We all get down on ourselves now and then. It can be easy to see only failures when stress levels get too high. Changing how you feel about yourself requires taking time for you, as well as dedicating some time to feeling better. There are ways that can fit easily into most everyday routines. The last thing we want to consider is inpatient drug rehab; we want you feeling the effects after the very first day of trying these ideas. Above all, don’t give up.
1. Get out! We know, this can be the last thing you want to do, but still, do it! Take a deep breath, put on some comfortable shoes, and head out the door. Walk around your block, walk in the park, and if you can, walk to a dog park. Research consistently shows people feel better when they get outside. Also consistent in the research is how playing with a pet — doesn’t have to be yours — shows an almost immediate release of endorphins, those feel-good hormones we all need. Few things bring a smile like playing with a puppy. We can’t all live in areas like California, with year-round sun, but get outside even on cloudy days. All it takes is 15 minutes. Make it a habit, and you will see a difference. If one park doesn’t work, try another.
2. Laugh. Yes, laugh. It’s terrific if you have a friend who will laugh with you, but if not, that’s ok too. These days there’s almost always something completely silly on television, but try Animal Planet for a good time. Not the news, not some romance drama, but humor. Come in from your walk outside and channel surf until you find what you can’t resist for 30 minutes. There’s always the infomercial with Carol Burnett’s old show, and who can resist? If you want to avoid the television set, people-watching at the park is a great way to get outside of yourself and have a little enjoyment.
3. Join. Link up with a group, a class, a team, a charity — become part of something other than just you. For some of us this comes easier than for others. You may also find that this is a case where the first try doesn’t fit, but don’t get discouraged. Honest. Give it a couple of meetings. You will find that being part of a group where you are making a difference makes you feel better. Find a local Lifelong Learning community near you (they’re everywhere), or Habitat for Humanity, or Meals on Wheels, or others. These kinds of groups are hands-on, change the world, and are places where you will feel empowered. It’s hard to feel bad when you are helping others.
4. Think. Asking you to be more self-aware is a complex suggestion. This will take time, but don’t give up. Try keeping a diary of how your feelings shift over days or weeks. If you take the time to identify your feelings, you will be better able to identify who or what causes bad feelings. If someone asks you to go out, do you start to worry about how you’ll look? If your boss asks you to talk at a meeting, do you worry who will listen? If this looks familiar, take the time to note all the other things that happen. Did your boss and others compliment your talk? Did you go out and realize you had fun? This is a one-step-at-a-time process, and it may be one where a professional could help you.
5. Don’t Believe. Actively, intentionally, find the positive in your life. Don’t believe every negative thing is personal. Trust us, everyone knows negative people. The guy who cut you off in that meeting interrupts everyone and your colleagues know it. The person who stole your parking spot at the grocery store while you were waiting patiently? It’s a bet that they have no manners. Let people do things for you, whether that means a pedicure, a massage, or a personal training session. Consider writing down good things that happen every day so you can go back and read them again. When you’re feeling down, it can be easy to believe only the bad things. Find people and things that make you feel good and nurture them. Keep that best friend no matter how many miles apart you are. Keep up the exercise that you love, no matter how much work is on your desk. Above all, know that most of us struggle in the same ways and you will always have someone out there who understands.