7 Ways to Beat the Blues
(Also Helpful for Anxiety, Anger & Chronic Pain Management)
- Write in a journal. Pour out your feelings without thinking too much, as quickly as you can. Don’t leave anything out. Don’t censor. After you express everything you feel bad about, you may be surprised by some of what you say and some solutions may present themselves. But even if you don’t have great insights or find answers to your problems that you haven’t thought of, you will probably feel relieved at unloading your feelings.
- Talk to a friend or family member. Talking to a trusted friend about whatever is bothering you almost always makes people feel better. Even if you aren’t sure what is bothering you, having human contact will usually help you feel better. If you say as much as you can about what you are feeling, you are likely to have some insights and some solutions may present themselves. (See a theme here?) Your friend may have ideas you haven’t thought of, or remind you of something you know would help you feel better, but have been putting off doing. Like with writing, you are likely to feel better after unloading even if solutions do not immediately present themselves.
If you don’t have a friend or family member you trust, or if you have worn out your friends and family because you have needed so much support, there are other several other possibilities. This situation suggests either that you are isolated (not enough friends), unwilling to turn to friends who would be available, or your problems have become overwhelming and it’s time to get professional help. If you are religious, contact your pastor, rabbi, or priest. Most clerics have counseling training and will gladly talk to you. He or she can refer you to a professional of your faith if needed. If you have been involved in a 12-Step program, even if it’s been a long time, go to a meeting. There are many free 12-Step programs for many forms of addiction and compulsive behavior and for the families of addicts (codependents) which can be found in the white pages. Call Alcoholics Anonymous for a complete schedule. If you are suicidal, call a suicide hotline or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Get some exercise of whatever kind you enjoy. Aerobic exercise (in some studies, especially when it takes place outdoors) competes well with medication, in some cases improving mood more effectively than medication. You do not need to exercise as strenuously to improve your mood as you do to improve your cardiovascular health. Twenty to thirty minutes of mild to moderate exercise: walking, cycling, swimming, weight training will improve your mood immediately and will continue to improve your mood if you exercise regularly. Of course, use caution and start slowly if you are out of shape. Get your physician’s ok if you have any chronic health problems like heart disease. Most chronic health conditions benefit from exercise, but you may need a specially designed program or the help of a physical therapist, sports medicine doctor or other health professional. If you are already a regular exerciser, you probably know that it helps your mood. You can go do your usual workout or get a bump by scheduling some sessions with a trainer at your gym. Boosting your fitness will further boost your mood.
- Focus on whatever you are looking forward to. Especially if your anxious or low mood relates to something like a project at work or school that gives you long hours but is temporary, consider what you will do when things let up, whether it is spring break, a visit with a friend, or a massage. If you can’t think of anything you have to look forward to, it’s time to create something!
- Watch a funny movie or TV show. The healing power of humor for physical illness is well documented. It is equally healing to the mood. If you need suggestions, ask the clerk at Blockbuster, read Peace, Love and Healing by Bernie Siegel, or Norman Cousin’s autobiography in which he talks about his use of humor and joy to heal himself.
- Do a relaxation exercise or meditate. My favorite recorded relaxation exercises are done by Emmett Miller, MD, which you can download to your MP-3 player from his website. I recommend “Letting Go of Stress” for pure and simple relaxation, “Accepting Change and Moving On” for depression following loss, and “Escape from Depression” which gives some positive, ego building suggestions for the negative feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt which often accompany depression. It may seem counterintuitive that relaxation would be helpful to a depressed mood, but people who are depressed are often tense and anxious. Other positive ways to relax include yoga, meditation, and massage, all of which can be helpful to depression.
- Spend some time in nature. If you did #3 outdoors, you already did this, but nature is worth mentioning on its own, separate from exercise. There are a number of experts who feel that we suffer from our separation from nature in our mechanized world and that it contributes to the mood disorders which are rampant in industrialized nations. In any case, spending time outdoors in a beautiful setting, whether it is a park, garden or at a lake, is very likely to improve your mood.