Tips & Techniques
Looking for a quick take-away to help you boost your mood, increase your self confidence, or manage your anxiety? Here's some tips and techniques to try. Keep in mind, some techniques work better for some than for others. Keep trying until you find what works best for you.
Probably the single biggest part of happiness is gratitude. Start training your brain to see the world in a better light and make yourself happier by simply writing down 10 things each day in a journal for which you feel grateful. People, places, the roof over your head, sunshine, art, pets, loved ones, health, and/or whatever things, big or small for which you are grateful. Focus on those things and each morning write down 10 that you're grateful for from the last 24 hours.
If you don't like to journal simply THINK of 10 things for which you're grateful every morning when you wake up, or throughout the day. The more you do it, the more effective it will be.
For those of us with anxiety, meditation can seem out of reach. I used to think, how can I possibly sit still and calm my mind when it feels like it's spiraling out of control?
What I learned was: 1.) practice helps, and 2.) you can do active meditation.
Meditation is simply focusing on your breathing, in and out, in and out. The problem is your brain will start to wander to other thoughts, things that are bothering you, conversations you've had, things on your to-do list. That's okay! When you notice it, don't panic or get frustrated, just try to bring your focus back to your breathing. Again and again.
Then there's also active meditation, which is helpful for those of us with severe anxiety. When I go for a walk, when I attempt to do yoga, when I'm driving, shoveling, raking, walking to the post office, or simply making dinner, I try to focus on my breathing as I do it. It's what I call active meditation. Start there, or when your brain is already on the calmer side, and then start trying to do it while lying in bed or while sitting.
Active or sedentary, regular meditation will help calm you down and MAINTAIN your calmness when nerve-wracking situations come up.
Beware Your Inner Monologue
We all have a voice inside our heads, talking to us. It's us, reacting to the world around us, and it's absolutely normal. Unfortunately, for many of us that voice is inherently negative and can beat down on you for no good reason, saying you're not worthy, that you're too fat, too ugly, too stupid, etc.
Do you know it doesn't have to be that way? That voice inside your head is you, and even though it doesn't always feel it, you have control over it. So why are you letting it be so mean? You would never treat your best friend or loved ones that way, so why are you any different?
FIRST, you have to recognize that voice is there, and that it's being negative.
SECOND, when you do notice it, you need to smack it down and force it aside with positive self-talk. When it says you're ugly, you force it to say, "No, I'm attractive."
Keep it positive, and if you're having trouble, just reading it will help. Therefore (slowly) read this list below to yourself and say things like this in your head to yourself any time you notice your inner monologue becoming negative again:
I am attractive.
I am loved.
I am important.
I am funny.
I am a good person.
I am strong.
I am courageous.
I am authentic.
I am trying my best.
I am intelligent.
I am WORTHY.
Depression and anxiety are especially tricky because they don't want you to get better. Like a virus, they latch onto you and hold on for dear life, sucking energy out of you, or giving you too much of it, and they make your brain want to resist the very things that will make you feel better, including exercise.
But exercise can help and it doesn't have to be intense. The best exercise for me for both depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem is simply a walk. Walking can help clear your mind, get your blood flowing, help release some of the toxins that are making you feel crummy, and boosts endorphins. If you can manage to go for your walk outside in the sunshine and near nature, or listening to music, then it'll help even more.
Music & Funny Videos
Sometimes the best thing to do is to sit down and listen to some uplifting music or watch a funny video. Music and humor are both full of good energy that can spill right over into you and help boost your endorphins and mood. So find the music that suits your mood or the mood you'd like to be in or go watch some stand-up comedy or funny cat videos. Have a romantic comedy you love? Go watch it. Maybe even make a playlist of songs that are particularly great for moments like these.
Here's a list of songs contributors have suggested for times when you need music to help lift your spirits.
Animals and Art to the Rescue
Whether it's viewing animal photography or artwork or being around them in person, animals are an instant mood-booster for many people. Have a pet? Go snuggle them or play with them if you can. Near an aquarium, zoo, wildlife refuge? Go check it out. Don't have any of those things nearby? Look at photos or artwork online or in magazines.
This can work with non-animal artwork too. Find art that calls to you and go view it, either in person, online, or in a magazine.
Speaking of art, have you ever created any? Sometimes taking a timeout to go draw or paint or craft something is exactly what's needed to break you away from your routine and the negative thoughts that are trying to smother you. Take some time to experiment with drawing in charcoal, or book binding, scrapbooking, knitting, finger painting, regular painting, card-making, jewelry-making, cooking/baking, or others.
Do Something For Someone Else
Something that's been shown to boost happiness the most, over and over again, is to do something nice for someone else. Not only are you going to be boosting that person's happiness by surprising them with a kind gesture, it will boost your happiness as well.
So buy someone you love a small gift, or make them dinner, hold the door open for people, help with a project, do some unexpected chores, or simply pay other people compliments. The smallest things can sometimes make a big difference. Simply saying, "You look great today," can help make their day better, your day better, and your relationship better.
Fuel Your Body
Another symptom of depression and anxiety can be the urge to eat all the worst foods for you. Again, this is your depression clinging on and trying to make itself have a better home in your body. It's not what you really want.
Now I'm not saying the occasional indulgence isn't a good idea. Absolutely. Splurge and get dessert sometimes, because you deserve it. But don't think that if you're feeling depressed, a slice of cake or a pint of ice cream is going to make it better.
Healthy eating, and eating a variety of things in moderation, is what's best for your happiness and health. Don't let your depression trick you.
Some foods are going to fuel your happiness, and some are going to fight it. Experiment and see which fruits and veggies work best for your system and try to add some into your diet, along with protein, better carbs, some healthier fats, etc.
Another tough thing to do when you're feeling anxious or depressed is to socialize. But even when you're feeling like all you want to do is curl up in bed, sometimes the best medicine is to get out in the world and see people you like. Their laughter is contagious, and so is their energy. It's not really you that wants to stay in and become a hermit, it's your depression or anxiety. Using some of the techniques above and that are written about in the blog, don't let them stop you from living your life.
Go out. Be with your friends and see if it helps. Tell them you're grateful for them. Compliment them, listen to music together, eat good food, watch your favorite movies, go dancing, or whatever it is that you like to do when you're feeling well. Sometimes it won't help and you'll leave early to go home and rest, and that's okay. Other times, it'll be just what you needed to remind yourself that you are a fun, wonderful person and you are loved.
Make Sleep a Priority
Too many people today think that sleep is overrated, that sleep is optional, or that lack of sleep is some kind of badge of honor. It's not. Sleep is one of the most important forms of self-care you have at your disposal. Use it wisely.
Nothing in your body can heal without sleep, and it's during sleep that you rid your brain of toxins. Sleep helps regulate those hormones and chemicals that help or hinder your body's genetic disposition toward happiness or depression, and you need it to think clearly and stay healthy.
This means you should try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day so your body gets into a routine. It means pulling all-nighters for work can hinder your health. It means you need to find a good balance of sleep for your life, where you don't get too much, or too little.
Avoid Energy Vampires
If you're feeling depressed, one of the worst things you can do is go be with people who steal your energy and are negative. What you need at that point are people who are going to lift you up, not tear you down or drag you down.
We all have energy vampires in our lives, and we all can be energy vampires sometimes. That's okay. If your pet just died, no one is expecting you to be happy-go-lucky. But it's the people who are like that all the time, the ones who never stop draining you of energy that you need to look out for and sometimes you'll have to remove them from your life altogether. I give you permission to do this if it will help your well-being. If it is certain that your life would be better without that person in it, then it's okay to move on.
Whether it's walking on a trail through the woods, kayaking on a lake, zip-lining, tree climbing, or simply out doing yard work, being out in nature can help you feel better.
Nature exposes you to fresh air and sunlight, which is known to be a mood booster and also gives you Vitamin D. Nature is also a key part of your circadian rhythm, which helps you sleep, and it's an easy way to boost your endorphins. Listen to the birds or listen to music and let yourself breathe in the fresh air.
There's a reason doctors are now starting to prescribe visits to state parks, nature reserves, and art museums. There's so much research behind how being in nature can help you be happier and healthier. Go give it a try.