This time of year can be emotionally draining, especially if you’re single or have recently gone through a breakup (and let’s face it, lots of people break up before, during and straight after the holidays). If you’re feeling crappy about life right now, here are 27 things you can do that will actually improve your mood.
1. Talk to someone
Reach out to a friend, a relative, a stranger, even a mental health professional. Just speaking to a friend about random things can snap you out of a shitty place, even if it’s only an online chat. If things are really bad or you can’t or don’t want to speak to anyone you know, you can still get help from someone who cares. In the UK and Ireland the number for the Samaritans is 116 123. In the USA the suicide prevention helpline number is 1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis text line is 741741, where you can text and talk to a friendly, trained person without actually having to speak out loud. You can also try the free 7 Cups website / app to chat with a friendly person about anything that’s bothering you.
2. Treat yourself to some nice food
I mean healthy, nourishing stuff, not crap. When I was a poor student I’d save up some cash to spend on a takeaway meal from the cheap Thai place near my flat whenever I was too stressed or too miserable to cook. It’s important to keep yourself fed with the good stuff when you’re otherwise a mess. But if you can’t eat anything healthy, make sure you at least keep yourself fed and watered with something. As a British person, I am also legally obliged to recommend you have yourself a nice cup of tea.
3. Eat something that’s bad for you (in moderation)
Junk food will make you feel like shit later, as will booze, but sometimes a little bit can cheer you up. Go into a posh chocolate store and buy yourself a couple of really nice fancy ones. That kinda thing. Or, you know, eat a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s (did I just say that out loud?)
4. Have a bath or a long shower
My current place doesn’t have a bath, which is a tragedy all in itself. Never again. If you are lucky enough to have a bath, you’re half way to home spa heaven already. Otherwise, a really long shower will have to do. Switch your phone off, switch the lights off, put some nice music on and relax.
5. Do a free yoga class
Youtube is full of free classes in pretty much every possible style, level and duration. Even if you only have five minutes, you can still do something that will help you relax. Here is a lovely half hour class that’s specifically aimed at beating the winter blues. This is a 40 minute restorative class you can do without props. You could also just skip the yoga part and do this sweet 12 minutes yoga relaxation.
6. Do this guided loving kindness meditation
7. Read this extremely touching Twitter exchange between Dan Harmon and a girl who asked him how to deal with depression
8. Make some art
It can be anything – drawing, finger painting, sculpting with plasticine, even drawing something on the computer with Paint. As long as you have something to draw with and something to draw on, you can make art. It can also be totally shit. The result doesn’t matter as the act of doing something like that is in itself the result. I’ve had nights where I used my netbook’s touchscreen to blacken a Paint window line by line without ever saving the files. I keep plasticine on the table that I use to sculpt stuff and then squish it back into a ball (when I like it, i take a photo first). I also knit, which I find relaxing. If you want to learn how to do all these things properly, you can take a class, or just, you know, watch a Youtube video. But really, it’s just about finding an outlet for your feelings. You might not be an “artist” but that doesn’t mean you can’t create art. I’m not an Olympic swimmer but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed in the sea.
9. Get an adult colouring book
10. Write it out
Take some time out right now (or every day) to write three pages of everything going through your head, without stopping or bothering with spelling mistakes. I like to do it on the computer cause I can then delete the lot without worrying about it, in which case I use Notepad rather than Word, because Notepad is less judgmental. Otherwise, just get a notebook and scribble. This is a trick I used to use at Uni when I was studying creative writing. I’d get rid of my demons every morning by giving them their place, so I could free myself up for doing assignments. Along the way I’ve learned that it’s also a good way to just let stuff go or even think it over and reach solutions to some problems.
11. Go for a walk
Generally being outside is helpful. If you have somewhere green and safe nearby, or a beach, those are perfect. A long cycle ride or a long drive with some good music on can also be good, as long as you’re not too distraught to handle a vehicle. It’s worth noting that jogging is meant to be one of the best forms of exercise to improve your mood, but if you’re not used to jogging or have been out of practice for a while, you’ll want to read up about beginners’ running plans before heading off. Going in too hard can actually cause injury pretty fast.
If that’s your thing. Or you could make it your thing for right now if it’s going to get you out of a bad place. Every religion in the world has some prayers aimed at getting you guidance at a time of need or you could just make up your own.
13. Put on some music and dance like nobody’s watching
Whatever music makes you happy. Youtube and Spotify are full of playlists. Here are some.
14. Go out
Depending on the time of day, you can probably find something to do. If you can’t arrange anything with someone you know, see if you can find something interesting on Meetup or something similar. Sometimes just getting out of the house can change your mood, if you can force yourself to actually do it.
15. Plan something nice for later
If you can’t go out right now, start planning something fun for when you can. It’s best if it’s something concrete like arranging a future meeting with a friend or booking a ticket to a gig, but if circumstances don’t allow just checking out things like holiday destination ideas, a restaurant you’d like to visit, a show you’d like to see, etc. can help you leave this bad moment in time behind for a while.
16. Do something nice for someone else
Give that homeless person some change on the way back from work, feed a squirrel in the park, check out volunteering opportunities. Helping others feels good, plus, it makes other people feel less bad.
17. Watch some cute cat videos
Science says they can actually improve your mood. I assume the same applies to any other cute and funny animal videos.
18. Pet an actual cat (or other kind of pet) or hug a person
Physical contact is important to many humans, so unless you don’t like being touched, this could certainly improve your mood. Even people who don’t like being touched by other humans may well enjoy petting an animal. I used to go round to my friend’s house to hang out with him and his cats when I was sad. Now I have my own cats I can pet whenever I want (or rather, whenever they want). If you don’t have a friend with pets, cat cafes are a thing in some places, as are animal shelters that need volunteers. In some places people also give out free hugs. If no one is doing it in your area and you would like a free hug, maybe that could be you? (or maybe you can charge, like this guy)
Unless you’re clinically depressed, sleep will actually help you feel better when you’re feeling down.
20. Watch your favourite comedy show
Belly laughs are good. I always have Seinfeld and Silicon Valley ready so I can watch them on repeat.
21. Buy yourself a little present
You can buy yourself a big present, too, but a small one is just as good. Again, you can do this online if the stores are shut.
23. Take your frustrations out on a pillow
A bodywork teacher once taught me this trick: put your mouth on a pillow and scream into it. It’ll help let out your feelings and the pillow will dampen the sound. You can also punch a pillow for much the same reasons. Apparently shouting “no” repeatedly at the same time is also helpful. If you need to scream, you can always play your favourite angry music and scream along. At least during social hours.
24. Read some relatable online comics
25. Play one of these free feelgood browser games
26. Play this supposedly scientifically proven relaxing tune
Apparently it was designed according to scientific principles of sounds and frequencies that makes people chill out. Youtube also features a shorter 8 minute version, a 2 hour version and a 10 hour version.
27. Watch a feelgood film
Whichever one’s your favourite. You know, something like Casablanca, Amelie, Indiana Jones, Beverly Hills Cop, Spaceballs or whatever floats your boat.