I have heard that money can’t buy happiness but as an avid online shopper I have to disagree. In the last few weeks as I’ve been setting things up for my therapy practice to be able to do more work from home I can honestly say that there are some things I bought that have genuinely bumped me up a few points in happiness and a few points down on the GAD-7 anxiety scale. So here’s a list, non-sponsored, of things that I feel can help with a bunch of little problems!
I feel like one of those 1950’s housewives in the old washing machine commercials to rave about an appliance but I truly feel that robotic cleaning is a step forward in feminism. The best cleaning is cleaning you don’t have to do, and in this case it’s not me having to hire someone else (who’d likely be a woman) to do it either. For some reason I always considered my vacuum to be a female, and I realized later that the name I gave her (Casilda ChupChup, which means “Casilda SuckSuck” in Portuguese, from some joke bet on Brazilian Twitter my fiancé was looking at where a guy said he’d change his name to Casilda ChupChup if his team lost in futebol) was Latina so there’s clearly some racial and misogynist baggage I need to unpack that this vacuum has brought up for me. Will be working on that.
There’s something so cute and reassuring about a little machine roving around your apartment while you’re sitting at home. I have wanted a pet for a long time but can’t have one because of my landlord’s requirements and I find myself feeling weirdly affectionate towards her. I think of her more as like a little dog than a person or a machine. She’s set to run at 2 PM and when I come home sometimes she’s stuck on a flip flop or can’t get into the bathroom and I pick her up and put her in her “bed” (the charging station) and tell her she did a good job. If she runs into stuff and gets stuck, she beeps and I go help her. Yesterday I had to pull one of my belts out from her wheels like you would with a puppy who had a shoe in his mouth, but in this case the belt was fully intact and instead of messing up my house while I was gone, she was cleaning it. I also have to get into its brushes and cut out all the long hairs she eats, which is kind of like grooming time/hairball checkups. In any case, my house has never been cleaner. I watched this thing clean for over an hour and a half and I was like, no way in hell am I ever cleaning my house for that long. It was quiet too! I don’t think it matters much which brand you get but this one is fairly cheap and comparable in price to vacuums I’ve gotten that I have to actually stand up and run. 12/10.
2. Rocketbook Everlast reusable smart notebook – $19.99-$54.99 (depending on size & color) on Amazon
I got a tablet a month or so ago and was taking notes on this to try and streamline my use of paper but I was annoyed with the way I had to write on the thing. There are lots of good note-taking apps but when you write on a tablet you can’t rest your wrist on the writing surface so it made my nice orderly MSW handwriting into MD chicken scratch (sorry not sorry doctors, I’ve seen plenty of illegible Medical Opinion Forms to say that this stereotype is earned). Also I’d prefer to not have to take my tablet everywhere, cause thieves. I’ve seen reviews for these things for a long time so I figured I’d get one and try it out. It was on sale for like $16 when I got it, and I got the smaller size (about 8″ by 5″) so it could fit into most of my purses. It comes with its own pen and the writing feels like writing with a regular ballpoint except that you have to let it dry for 10-15 seconds so it doesn’t smear. You erase with a little eraser on the backside of the pen or by getting the page wet and drying it off.
The most miraculous thing about this is that you can have seven (7!!!) different categories you send your notes to. I do a ridiculous amount of different projects at any given time and tend to just carry one general notebook around that I’m writing notes in all the time, and then I have to look back and figure out what day I wrote something or when the last board meeting was and if that was in the last notebook, I’m SOL because I tend to store them at home for a little while then shred them to save space. Now I can have all my notes categorized and sent to different email addresses, keeping my business paperwork separate from personal, and I can send committee notes directly to the email that stores all of our information without having to manually do that the next day by transcribing notes. Unbelievable. Also it’s really a social worker/therapist’s dream because it helps you so easily protect confidentiality. Once I write a note, I can erase it after it’s uploaded so no one can see it unless they have my email password. I keep notes coded anyway and don’t write full names on them but it’s nice to know that information is safely stored. Finally, I am so into the fact that I can stop buying notebooks all the time and reduce the amount of paper I’m wasting. 500 points to Gryffindor.
3. Rakuten Overdrive app – Free! from the app store
The main reason I didn’t get into ebooks at first was that I still like using the library and don’t want to commit to buying a book if I don’t know if I’ll like it yet. I also don’t like having to carry my tablet/laptop around (see above: cause thieves) though I realize that it’s awesome to be able to read any book you want with one device. My last Kindle was given to me by my grandmother when she got it free from the casino and I loved it. It went unfortunately “missing” (read: stolen. Now you see why I am wary of thieves) when I left my purse on an aircraft in Lisbon airport (read: the seventh circle of hell) and a series of unfriendly Portuguese bureaucrats passed me around and denied any knowledge of my missing items. Sidenote – Portuguese people are lovely outside of this airport and Lisbon is a wonderful city. Don’t @ me/ Não @ mim.
So I have been without a reading device but this app works awesome on a phone or a laptop. You can request books or audiobooks from your library just like paper books, and when they’re available they send you an email and you can read them. They disappear when they’re due back, and you can renew them if there aren’t too many people looking to read the same thing. Super easy to use, simple, and all you need is to already have your library card handy. Do I need to say it?
4. Dreamlab – Free! from the app store
This app has done absolutely nothing to change my life but it requires no effort on my part and does a public good so it makes me smug and I’m putting it on here. This app uses your phone’s cloud computing power to assist cancer researchers with computing complex calculations. I know that sounds out there. A friend posted this on Facebook and I thought it was fake so naturally I downloaded it to see if it would infect my life with viruses, but it’s for real! Vodaphone Australia came up with this mechanism (do not ask me how it works!) to harness phone’s cloud computing that collectively can be used like a supercomputer but at a fraction of the cost. You can set a monthly limit if your data plan has limits, so it doesn’t eat up your data, and it doesn’t drain your phone’s battery because it only works when it’s charging. You literally set it and forget it. When I wake up in the morning or anytime I’ve been charging it for a while, the app tells me how many calculations it performed. It’s usually like 1 or 2 but it’s so cool and it makes me feel good that I can help scientists and contribute to research. Their website says that using cloud computing is actually faster than a supercomputer. Amazing. 3 thumbs up.
5. Noom – $0 – $159 (free option, and monthly plans start at $59 and you can get cheaper rates by paying for multiple months in advance)
I am getting married next May and have done approximately 128545 different diets or exercise plans which I typically give up after about 2-3 weeks or one boozy brunch. I know the calorie content, carbs, macros, proteins, sodium, and serving sizes of pretty much every food and how many calories are burned by at least 15 types of exercise. I’ve lost a few pounds but really slowly and frustratingly and I wanted something to kick me up and get it done already. That said, there is nothing miraculous about the Noom “plan” (it isn’t really a plan, just calorie counting and accountability) except that there’s a lot of safeguards in place to keep you from quitting. I kept seeing ads for it on my social media and decided to do a free trial when I saw they use a CBT approach because that’s something I have used with clients and myself and find that it’s pretty simple but effective. I’ve known for a while that my eating was stress-related and by now with so many failed attempts I have more than a few hang-ups about losing weight.
So far, I’ve only lost a couple of pounds so I can’t promise anything extraordinary, which I believe is a sign that it’s healthy weight loss and not a crash/fad diet. What has been exceptional about this experience is that I’m still logging in every single day and tracking my food, weight, and exercise even though I’m not succeeding immediately so this app already has an advantage over other things I’ve been trying. There’s a lot of research that losing weight with a buddy helps, but if you’re like me, a lot of what you and your buddies like to do is eat good food together so it’s hard to start new habits with people who are having the same struggles sometimes. Noom has a coach that messages you with reasonable frequency (like once a day/every other day, during daytime hours) about your motivations, pitfalls, hang-ups, and struggles so you can get some insight on how you may self-sabotage. Every day there are little mini-lessons that take 5-10 minutes to read which teach you about tricks for changing habits and have a generally positive tone that helps stay motivated. The activities are easy and get you to think but aren’t super intense, so I’d say it’s doable for any person regardless of how much or little insight they have into their eating and psychology.
My favorite thing is the group because now I get little encouragements every time I log a workout, from actual people, who are actually doing the same program. It’s like Weight Watchers but you don’t have to leave your house or talk to people, so perfect for milennials who hate meetings but like phone apps or those who are insecure about talking about weight struggles. Gold star.