How to Lift Yourself Up When You’re Feeling Down

An oil painting of a blooming bradford pear tree
Pear Tree in Bloom, 2015. For details and purchase information, please contact Alexis.

Even the most optimistic and happy-go-lucky among us occasionally have bad days.  I’m not talking about clinical depression; I’m talking about those days when things don’t go your way, or you get some bad news, or a long stretch of misfortunes culminates into a wave of negative emotions.  We all deal with those days in our own ways, some healthier than others.  May I offer a few suggestions for working through these tough times?

1. If you need to cry, cry.  Release those emotions.  Wail if you must.  The release will be good for you and will probably make you feel better.  It might also wear you out and allow you to…

2. Sleep.  I often find that things seem worse when I’m tired.  On the flip side, everything seems more manageable after a good night’s sleep.

3. Belt out your favorite songs.  Turn on some music and sing along.  Singing is a proven mood-booster.

4. Move your body.  If you can muster the energy, get some exercise.  It will help to relieve stress and release endorphins.  But if you can’t bring yourself to leave the house, that’s ok.  This is not the time to force yourself to do unpleasant things.

5. Focus on others.  Reach out to a friend.  Ask how she’s doing.  Hearing about someone else’s life can take you out of your own negative thoughts.  Being kind and generous to other people is a great way to feel happier and more satisfied.

6. Think about less fortunate people.  No matter your circumstances, there is always someone who has it worse.  If you can’t think of any such people, the internet can surely help you discover some.

7. Practice gratitude.  List a few things for which you are thankful.  There is always something for which you can be grateful.  For starters, you are alive.  You are reading these words on an electronic device, so you are either wealthy enough to afford such a device, or you have people in your life who are willing to let you use theirs.  You can read.  And I’m certain that there are many, many more things for which you can be thankful.

8. Meditate or pray.  Remind yourself that this moment is not the be all and end all, and that this moment, like all moments, will pass.

Try not to turn to your vices.  While it may be tempting to comfort yourself by eating chocolate cake or drinking an entire bottle of wine (or worse, using drugs), these things will only numb your pain temporarily.  When their effects have worn off, your problems will still be there, and you will likely feel worse.  Relying on unhealthy substances to cope with life’s difficulties can create bad habit loops and lead to addiction.

If your negative feelings continue for days, weeks, or longer, or if they really begin to interfere with your life, please talk to a counselor or therapist.  Forget about the stigma; there is nothing even remotely shameful about attending to your mental health.  Sometimes, it can be helpful just to have a detached, nonjudgmental person to listen and help you talk through your experiences.

How do you lift yourself up when you’re feeling down?

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