Everyone has an occasional time of feeling down. Some people may be clinically depressed while others have bouts of feeling blue or times of low energy. Regardless of the frequency or the cause, and whether or not you are on medication, you can lift yourself out of the doldrums with a few techniques. I suggest that those who encounter such distressed feelings have a few of these antidotes ready for quick access.
Appreciate the Good Stuff
Acknowledging the good and beautiful in your life is a great daily practice. Making a list of what you appreciate can lighten your mood instantaneously. You can do it by yourself, or better yet, call a friend and inspire each other. Make the sky your limit! Think of events in history that have inspired you or people who have made you thankful just to have known them. Appreciate the person who cuts your hair exactly as you like, the school crossing guard who volunteers even during a torrential downpour, politicians whose values match yours, your boss, your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, and don't forget--appreciate yourself for all the things you accomplish!
Eliminate the Negative
In the short run, you can turn off news and TV programs that cause you distress and even stop reading the newspaper. Fill the space you create with media that is uplifting.
If your discouraged moods are significant or frequent, it might serve you to stop interacting with negative people. This may require a big effort and great ingenuity on your part. It may be that ultimately you would be doing yourself and the other people a favor by being truthful. You might say, "I'm having trouble keeping a positive outlook these days, and when you are always finding fault people, I start to feel down. So, I'm going to skip our weekly coffee klatch for a while."
If the weather or the short days are bringing you down, try to block the outside views and fill your space with as much light as possible. You might even get full spectrum light bulbs for your living and work space where you spend the most significant part of your day.
When you find yourself in the downward spiral of negative self talk, do something startling such as splashing cold water in your face or slamming your hand on a table and declaring, "Stop!" Other activities might include percussive activities like hoeing in the garden, chopping wood, jumping rope, or simply stomping around.
A fine way to distract yourself is to put on some favorite music and dance for a while. Some people find great release in planning and cooking a meal, baking cookies, or putting up a batch of jam. Others get lost in a complicated puzzle or computer problem. Keep a list activities you enjoy so that all you have to do is look at the list for a distraction when you're dragging along so low that ideas are hard to come by.
Have a ready library of uplifting media. This might include favorite movies, TV programs, music, poetry, or books. I often suggest that clients create fantasies that put their minds and hearts in a more favorable frame. You might remember a particularly wonderful event or create one in your mind. This kind of virtual vacation can brighten a very dull day.
You don't have to run marathons to get the positive effects of exercise, you can feel revived and uplifted with as little as 20 minutes of brisk walking. Better yet, you can combine two of these techniques at once by putting on music you like and dancing.
Be of Service
Nothing takes you out of the blues as much as helping someone else. On the spur of the moment, you might call a neighbor and offer to take her kids to a movie or do the grocery shopping. You could cook dinner for a friend or take dessert to a colleague. For more extensive service, you could volunteer to work at a soup kitchen or deliver Meals on Wheels. One of my friends feeds babies at the local Children's Hospital and another tutors illiterate adults. I organize the volunteers for a local music group. That way, I get to hang out with the musicians and go to their concerts. Pick some service that interests you and it's likely to make you happy, even if you have to drag yourself out the door to do it.
If you notice that you have suddenly found yourself feeling grumpy or inexplicably down, review what was going on in the few hours prior to the feeling descending on you. You may find that you had a conversation that left you feeling unsettled. It might be that you didn't say what you meant to say or you withheld the truth of how you felt. Sometimes it might be that you didn't set good boundaries and you need to speak up.
This is not an easy thing to do. It takes finesse to tell the truth in a way that doesn't make the other person wrong. The best way to do this is to make "I" statements. Talk about how you feel, not about what the other person is doing. You can't say, "I feel you are a jerk!" because the jerkish person will simply get defensive. In this case, you could say, "When you act like that, I am afraid someone is going to get mad and start a fight with you." Another common boundary-setting statement is, "When you act like that, I feel that you don't like me or you are angry with me."
Challenge Negative Thoughts
If you have an Inner Critic that is giving you grief, start making a list of all the things this critic says about you. Then look at each statement and ask these questions:
• Is this true?
• How do I know it is true?
• How do I act because I believe this is true?
• How would I act if I didn't believe this was true?
Have a Buddy
It's wonderful to have someone who will support you when you are feeling down. You can discuss the ideas you develop from this article and enlist a friend to help you engage in the some of the uplifting activities.
You are ultimately responsible for your own happiness. Actually, no one knows better than you what satisfies you or makes you happy. You can help yourself far more than you think by being proactive. Some day when you are feeling particularly good, go through this list and create your own Antidote for the Blues Kit.
© 2006, Jacqueline Hale
Jacquie Hale has tapped 30 years of health care experience, an advanced degree in Natural Health, and her expertise as a Life Coach to create programs and materials that bring calmness and purpose to people who are committed to having a better life.You can buy her book, Serenity Is an Inside Job: How to Relieve Stress and Reclaim Your Life and review her services on her website. www.serenitycoach.com. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call her for a sample coaching session at 510-548-2585 (Pacific time).