When you’re in a funk, it’s hard to imagine feeling happy again. Try these ways to feel better and regain your equanimity during tough times.
Bringing about more peace and calm —and ultimately, more happiness— in your life requires an arsenal of positive actions that you can draw on when life’s daily stresses threaten to overwhelm you.
Each of these actions has the ability to make you feel better. Some are more obvious , like calling a loved one or having a massage. Others, such as being kind or learning to listen, serve to turn your attention outward.
Making at least a few of these actions a daily habit will help you feel consistently better about life. See which of the actions resonate with you and start there. Some say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, while other claim it can take as long as two months.
The important thing is that you stick with it. Start small and build up over time. Slow and steady wins the race. If you overshoot, you’ll fail.
(And then you’ll be back on the couch in a funk, wondering why on earth you bothered to listen to the advice of some freelance writer you don’t even know.)
1. LEARN TO LISTEN
Conversation is a lot art, and we need to get it back. We don’t listen to one another anymore. We can’t, because we’re too busy formulating the next thing we want to say.
We interrupt to get our point across sooner and in the process miss out on what the other person is sharing. Practice listening more and interrupting less (not at all is better, but less is a good start).
More often than not it’s the people who say the least who are the ones most heard.
2. BE KIND
Make being kind your natural state of being. Kindness has been scientifically proven to benefit your health. Even small acts of kindness have the potential to heal and inspire.
It can be as simple as giving way in traffic, smiling in the elevator or doing something to make someone’s day a little easier. When we do these things we feel better about life. It’s almost impossible not to.
3. DECLUTTER YOUR SPACE
Decluttering has many amazing benefits. Getting rid of clutter can make you more productive and in control. It also has the power to bring you back to a place of peace and beauty.
You don’t have to get rid of everything, just throw or give away the things you no longer use.
Don’t fall for the ‘just in case’ story you’re telling yourself. You probably won’t even notice the things you get rid of are gone. Even better, you’ll be helping someone in need by donating the them.
4. PRACTICE LOVE
Everything we feel or do stems from a place of fear or love. When we choose love our life heals, seemingly without effort.
Make love a habit. Love and appreciate yourself, love those close to you, love everyone. When we approach the world with love, we receive love in return.
5. PRAY OR MEDITATE
A daily practice of meditation or prayer works wonders for your mental health. Just a few minutes each morning spent in contemplative silence can make all the difference. You can either sit quietly and follow your breath or you can journal about the thoughts that arise.
This time alone will put you in touch with God, the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in. Cultivating faith and trust —as this inevitably does— calms and centers you. You could also end off your practice by choosing a mantra or intention for the day.
6. CUT DOWN INSTEAD OF QUITTING
When we want to quit a bad habit, such as smoking or eating junk food, our inclination is always to cut it out in one fell swoop. This requires willpower and you only have so much willpower.
A far better idea, not to mention a way less stressful one, is to slowly cut down the things you want quit.
7. TAKE TIME TO BREATHE
Deep breathing is a well known form of stress relief. Take a deep breath in and sigh out. Repeat this a few times. Try it when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the supermarket. You could even use it at night to help you fall asleep.
8. LET GO OF ANGER
Learn to check your anger. If someone riles you, respond softly and kindly. Don’t shout. Make a point of being nice to everyone, even the cold caller who’s trying to get you to sign up for their insurance policy,
Be especially kind to the people close to you, such as your spouse, friends and family. They’re usually the ones who have to bear the brunt of your anger when you’ve had a bad day. Instead, leave your frustrations at the office and bring your best self home with you.
9. REPAIR, REUSE AND RECYCLE
Recycling is a great way to give new life to something old. Haul your bicycle out the shed and start commuting to work. Instead of buying something new, look around the house and see what you can repurpose or upcycle.
The planet would be much better off if we all made the effort to avoid plastic bags, reuse our bottles or turn our kitchen waste into compost. Knowing you’re doing what you can to protect the environment is guaranteed to make you feel better about life.
10. PICK UP THE PHONE
We all need to hear the familiar voice of a loved one from time to time. But for people who live alone or who spend their time taking care of everyone except themselves, a call from someone they care about can make all the difference.
The cool thing is that by reaching out to someone who would appreciate it, you both end up feeling better. It’s one of those wonderful win-win situations that make life so much sweeter with almost no effort.
11. GET A MASSAGE
A nonverbal form of communication, like massage, is hugely beneficial to the mind, body and soul. Humans crave touch, it makes us feel loved and it offers a sense of connection.
Try introducing massage into your everyday life by giving or receiving a foot, hand or back rub. Make a point of using quality oils or creams and if you find you enjoy it, go ahead and make it a routine.
12. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. Water is essential to our health and wellbeing. When we don’t have enough water in our system, we dehydrate. When this happens we get headaches and generally don’t feel too well.
How much water you need depends on your age and gender, but a good start is eight glasses a day.
Word to the wise: sugary drinks, like soda and juice, don’t count as water. Only water counts as water.
13. STEP AWAY FROM SCREENS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Quitting your smartphone addiction will add years to your life and help you sleep better. If you’re one of those people who takes your phone or tablet to bed with you, you’re messing with your sleep.
Stop watching the news or scrolling through social media prior to hitting the hay and indulge in some healthy bedtime rituals instead. When you have a good night’s sleep, you’ll wake feel refreshed, you’ll be able to function optimally throughout the day, and you’ll be happier.
14. INHALE AROMAS
Aromatic oils are a great tool for shifting how you feel.
You can use calming oils such as lavender and vetiver to help you sleep or if you’re feeling stressed. For those after lunch slumps or when you’re feeling down, uplifting oils like bergamot, wild orange or peppermint will do the trick.
These mood-altering aromas are sure to make you feel better. Plus, they’re non-addictive (yay).
Find ways to simplify your life. So often we make things more complicated than they need to be.
We’ll insist on going shopping after work, for example, when a simple dinner of eggs or even cereal along with an early night would benefit us far more.
You don’t always have to do everything. Give yourself permission to drop a few of the balls you’re juggling. A useful question to ask is: will it matter in a year from now (or ever)? Take Richard Carlson’s advice and don’t sweat the small stuff.