I romanticised my life for a week and I’m happier for it!

I might’ve finally answered the age-old question of how to be happy

Flower market romanticise your life
(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)

It’s easy to dismiss the concept of romanticising your life as just another social media trend as fluffy as millennial pink — a quick skim of TikTok does little to dispel that idea — but dig a little deeper, and, dare I say it, with more compassion, and you might just find genuine ideas on how to be happy.

The concept of loving — and aestheticising your life — is not new. This latest self-care craze riffs off Main Character Energy and the wildly popular ‘I think I like this little life’, which has 845.1M views on TikTok. Romanticising your life champions finding joy in the quotidian, or — to be on the nose about it — saying to yourself, “I think I like this little life,” as Cordelia O’Driscoll croons in the song that spawned 57.5k spin-offs and counting. 


♬ Little Life - Cordelia

Videos about micro-joys and romanticising your life invariably flit between sun-streaked skies, frothy cups of coffee held in glass cupsflickering candles, and trips to markets (farmers, flowers, and vintage being the romanticiser's vendor of choice). All of it smacks of "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning how to dance in the rain" energy, which, while prime for ridicule, is a worthwhile reminder that life is beyond our control, no matter how much we manifest, set intentions and list our goals and ambitions in wellness journals. 


♬ 1 second count / when button pressed / time signal 03(1107043) - QUESS

As journalist Beth McColl writes in the aptly-named book Romanticise Your Life, slowing down and living more intentionally is about saying, “I was here, I lived, I did so on purpose”. So, with that in mind, and following our interview, I decided to live with more intention - at least for a week. Here are my honest thoughts.


THE ACTIVITY: Tablescaping dinner

To ease myself in (and mask the fact that I had no ideas about how to live a more romantic life of my own), I pinched one of Beth’s; “I make myself the dinner, I like the candlelight, all of those things, even if it is just half an hour of my time each day, I think that really matters.” Easy enough, I thought.

Luckily, day one fell on Monday, 11th February, and as I would travel on Valentine’s Day, I decided today would be an early celebration. I’ve read before that we shouldn’t save things for the best, like that fancy candle or the nice dinner plates, so I decided to throw myself a full-scale dinner party with a starter, main course, and dessert. I planned it all out and looked wistfully at @celineyrs Instagram account for food ideas that I had no hope of replicating.

THE VERDICT: I felt a bit silly laying the table as if I was expecting guests (instead of my boyfriend, who I’d banished to the other room while I was setting up), but I pushed past the initial discomfort and quickly found that the ritual of setting the table and committing to a theme (pink pasta and heart-shaped everything, yes, I am that girl) was surprisingly soothing. It also meant that an evening usually spent zoning out in front of the TV felt purposeful. We talked, we ate, we listened to an actual record. It all felt very analogue. When I asked Beth what small purchase had brought her the most joy, she said a small film camera from eBay - I get that now.

Romanticise your life

(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)


THE ACTIVITY: Buying a friend flowers 

“Romance is not only unlocked when you partner up,” writes Beth, who makes a case for treating all your loved ones like, well, they’re loved. I’ve read Dolly Alderton’s book Everything I Know About Love, in which she waxes lyrical about friends being some of the greatest loves of her life — a sentiment I’m proud to share — so the concept of bringing more romance to your platonic relationships isn’t new to me but that doesn’t mean I remember to practise it. 

New research from Snapchat shows that Millennial and Gen-Z women are increasingly prioritising female friendship over romantic love this year - as well we should! I decided to be one such woman, so, being somewhat of a cliche, I bought my friend flowers. 

THE VERDICT: There’s plenty of science to back up the hormone boost that comes with acts of kindness, proving that ultimately, Joey was right when he told Phoebe that there are no “unselfish good deeds”. What’s more, the boost was twofold: I had a flurry of excitement when I bought the flowers and a second lift when I gave them to her.

Flower market on Broadway Market

(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)


THE ACTIVITY: Reclaiming my time

The concept of #reclaimingmytime has been doing the rounds ever since that viral Committee hearing in 2017. Like all rallying cries that gain traction on social media, it’s been watered down, and now, reclaiming your time can be anything from ditching a guy who won’t commit or, in my case, using a lengthy commute that would typically be spent answering emails on something a little more joyous. Enter my favourite pastime: reading.

THE VERDICT: I had to fight the urge to pick up my phone more than I’d like to admit; I tried absorbing myself in my book, but I’d instinctively pick up my phone whenever I felt it vibrate, and before I knew it, I’d be mindlessly scrolling Instagram or clearing my inbox. What it showed me was how much time I lose passively sitting on my phone. Though reading can undoubtedly be a form of escapism, in the pockets of time when I could lose myself in the book, I felt much more present and engaged with my life. 


Reading on a train

(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)

THE ACTIVITY: Wearing silly little ribbons

It's day four, and I’m donning silly little ribbons — à la Simone Rocha, I like to think — all in the name of research.

You see, this is a literal reminder that every day is a gift, and to live in the present, one must dress like a present (ok, I went too far with that last bit, but I assure you, there is psychology behind this). Dopamine dressing is hardly a new phenomenon, as anyone who's done The Artist’s Way (or at least got as far as week seven) can attest. Beth describes it as dressing for your own joy and pleasure rather than for the male gaze. In the early days of blogging, I think we called this ‘man-repelling’. 

THE VERDICT: People smiled at me on the tube, a waitress loudly proclaimed “cute” when laying down my coffee, it provided a perfect icebreaker when meeting some PRs. Basically it’s how I imagine people who own tiny dogs must feel. 10/10 would recommend.

Ribbon bows in hair

(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)


THE ACTIVITY: Romanticising alone time

Did I not tell you I love a theme? Well, I realised I’d inadvertently been following one (lots of pink and red), so when it came to day five, I knew I had to stay on brand, but I’d be lying if I said I was flooded with ideas about how to add a micro-joy to my Friday.

Truthfully, I was tired and getting a little ill. Films have always been my go-to when I’m at a loss for what to do, and I love hosting sleepover-style movie nights for friends, but going to so much effort for myself seemed a little…sad. Beth says, “Dating yourself, whether you want to call it that or not, is you demonstrating that you are worth real and sustained effort and thoughtfulness.” So, armed with this information, I went to all the effort I’d go to if I had friends coming over. I bought my favourite snacks, queued some frothy, frilly movies (Funny Face and What A Way To Go!), and decorated what could only be described as an altar.

THE VERDICT: I enjoyed the decorating part, and it certainly added “the sense of occasion” that Beth speaks about, but having gone to the effort of making things aesthetically pleasing (trust me when I say the picture does not do justice), I wanted someone to share it with. I found myself sending photos of my “cute night in” to friends, which seemed to defeat the point. By film two, I’d settled in and realised I wanted to stay up despite being tired, as I was enjoying my own company. Future idea: The Lonely Hearts Movie Club?

Romanticise your life

(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)


THE ACTIVITY: Confession time

Let me come clean: I didn’t complete my first week of romanticising my life; I went to the BAFTAs instead. You can read all about that experience here. But don’t worry; the universe found a way for me to make amends. My boyfriend had a last-minute opportunity to go to Berlin the following weekend, and while I could’ve and arguably should’ve (free accommodation) joined him, I took this as a chance to really put my trial to the test. 

See, my boyfriend and I spend a lot of time together, in fact, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had more than a couple of hours to myself, which suits me just fine as I hate my own company. So, as the weekend drew nearer, I had to wrestle the urge to get booked and busy. Becoming more comfortable in my own company was one of my New Year’s resolutions, and I wanted to see what 24 hours with nothing but my inner monologue might be like. 

Naturally, when I woke up at 7 am on Saturday, my first thought was, “What am I going to do with the next 16-odd hours?!” my second thought was, “I'm so bloody tired”, and with that, I went back to sleep. Sure, this meant one less hour to account for, but I like to think it was me — dare I say it — reclaiming my time. My boyfriend's an early bird, and after eight years, I've gotten on his clock, but not today! This realisation set the pace for a day that involved little more than reading, bathing and lighting the fancy Earl of East candle I'd been saving because, readers, I am worth it. 

THE VERDICT: This is a revelation! Those are the exact words I wrote in my diary when I forced myself out of the house for a coffee and some journaling, which had been on my Romanticise Your Life to-do list. And while I can’t say I’ll be planning entire alone days, knowing I can enjoy my own company felt like an accomplishment. Having an entirely plan-free day meant I could lose myself in a book or binge TV without clock-watching. A day alone no longer feels daunting, which means I can stop scheduling my life down to the last minute. **immediately cancels all upcoming plans**


(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)


THE ACTIVITY: Solo adventure 

Not to mix books too much here, but when I was reading The Artist’s Way, which, for the uninitiated, is a 12-week programme created in 1992 to help you unlock your creativity, one of the weekly tasks was a solo artist date. This could be anything; one example author Julia Cameron gives is going to the stationery store and buying stickers. Week in and week out, I would dread, put off, and skip the whole sorry thing altogether on more than one occasion. I never understood why I did this. I love doing things with other people and admire seeing someone eating alone in a restaurant.

Somewhere during this course, I read something that made things click. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist is that you shouldn’t expect to enjoy time alone by default. The mistake people make is treating time alone differently from time spent with others. You wouldn’t necessarily arrange to see a friend and not plan on doing something, so you should take the same approach when dating yourself. I guess that’s the whole point of this trial. So, contrary to my Saturday of doing sweet FA, Sunday was scattered with plans, nothing too strenuous but the kind of thing I would typically do with another person, like wandering along the canal and indulging in an overpriced pastry. 

THE VERDICT: The universe repaid me with a rainbow, allowing me a moment to fully embrace my Main Character Energy as I sauntered home, headphones on and a spectrum of light leading the way. It felt resonant, a reminder that there are fleeting moments of beauty, and every day, if you make the effort to hunt it out, pockets of joy can be unearthed, but trying to cling to them is futile. Better to let them wash over you, safe in the knowledge that there'll always be another glow to bask in.


(Image credit: Mischa Anouk Smith)
Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.