Everyone gets down, and it isn’t the end of the world—being present when difficult feelings arise is healthier than ignoring your sadness, anger jealousy or grief. Social media would have us think that a one-liner about having that “can-do” attitude or looking a picture of a kitten should be enough to snap us out of it. However, it’s seldom that simple. Here are ten ways to move past feeling stuck and get into a happier place as soon as possible.
1. Do some good for someone else
As Mark Twain wrote, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” Whether you volunteer at your local senior community center, food pantry or animal rescue facility, get out there and get involved. You can make time—even one hour a month makes a big difference to a good cause. Want a quick fix? Drop a few dollars in a tip jar or collection box the next time you’re out getting that mid-day cup of coffee, or offer to do some errands for a neighbor or friend.
2. Let’s get physical
Some studies suggest that physical exercise has longer-lasting effects than those of antidepressant medications, and people who exercise regularly are less likely to be depressed, anxious and overweight. Simply walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes a day or changing the scenery and walking at a nice park or waterfront area will instantly lift your mood. Yoga, dance, spin, and martial arts classes all have the same effect.
3. Ask for help
Our egos keep us closed off and isolated when we experience sadness, depression and anxiety, and childhood scars can train us to keep things in and pretend everything is perfectly fine. Break the pattern—let it out, and ask a friend to talk to you when you’re feeling down. If don’t feel supported or loved right now, speak to your physician and find a therapist who will help you work through your stuff. Support groups of all kinds exist and are often accessible via houses of worship, yoga studios and community centers. The world is not a cold, horrible place, so ask for help and you’ll get it.
4. Express gratitude
After a particularly grueling time in my life, I read about doing a gratitude meditation every day. At first, it sounded silly, but I began saying “I am grateful for…” and listing simple things like “my breakfast, my winter boots, and the cold, crisp air.” This habit sparked a real shift in my mood and in my interactions with those I encountered. Try saying what you are grateful for during your commute or the next time you’re out for a walk.
5. Get outdoors
Mom was right; get outside and get some fresh air! Stagnant indoor air can trap negative energy, keeping us feeling sad, aggravated or anxious. Fresh air and a change of scenery instantly boost your mood. If you live or work in a busy city, get away for a weekend or day and be someplace open, simple and clean. I took a drive to a mountainous area covered with corn fields yesterday and cleared my head instantly. Wild flowers and sunshine can truly snap us back into the present, beautiful moment.
6. Take a cold shower
I recently began using cold hydrotherapy at home to cheer myself up (http://www.lovelivehealth.com/7-benefits-of-cold-showers/). Cold water actually isn’t as unpleasant as you’d think—it feels good in small doses. A cool blast at the end of each shower greatly improves circulation, energy levels and mood.
7. Summon your heroes or find one now
My aunt is one of my personal heroes. She has a kind heart, is generous and has always helped rescue animals in need. Whenever I get stuck or sad, I think of what she would do, and go from there. I also summon the images of the Buddhist teachers who have helped to save my life with their compassion, guidance and senses of humor. If you don’t have anyone who’s inspiring you right now, go online and look up “inspirational teacher” or “meditation on happiness.” Try looking at a few videos by people who are improving the world, or go out and meet some new people at an exercise class or place of worship. You never know who will say something to change your mood for the better—interact and see what happens.
8. Talk to a child
I was out shopping for birthday cards last night and a little girl was doing the same with her mom. I struck up a conversation with them both, making small talk about all of the silly, colorful cards we were looking at. The child was so cheerful and full of joy that she instantly lifted my mood, and I even noticed her mom smiling a lot more after we had a little chat. Children are so available and present in the moment that it’s impossible not to let their contagious, innocent silliness lift the corners of your mouth into a genuine smile.
9. Make a happy place box
Get a cigar box or old shoe box, paint or cover it with pretty paper, and start filling it with things that cheer you up. Maybe you collect rocks when you’re out hiking, or found a beautiful feather when out for a walk. Add any photographs or postcards you collect, creating a great stash of 3D keepsakes that help you smile when you’re feeling blue. Try writing yourself a note that says “I love you, I forgive you, thank you and I’m sorry” and leave it in the box as a message to yourself.
10. Give yourself permission to sit with it, then move on
Practicing meditation teaches us to sit with whatever arises, observe the feelings (good or bad), then allow them to pass through. Ignoring or stuffing feelings down while pretending to be fine is not healthy, so cut it out. While we shouldn’t necessarily have a massive pity party every time something goes awry, just be okay with what you feel. It will pass—everything is temporary and I guarantee you will come out the other side after feeling loss, sadness, or anger. Be aware of what you feel, and try some of the suggestions mentioned above to help yourself move on.