Over the years, I've gotten quite good at snapping myself out of a funk. (By "funk," I mean when I'm feeling cranky or down, but not for any big, obvious reason. If you've suffered a recent loss, or are truly depressed, these quick fixes probably won't do much for you. Please seek professional assistance if you're really in a dark place, and know that you are not alone.)
Obviously, the first step is to realize you're feeling moody or cranky or even sad. Once you do, try one or more of the tricks I use to change my mood and outlook:
- Listen to the Happier podcast. This is my most favorite podcast, and it's all about how to be happier. Gretchen and Elizabeth's focus on the different ways to be happier give me food for thought, and make it easier for me to change my mental place. (2020 update: My new favorite podcast is Off-Air with Joe and Orel, the TV broadcasters for the Dodgers.)
- Listen to your favorite music. Almost everyone has a song that makes them happy, and listening to a favorite song (or playlist) can instantly lift you up. Some selections from my Happy playlist include Thunder in the Rain by Kane Brown, Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen, Karma Chameleon by Culture Club, Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon, and Summer of '69 by Bryan Adams. (2020 update: I've been loving Lady Gaga and Ariane Grande's Rain on Me and Dua Lipa's Don't Start Now.)
- Remember what you're grateful for. Research shows that grateful people are happier people. I don't keep a gratitude journal, but I frequently try to remember what I'm grateful for. (Every morning when I wake up, I say a quick prayer of thanks for my family and other blessings that come to mind.) When I'm down in the dumps, gratitude is usually not as much at the forefront of my thoughts, so making a quick list - mental or written - is a good way to turn my mood around.
- Help someone. Research also shows making someone else happier makes you happier. So help someone, or do something nice for them, and you'll feel better too. In my experience, even planning to do something for someone else can knock you out of your funk. (2020 update: This is what's been working best for me during quarantine/pandemic life!)
- Try something new. This can be something simple you've been thinking about, like signing up for a free trial of Amazon Prime. Or something bigger you've been afraid of, like going to a spinning class for the first time. There's just something about trying a new activity that's exhilarating and chases away those negative feelings. Just a cautionary note here, though - make the effort to set yourself up for success, for example, by taking a supportive friend to the spinning class.
- Treat yourself. If you can think of something that would feel indulgent that you won't regret later, go ahead and indulge. The key here is the absence of regret. This means that if you'll berate yourself for having a slice of chocolate cake, you shouldn't have the cake. But if you want to re-read a favorite book and you have or can make the time to read, then why not?
- Plan to treat yourself. Anticipation is often even better than the actual event, so making plans for a treat can make you happier than giving yourself a treat right now. And this strategy works well when you don't have the time for the treat you want to give yourself. (Like when the kids are underfoot and require your full attention - speaking from experience.)
- Go ahead and sulk. But set a time limit. This idea is similar to the idea of scheduling time to worry. In fact, you can even schedule time for sulking later if you have to be "on" at the moment. Sometimes just knowing you can wallow later is enough to make you feel better now.
- Think about something you've overcome to remind yourself of your resilience. You might even consider keeping a success journal that details your accomplishments so that you can go back to it when you need a pick-me-up. This was advice my dad gave me years ago, and I have to admit that I haven't kept up with my success journal. But it's not too late to start adding to it again.
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