Some days are better than others — that's just life. But there are easy, emotionally intelligent hacks that you can use to up your spirits when you're feeling down.
We reached out to therapists to share what they tell their clients and what they do for themselves to cheer themselves up. Here are 10 simple ways to feel a little bit happier.
"Get some exercise: Go for a walk, jog, stretch, do some pushups... whatever is right for you and your body," says Lisa Choquette, licensed clinical professional counselor and owner and operator of Vibrant Mind Therapeutics, LLC. "Journal: Write our your thoughts, feelings, goals, whatever is on your mind with the intention of sharing it , keeping it private or even destroying it when finished. Listen to a song or watch a movie/television show that elicits an emotional response. Volunteer — share your gifts with others in need. Get in touch with your creativity: Draw, paint, build, garden, write/read poetry, whatever you enjoy (everyone has some form of creativeness). Practice gratitude. Take an inventory of things for which you’re thankful."
Other therapists agree.
"Write down what you are grateful for in that day, even if it's as small as being grateful for the ability to take a deep breath," says Mollie Volinsky, LCSW, a New York City-based psychotherapist who specializes in trauma and anxiety. "Go for a walk outside, as moving your body and changing your perspective allows the brain to shift states where it will feel less down/anxious/ stressed etc... Practice mindfulness. There are many apps and youtube videos that offer guided meditations. Mindfulness allows you to get out of your head and stressful future-thinking and into your body and the present moment."
"When you're feeling a little down, one of the quickest ways to feel better, paradoxically, is to consciously allow yourself to feel down; say to yourself, 'I'm feeling down (bummed, lonely, sad, etc.) right now," says Tina, a Denver, Colorado-based psychotherapist and the author of Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them. "Research indicates that allowing yourself to feel exactly the way you do, and labeling the feeling you're having, will actually make you feel better faster than trying to distract yourself or fight your mood."
You can even use those emotions as "information," says Jenny Weinar, a licensed clinical social worker and LCSW body image and eating disorders therapist in Philadelphia.
"One tool I offer to clients is to see unwanted, negative emotions as information," Weinar says. "Rather than trying to banish it by numbing or distracting, I invite clients to get curious and ask, 'What is this feeling trying to tell me?' Understanding emotions as a call to action can help us to more quickly identify what steps to take to help ourselves feel better."
"Imagination is a powerful tool; it can serve you well if you use it in upbeat ways — one quick way to feel a little better is to imagine yourself in the pleasant circumstances that you desire, and doing the activities to which you aspire," says Yocheved Golani, an editor and writer at e-counseling, plus a life coach certified in counseling skills. "Little ones do that and they love the fun feelings that result from that game. Share the fun by doing it yourself. Spend time with that guided imagery as often as possible. Those mental images can program your subconscious mind to comply with your conscious thoughts. You'll literally start feeling better just by thinking pleasant thoughts.
"Find a picture of yourself as a small child and keep it with you," says Dr. Lina Velikova, MD, and contributor to DisturbMeNot.co, a website dedicated to sleep science and advice. "Often we get too harsh on ourselves, beating ourselves for our mistakes we make simply by being imperfect humans. But, would you scold a child that harshly, if they were to make the same mistake? Most probably the answer is no. Try being more gentle toward yourself by imagining you were to react to another person — a child. It will feel odd to keep the same, scolding attitude. You will feel a little better by looking at your mistakes this way, and while you’re at it, try organizing your thoughts into a conclusion you’d offer to a child, about how you could do things differently the next time?"
"When you can’t help feeling down, try to call it the day a little earlier," says Dr. Velikova. "Sleep it over, and you’ll probably feel at least a little better in the morning. In the evening, our hormone levels responsible for happiness get low, as we’re not preparing for activity, but rest. Help yourself by sleeping enough and enabling yourself to produce more happy hormones in the morning (endorphins, dopamine and serotonin)."
"First, I ask myself why I am feeling this way (did something happen, etc.); almost immediately, I pull out a worksheet called 'checklist of cognitive distortions' by David Burns, and I identify which cognitive distortions I am using that are not allowing me to feel better or happier," says Cynthia Fong, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker. "Once I identify my cognitive distortions, I do the complete opposite of the identified distortions. I also use the Simple Gratitude Journal app by MoodTools to redirect me to positive things in my life."
"I love encouraging my clients to declutter one cupboard or drawer in their home — the act of just clearing, organizing and making up one part of your home, even a single drawer, can really transform your energy and mindset, says Patricia Lohan, an author, speaker and Feng Shui Expert. "Clean the front door and add a cheerful welcome mat so, when you enter your home, the first thing you see [will] uplift your spirits very quickly."
Get up a little earlier because, by sleeping in, we sometimes start the day feeling groggy or in shame," says Belinda Ginter, a certified emotional kinesiologist and mindset expert. "Simply getting up even 15 minutes earlier makes us feel more in charge of our lives and our schedules.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.