Last week I wrote a post on how to be happy. It was a very cognitive approach to happiness and suggested that happiness is largely about shifting our thinking. Sometimes it is difficult to get in the right mindset, therefore I’d like to write a post on the physical and more practical steps you can take to become happier when you are feeling down.
I find that writing is very therapeutic. It is like talking and confiding in a close friend, only that you do not have to hold back. You can write about your darkness secrets and (if you’re afraid of someone finding it) burn it. I always believe that by expressing how we are feeling we are acknowledging it and therefore accepting it. This is the first step towards solving a problem or discovering why or what is making you unhappy. Once you are aware of the root then you can work towards solving it.
Furthermore, writing is a good way of documenting your thoughts and turning your sadness into something ‘useful’, or even beautiful. I know sadness should not be romanticised but sometimes I find myself reading over a poem I’ve written when I was sad and thought, I couldn’t write like that when I’m happy. So write – and you’ll find, it changes your sadness in a way, it makes you see your sadness in a different light.
Make a list of the little things.
Again, similar to writing but this time you should focus on expressing the good things in your life, the little things you appreciate. Whether it be a musician playing the harp in the underground or the late night conversations you have with a close friend, that A you got on an assignment to the delicious meal you cooked last night, how the sky looks at 5pm or how warm your bed is when it is raining outside… the little things that makes life enjoyable is endless. When you really can’t think of anything, remember to be grateful for the people you have in your life, the body that allows you to live, your health, the roof over your head, food on plate or even this computer screen in front of you. There is always something to be grateful for even on the bad days. There is a quote that I like to remind myself of on bad days: no everyday is a good day, but there is something good in everyday.
Get out of the house. Do stuff.
I would say go for a walk (or better yet exercise) but I understand that I have little motivation to go for a run even when I’m happy, so asking me to exercise when I am feeling low is unrealistic. The point is to get moving. Lying around the house all day is not good for your health (both mentally and physically) even if it is what we are inclined to do when we feel down. It is fine to have a lazy day where you mope about from time to time but then remember that a world exists outside your bedroom. There are people to talk to, places to walkthrough and new experiences to be experienced!
When you are doing nothing because you feel there is nothing to do then it can become a cycle which becomes difficult to break. You feel sluggish therefore you don’t want to do anything, and vice versa. Break the cycle by getting up and getting dressed and stepping outside of the house (and also yourself).
Go window-shopping (or spend time doing a favourite hobby).
This kind of ties in with my last point, do something that makes you happy and makes you appreciate that you are alive. I like to go window-shopping and try on all the pretty clothes even if I don’t have the intention (or funds) to buy them but I still enjoy the sensation of it. If you have a particular hobby you life, like knitting, baking, reading, playing music, singing, dancing or a sport then do that. Not only will it take your mind of your sadness but it’ll make you appreciate that there are still things that make you happy simply because you enjoy doing them. Better yet, do something completely pointless with the only point being that you enjoy doing it.
Spend time with a loved one.
A love one does not necessarily mean a boy/girlfriend but your mum or dad, grandma or grandpa, your cousin, a close friend, a new friend, a dog or cat or even your parrot (if you have one). As important as it is to recharge your happiness in yourself, you shouldn’t forget that there are people who love and care about you. Talk to people because it is fun to talk to people but also listen to them, for there is a lot that you can learn. It was a while ago but I recall from psychology class that when we talk to people and form bonds, our brain releases oxytocin and it makes us happy. So spend time with your loved ones.
Do something for others.
I am aware that my advice has been quite cliche and preachy so far, and this one is probably the most cliche of all but it is true. Nothing compares to the happiness that you feel when you see someone you care about is happy. I feel we are born quite selfish (children are pretty selfish to be honest) and it was not until later on did I really understand the meaning of being happy from another person’s happiness. The first time I really felt this (a deep intense happiness) was when I took my mum out for a dinner on her birthday last year. I surprised her with flowers and a Pandora charm and cake (in which I’d lost the candles for). I was so happy that she was happy.
You don’t have to go out and volunteer at a shelter or donate a ton of money to a charity (although these are amazing things to do) when I say do something for others. It can be as simple as baking a batch of brownies for your flatmates, or smiling at a stranger walking by.
Let me know in the comments if you do any of these tips, and what other things you do to be happy.