We all have down days. You know the ones when you wake up cranky and even if the sun is shining, you’re annoyed … or maybe just feeling a little sad or unfocused. You could go on a shopping binge, blow off your workout, or spend your day snapping at everyone around you. But after I went through a little funk recently, I started thinking about how I could have turned it around. What if taped up on my bathroom mirror was a handy checklist of quick ways to boost my spirits? Little things I could incorporate into my busy routine. So I started thinking about some of the small stuff that really does give me a lift. None of the activities on my list require money or much time. I’m not a psychologist or a life coach. And of course, these ideas are no substitute for regular exercise (a natural mood booster), getting enough rest, and eating well, etc. But maybe they can give you another way to see things when you would rather crawl back in bed.
1. Get a change of scenery.
It works for small children, right? Ever notice how you can turn the most outrageous tantrum into a giggle fit just by leading your baby into another room and showing her a new toy? We can boost our own moods by doing the same. You don’t have to plan an expensive adventure to some exotic locale (although that helps, too). Sometimes getting a change of scenery in the tiniest, most mundane ways can alter perspective on much bigger things. Perhaps eating dinner at the table instead of the couch? Take a different route on your way to work or school. Stand up while you are talking on the phone instead of sitting at your desk. Shake up the little things and see how it can transform your view.
2. Listen to someone else’s story (for a change).
When we are feeling down about something, it can be hard to be a good listener. But many times, pausing to really hear about someone else’s life can do wonders for our own heads. Inspiration hits us when we least expect it. I recently had the chance to sit down with someone who now spends her days telling other people’s stories of triumph. You may remember Daryn Kagan, a CNN anchor for twelve years before her bosses unceremoniously informed her she no longer had a job with the cable network. Instead of staying home with the covers pulled over her head, she turned her energies into www.darynkagan.com, a webcast devoted to “good news.” Her focus on the art of the possible uncovers the victories of everyday people trying to make the world a better place. That’s a message all of us could use—especially when we’re feeling blah.
3. Help a stranger.
Hold the door for someone. Offer to carry a heavy package or box. Give directions when asked. A little kindness goes a long way. You’ll immediately feel happier when you take a minute to assist another human being—even in the smallest way.
4. Call a friend.
When my girlfriends and I have time to call each other, we attempt to fit in a conversation between naptime and conference calls. It can be hard to feel connected when you are just about to start ranting and the baby wakes up from her nap. Kids display this amazing sixth sense for figuring out the exact time to interrupt Mommy when she is just about to finally talk to another adult about what’s bugging her today. But … my point is, even if we never get to finish the whole discussion, I always feel better after a brief “Hi/Bye.” And you know what? So will your friend on the other end of the line.
5. Clean out a drawer.
Anyone who has either worked with me or lived with me knows that I have a really hard time letting go of stuff. Everything has sentimental value. But as a mom of twin toddlers, with a home growing more cramped by the day thanks to all of their stuff, I am trying really hard to streamline. The best advice anyone gave me is to start small. So take a few minutes and trash the old receipts and broken CD covers taking up space. Clearing out a single drawer, shelf or even your email inbox really does make you feel lighter.
6. Eat something decadent.
I’m not talking about scarfing down a package of Oreos. When we’re feeling low, it’s too easy to self-medicate with food. I say, eat something terribly rich but do so in a purposeful way. Take a moment to actually enjoy it and let go of the guilt. For me, it’s all about dark chocolate. Oh—heck, anything chocolate. But it really does taste better when I actually sit down to eat it.