I am not a fan of beating the blues advice that is patently gratuitous, overdone, or quite obvious. Yes, a walk on the beach sounds invigorating but I live in Arizona. You know what I’m talking about, these lists inundate Google if you search for overcoming a down mood or depression. For anyone experiencing a hard time or if you have a case of the blues—I’ve gathered some of my best mood-changing activities for you which I’ve indulged in to distract me when I’m feeling down. These are not your same old tips, so come on, give one a try!
- Visit a local animal shelter and take a look at the puppies and kittens. I was afraid this would make me feel worse because I’d want to adopt them all. But it didn’t. They make me laugh watching them play with each other and their complete and utter sweetness. I also saw that so many of them had “Adopted” written on their information cards and this made me feel hopeful and happy. On the way out, drop a dollar in their donation box. You’ve helped yourself and the animals!
- Look for the Nickelodeon or TVLand channel and watch reruns of Friends. This iconic 90s comedy boasted one of television’s most creative ensembles and there is rarely an episode without a laugh-out-loud line from these comedic actors. Just hearing Joey say, “How YOU doin’” or watching Monica’s obsession with household order makes me giggle. And who doesn’t want to hear “Smelly Cat” one more time?
- Upcycle a decorative item or piece of furniture in your home. Pick something small and doable that won’t take too long and could use a new look. Don’t take on anything too complicated or you’ll risk a worse mood! If you don’t have supplies, almost everything is sold at Michael’s. I recently redid a small Goodwill lamp I had, put a new inexpensive shade from Target on it, and painted the very unattractive wood base a barn red. This lamp was on its way out and now sits on my ottoman coffee table. I ran an extension cord hidden by a rug to make my new upcycled lamp work in a completely unexpected area.
- Dive into a Netflix binge watch. Google best Netflix movies or search for a television show you’ve been meaning to watch but want to start at the first season. I recommend The Crown which just landed a second season. This is a great historical drama about Queen Elizabeth’s early years and coronation. I’m now watching Gypsy, a quirky drama with Naomi Watts. I was hooked on the first episode. It seems like everyone’s watched Orange is the New Black (I LOVE it). If you liked OITNB, try Wentworth, a darker women’s prison drama from Down Under.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or children’s charity for a special event or holiday. Contact St. Vincent De Paul or one of your local charities that serves food on holidays. Volunteering to serve usually just takes just a call to sign up. But do call ahead because this is a popular idea for service groups. Most malls have a Christmas tree hung with names of children needing gifts. Shopping for a gift to make a child’s holiday special is heartwarming and so rewarding. This maxim is very true. Giving to others is a sure way to cheer up even a Scrooge.
- Spend an afternoon rearranging a room’s furniture. Giving a room a new look will make a difference every time you walk in afterwards. Use some decorator touches on your bookshelves, making books stack vertically or adding photos and small vases or candles. Take a lap blanket and drape it over the back of a comfy chair. On an ottoman, place a tray and fill it with magazines or books and a small candle. Gather several of your framed photos and create a group on a sofa table or end table. Position furniture at an angle for an interesting look. I get so involved rearranging I find I forget my mood for awhile and get a new look for my house!
- You will find this idea on every list but don’t discount the benefit of movement. I had a therapist who said depression means time for action. Usually this is the last thing I feel like doing but I force myself into engaging in some type of endorphin-releasing activity. I have DVRd several episodes of a half hour yoga show on PBS. On ambitious days, I’ll roll out my mat in front of the television and spend a small amount of time stretching and clearing my mind. I’m not a gym person so I’ll do anything rather than go to a public place. Well, because people. What I also include in this hack is a trip to the grocery, drug store, or any place where I have to get dressed, get in the car, and walk around for a short amount of time. I always feel better after some type of movement. Lucky dog owners can sneak in at least two walks!
- Two words. Manicure and pedicure. If not one, then the other, or both! I go to a reasonably priced salon where for one hour I am pampered and then leave with great-looking hands and toes. If you have the budget, getting a massage is the big kahuna here of self-indulgent self-care.
- For people who like to read (me) there is an infinite library of books out there. I completely forget about why I was sad or down and get lost in the world of my book’s characters. My tip for a good read is Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere—great literary fiction with several twists. I have a Kindle which makes reading easy but I also buy used books from Amazon. If it’s a title that’s been out for a while there are usually one cent used offerings and you only have to pay the $3.99 shipping charge. I have so many four dollar hardbacks thanks to Amazon’s used book sellers. When I’m looking for a new book to read, I search on Amazon or Google for the top sellers in a genre I love. Don’t forget about your local library! Many libraries now offer online lending.
My last tip may be the most effective but sometimes the hardest to do. Reach out. Call, email, or text a dear friend who understands that sometimes you get down and need a listening ear. Reaching out comes in different ways and styles. Send a greeting card—a lost art but greatly appreciated by the receiver. Even social media counts. On Facebook and Twitter there are many ways to interact with others. I have a friend who just joined a Facebook cooking group and she loves it. Whichever way you choose, making the effort to reach out pays off. I am often guilty of isolationist behavior and this is a top priority that really works to help me feel better.
It would absolutely help me to beat my blues knowing that one of these hacks worked for you. The hardest part is finding an idea or activity that appeals to you. Once you do choose one, taking the first step is a little easier. If you find yourself in a holiday funk or catch a blue mood, give one of these not-your-same-old ideas a try. My therapist is right. Taking action DOES lift a mood!