We’ve all had those days or weeks when we’re feeling down. You drag yourself out of bed still tired. Nothing sounds fun, and even the little things feel like a big chore. Everything you put on makes you feel fat. When you can’t find your car keys, you nearly end up in tears. You seriously contemplate calling in sick and going back to bed.
You know you need to do something to make yourself feel better. As a therapist, I’ve got plenty of tips for managing the blues. You’ve probably heard many of them before:
exercise, avoid alcohol, get some sunlight, see your friends, and practice gratitude. These are all great strategies that work for a lot of people. But sometimes we need some fresh ideas to jump start our dreary mood.
1. Plan something to look forward to. Nothing gets your mind off of your problems like having something to look forward to. If you can plan a tropical vacation, awesome! If not, I guarantee there’s plenty to do locally. Consider buying tickets to a concert, plan an afternoon at the spa, or a night without the kids. The key here is to find something that you’re really jazzed about doing and savor not only the experience, but the anticipation of doing it.
2. Make your bed. I’m admittedly not a bed-maker. What’s the point? I’m just going to mess it up again tonight. Well, apparently it does matter. Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, explains that making your bed is a keystone habit which means it sets in motion a series of other positive habits throughout your day. For example, he found that people who made their beds were more productive, stuck to their budgets, and had a greater sense of well-being. Eating breakfast or going to the gym can also be keystone habits. The added bonus of making your bed is that you’re less likely to cave into your bad mood and lie in bed all day!
3. Help someone else. One of the easiest ways to feel better is to do something for someone else. It’s easy, quick, and doesn’t cost anything. A review of over 40 studies, conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School and available at BMC Public Health, found that volunteering is associated with a greater sense of well-being and lower rates of depression. You don’t have to make a big commitment to volunteer at a homeless shelter every weekend (although that’s great, if you want to). Send your Mom a card. Bring in your elderly neighbor’s trash can. Take your cash-strapped friend out to lunch. It’s a win-win situation.
4. Rule out a physical cause. If your depressed mood persists, schedule an appointment with your doctor. You should rule old a physical cause for your low mood with a physical exam and lab work to rule out things like low Vitamin D or hypothyroidism.
5. Treat yourself. When you’re struggling, be especially kind to yourself. Unlike rewards, treats don’t have to be earned. They’re just nice things that you give yourself. In her book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin explains that “when we give more to ourselves, we can ask more of ourselves.” So go ahead and treat yourself to a bubble bath or trashy romance novel. Rubin notes that it’s important that our treats actually make us feel better. Be careful of some of the go-to treats such as alcohol and sugar. Treating yourself to a whole bottle of wine is not really self-kindness and will only make you feel worse.
6. Track your mood. If you’ve ever kept a food journal to lose weight, you know how this strategy works. The simple act of tracking or writing things down heightens our awareness and leads to behavior change. Try one of the numerous mood tracking apps available to make it convenient. My favorite is T2 Mood Tracker (free for
Apple and Android).
7. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laughter may really be the best medicine. And it couldn’t be easier to find something to laugh at. YouTube has an endless array of everything from giggling babies to stand-up comedians. Just a few minutes of silliness can break up your day and lift your spirits.
8. Make a success list. One of the rough things about depression is that it clouds our thinking, leaving us with an overly negative view of ourselves and the world. Try reframing your negative outlook with a success list. Keep a running list of the little (and big) things that you’re doing right. Seeing your list grow will be motivating and keep you focused on all the ways you’re moving forward.
We all need to find the strategies that work for us. Keep using the old standbys that work for you, but try one of these new ideas and see if it doesn’t give your mood a little boost.
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This post was written by Sharon Martin exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.