a range of experts. So: Try a little self-administered acupressure. Eat an ounce of dark chocolate. Say yes to more sex. Break the silence in the elevator. Exercise. If a 3 a.m. ginseng soak isn’t your thing, keep reading. You’ve got 49 other chances to find your idea of bliss.

1. “When you’re stressed, press two fingers to the acupressure point right under the middle of your collarbone and breathe.” —Roberta Mittman, Acupuncturist

2. “Make your bed. Go figure, but outer order contributes to inner calm. Especially if you’re living in a small space—but even if you’re living in a gigantic loft. Start each day with a concrete, albeit tiny (and therefore manageable!), accomplishment.” —Gretchen Rubin, Author, The Happiness Project

3. Exfoliate and inebriate simultaneously. Okeanos’s two-for- one Platza treatments are accompanied by unlimited shots of premium vodka ($50; 211 E. 51st St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-223-6773).

4. “Leave your mouth in that slightly upturned position it takes after saying ‘Cheez Whiz.’ It’s a relaxed, confident look that will convince other people you know what you’re doing.” —Debra Benton, Executive Coach

5. Attack muscle groups you didn’t know you had at SoulCycle’s Bands class held at the spinning studio’s new Tribeca location starting this Friday. Resistance bands hang on sliding tracks above each stationary bike, letting you work abs, back, chest, shoulders, and arms while your legs do the pedaling ($38; 103 Warren St., at West St.; 212-406-1300).

6.Try what I call the poor man’s massage. Roll out all the muscles from your hips to your knees with a foam roller—use the black ones with the harder foam—for two minutes on each leg or until it doesn’t hurt anymore. It opens up your IT bands, glutes, and hip flexors and relieves the tension that’s pulling your pelvis and lower back out of alignment.” —Ari Weller, Personal Trainer, Fitness Results

7. Submit to Anatol Ritsevsky’s painful-now-blissful-later Hallucination Deep Tissue massageat Spa H inside the Murray Hill gym Club H. Ritsevsky will press and lean into your tensest areas until those knots are gone ($110; 222 E. 34th, nr. Third Ave.; 212-779-1020).

8. “Never show up for drinks on an empty stomach, or for that matter let yourself get so hungry you’ll eat street meat.” —Kristin Mcgee, Pilates and Yoga Instructor

9. Become the most popular person at work. Sign up eleven of your highest-strung co-workers for the dirt-cheap in-office massages ($12.50 for fifteen minutes!) offered by Oasis Day Spa, one of the only city spas that will send its massage therapists directly to businesses (minimum three hours and twelve people; 212-254-7722).

10. Offer to help a stroller person up the stairs.

11. Block off several weekend hours—hell, even a whole day—for what may be the loopiest place in all five boroughs: the sprawling indoor-outdoor all-ages water-park oasis known as Spa Castle in Flushing, Queens. For $45 you get unlimited access to a labyrinthine complex of waterfalls, indoor pools, saunas, color-therapy rooms, and a bar and grill (131-10 Eleventh Ave., nr. 131st St., College Point; 718-939-6300).

12. If you see a parking cop working his or her way up the street, put a quarter into someone’s expired meter.

13. “Just say yes every time your partner wants to have sex. It’s only twenty minutes out of your day, and it makes you both feel better. If you’re not in a relationship, say yes to your own private date night at least three times a week.” —Claire Cavanah, Co-Founder, Babeland

14. Disappear into a fluffy robe and comfy slippers in the ever-elegant Great Jones Spa’s water lounge. The $50 three-hour pass is one of the better spa values in town (29 Great Jones St., nr. Lafayette St.; 212-505-3185).

15. Tone your midsection in transit. “When standing on the subway, knit your front ribs together and zip up an imaginary zipper as if you had on a very tight pair of jeans. Or when you’re in a cab, tighten an imaginary seat belt from hip bone to hip bone. You’ll end up with a strong midsection, toned abdominals, and a strong back and spine.” —Kristin Mcgee, Pilates and Yoga Instructor

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