It’s natural to feel sad sometimes. Financial stress, work pressure, or relationship woes can wear on you until you feel completing daily tasks is like walking waist-deep in mud. When you feel yourself sliding into depression, devote some time to your own emotional support. Recognize both the depth of the problem and your need for encouragement, then try these five steps for cheering yourself up.
Change Your Body
Unhappiness affects how we hold our bodies. Everyone feels down sometimes, but it’s possible to free yourself from those emotions. Long-term stress affects our circulation, digestive system, and blood pressure. When you’re sad, you might notice that your body droops, your muscles are tense and your throat feels tight. If you stay down, those tight muscles turn into pain and increased stress raises your pulse and cortisol levels.
Even if you don’t feel happy, you can reprogram your body by changing what you do with it. Stand up straight instead of allowing your shoulders to sag. A Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychology study found people who walked with a straight spine and cheerful posture formed more positive memories than those who drooped.
When you’re sad, your expression is neutral or unhappy. Tell your face you feel good by curving your lips into a smile. Look people in the eyes and send them a happy grin, and your emotions will follow.
Turn on music that makes it hard to be still. Let your body respond by dancing and feel your spirits lift. If all you know is the chicken dance, a quick run-through will make you feel happier in seconds.
When you’re worried or glum, your mind tends to wander around restlessly, one moment examining all the reasons you have for sadness and the next brainstorming how things could get worse. Take charge of the rambling by first acknowledging what you’re feeling, then allowing those feelings to happen without judgement.
Find a place to sit comfortably for a few minutes without interruption. Set a timer for between two and ten minutes. Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out, feeling that breath inflate your lungs and gently exit your body.
Concentrate on your breathing and the sensations your body is experiencing. As thoughts of sadness cross your mind, observe them without trying to change them, then envision them floating away as you refocus on your breath.
Perform an Act of Kindness
When you feel down, it only takes a few minutes of observation to notice you’re not the only one. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can improve someone else’s day. You don’t have to spend hours volunteering in a soup kitchen or donate a large amount to charity. Here are a few easy ways to do something kind.
- Buy coffee for the person behind you.
- Write a thank-you note and leave it for someone who needs a lift.
- When you go to the grocery store, offer to pick something up for a family member.
- Write a positive review to praise a local business.
- Leave a finished magazine behind for someone else to enjoy.
When you shift your focus from yourself to others, it uplifts your mood and makes a difference for others.
Jolt yourself out of sadness by exchanging it for an attitude of thankfulness. A study published in Applied Psychology found people who spend 15 minutes a day writing down all the things they’re thankful for sleep longer and better.
Another study found athletes who expressed gratitude to their teammates and coaches had higher self-esteem because they were able to appreciate the accomplishments of others and use that knowledge to improve their own performance. Expressing gratitude releases toxic emotions and helps people overcome life catastrophe.
Change Your Space
Sometimes, a few simple changes to your environment can make all the difference. If your area is cluttered, it elevates your stress and damages your mood. Spend a few minutes putting away things that shouldn’t be there and sterilize surfaces that have gotten grungy.
Open curtains or blinds to let in sunlight during the daytime. Frame prints of happy memories and put them where you’ll see them regularly. Light candles and brew your favorite tea to indulge your senses in something pleasurable. When sadness creeps into our emotional landscape, it can feel like it’s there to stay. Take charge of your day and change your perception for a more positive outlook.