They say that into every life a little rain must fall... Sometimes, however, it pours. If you've had a less-than-fabulous time of it lately, here are 10 proven ways to improve your mood.
As adults, a lot of us can go all day without taking a proper breath. Sit somewhere quiet and put one hand on your chest and the other on your lower ribcage. Focus on feeling the air moving in and out of your lungs. Breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of four. Taking the time to really breathe helps calm the nervous system and will help you start to feel better right away.
2. Make self-care a priority.
When the chips are down, it's hard to remember to eat well, exercise, get a good night's sleep, and do all of the other little things that keep people on an even keel. Taking care of yourself sends your brain the message that you are valuable, and feeling good about your health brings back a sense of control. Try a new fitness class or cook your way through a healthy cookbook. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep and drink some water. Life seems more manageable when you have enough energy and you can fit into your favourite jeans.
3. Do nothing.
When you are down, all you have to do is look after your dependents and go to work. Everything else is negotiable. Give yourself permission to do nothing for a while. Read magazines, watch bad TV (Real Housewives anyone?), and read a juicy novel with no educational value. Sometimes you just need to give your brain and body a week or two off. You always can be Type A next month.
4. Find someone who understands.
When bad things happen, there is often the desire to retreat inward and hide under the covers, but it's better to stay connected. Reach out to safe people with whom you can share your struggles. (Town gossips need not apply for the job!) If you don't have a close confidant, there are plenty of online discussion groups for people going through just about anything. There is comfort in finding people who understand what you're facing, and the empathetic reaction of others can help restore your faith in the universe.
5. Go pro.
There are so many talented people who are experts in helping people in times of crisis. Talk to your doctor, employee assistance program, or local college or high school guidance office to see if they can refer you to a good social worker or therapist. Many work on a sliding scale to make their work available to anyone who needs it.
6. Help someone.
Smile at the store clerk. Put your change in the charity box at the checkout counter. Write a short online review of a book you enjoyed or local business you frequent. When you are down, it's hard to be wildly magnanimous but small acts of kindness go a long way towards making you feel better.
7. Try some yoga.
There's a reason why yogis are so calm. A lot of yoga poses help the body release feel-good hormones. One of the best positions is called Legs up the Wall, where you lay on your back and, using a pillow or block to support you, rest your legs on the wall (there are a million great illustrations of this online.) Better yet, call a yoga studio and ask if they have a small drop-in class you can try. Ask for a restorative or gentle yoga class to ensure you will not be flipping into headstands.
8. Set a goal for a year from now.
Set a small goal for a year from today. Maybe you want to read a three new books by the end of the year, or meet one new person, or learn to play pickleball. Set a goal that is a bit of a stretch but is achievable. The goal should focus on action (which you control) rather than results (where other people or luck can have an impact.) Having a goal gives you a reason to get out of bed and will rebuild some of your confidence.
9. Put it in perspective.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, discovered that life circumstances such as health, financial stability, and relationships determine a slim 10% of our overall happiness. As tough as the tough times can be, they do not define us. A great mantra in tough times is "it's only ten percent." Even in the worst of times, you can be content.
10. Engage in positive self-talk.
Make sure you are nice to yourself. Write a list of five things you are good at and five things that make you unique. Think about what you have rather than what you lack, as gratitude is a huge contributor to feeling good. And, finally, remember Christopher Robin's words of wisdom to Winnie the Pooh, "You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
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