17 Things to Do When You Are Feeling Blue

Tips for bringing joy back into your life

Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash

Perhaps today you woke up feeling blue. We’ve all been there because, well, we are all human. It is normal to feel down sometimes. Negative emotions can be a result of anything from suffering from a tragedy to just feeling sad for an unknown reason. When you feel stressed or sad, it is important to slow down and take time out for yourself. If you’ve been feeling this way for an extended period, it might be time to mention it to your doctor.

If you are reading this, chances are you want to do something to lift your spirits. It is helpful to have a list of things that make you feel good to keep in the back of your journal or hidden in a drawer for moments when you might need them. It may be hard to think of things when you’re in a tough spot. Below are 17 ideas of things to do when you feel blue to help give you a lift:

1. Get Some Exercise — Exercise is a natural, healthy coping strategy for stress and feeling down. Getting your heart rate up releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals, which help with viewing your circumstance from a more balanced, positive perspective. Exercise has also been associated with increased creativity which helps with problem-solving. Even 10–15 minutes can help make a difference.

2. Listen To Music — It turns out that listening to your favorite tunes and singing along does more than just entertain your neighbors. Listening to music has been used for centuries to reduce stress. It has been used to treat both physical and mental symptoms. According to Dr. David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist, listening to music reduced stress in study participants by 61 percent.

3. Have Coffee or Lunch With a Friend — Sometimes talking about what is making you feel the way you do, helps you see it from an outside perspective, even if there isn’t one thing making you feel down. There is nothing like having a great friend to talk to about your emotions. Even if you don’t talk about them, just having someone there to take your mind off of your current state is priceless.

4. Take a Nap — Not getting enough shut-eye is a recipe for emotional disaster. If you haven’t spent enough time sinking into dreamy bliss, taking a nap may help restore balance. On the flip side, if sleeping is your “go-to” when life gets rough, you might want to avoid this one and push yourself to get out instead. For short term stress, it can help. However, if you notice you have been going to bed more frequently, it may develop into an unhealthy coping mechanism. It can also be a sign of depression and you should discuss it with your doctor.

5. Have a Solo Dance Party at Home — It is hard to dance at home by yourself without a smile on your face. Dancing helps you get in touch with your authentic self. Doing it at home allows you to express who you are in a safe environment. Plus, you may end up finding some new dance moves you can use in public.

6. Draw or Paint — Like dancing, doing art, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, helps reduce stress, fosters creativity and helps you get in touch with your true self. Psychologist Carl Jung recommended patients color mandalas as a way of improving their psychological health. For decades, therapists have used art therapy and have reported positive results in patients.

7. Write About Your Feelings — Writing is extremely helpful in helping to process your thoughts and emotions. It can help you see your issues from a new perspective. Often, your thoughts can be jumbled. As you write them down, you are forced to organize them into coherent ideas, which brings natural clarity to a situation. Additionally, seeing your emotions in writing can make you feel less alone since the written word is like having a conversation with a wider audience.

8. Avoid Drinking Alcohol — Although there are thousands of memes that make jokes about drinking to relieve stress, it only leads to worsening symptoms. Your body has a natural defense mechanism to deal with anxiety and stress, using the nervous and endocrine systems to help achieve homeostasis. Alcohol interrupts this process and takes a toll on your body both physically and emotionally, which can compound feelings of stress and anxiety.

9. Get Outside — Spending even five minutes outside can improve your mood, especially in natural, green spaces. We live in a world where our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions, adding to unwanted stress. Getting outside and appreciating the beauty of nature, can help slow our minds down and has a calming effect.

10. Have a Cup of Tea — It may sound far-reaching, but there is something calming about the ritual of making a cup of tea and sipping it. It reminds us to slow down. Herbal teas used to induce sleep, like chamomile and lavender, also help with stress. Having tea outside, perhaps at an outdoor table, is a bonus since getting outside for fresh air is also helpful for making us feel better as discussed above.

11. Read a Book — Reading a book is a great distraction. A good book will take you to new places and get your mind thinking about the story rather than your unwanted thought patterns. Dr. David Lewis discovered that reading was one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. His study found that reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent.

12. Listen to a Podcast — Listening to a podcast is a great way to divert the mind away from personal struggles, whether the podcast is about another person’s journey or even something educational. It can be a good reminder that there is a big world out there and your issues are a part of something larger.

13. Text Your Friends a Kind Message — It is great to focus on what you like about a friend and tell them. Making someone else feel good helps spread kindness and it usually comes back full circle, even if not immediately. It helps to put your mind in a positive place about others and can remind you of what you like about yourself.

14. Prepare a Healthy Meal — Cooking is a form of creativity and preparing healthy food in a tasty way can be fun and rewarding. When you choose a difficult recipe, one that challenges you, it forces you out of cooking autopilot. It also means you may have to get out of the house to buy ingredients. Besides the cooking side of it, eating a good, healthy meal will help prevent poor eating that can come along with stress and sadness.

15. Listen to Comedy — Laughter has always been touted as “the best medicine.” There is truth to that adage. Listening to something that makes you laugh is the best way to shift your mind into a more positive state. Many of the popular music streaming apps have a comedy station, and you can choose if you want explicit humor or not.

16. Do Something Outside of Your Normal Routine — Vacations are great for switching your mindset by taking you out of your normal routine and getting you to look at yourself and the world from a different viewpoint. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to gain this benefit. Being a tourist in your own town is valuable as well. Visit a local museum or botanical garden. Some cities, like San Diego, have bloggers, like The Suburban Adventuress, who write about local events and give great ideas of fun things to do in your city.

17. Turn off Screens — If watching T.V., playing video games, or constantly checking our phones made us happy, we would be the happiest culture that ever existed. Unfortunately, many studies have shown the contrary. If you feel blue, I highly recommend taking a “screen fast.” We should all do that regularly (but not until you finish reading this article of course).

It is normal to feel down sometimes. When you do, it is important to develop healthy coping strategies so that we can help our body’s natural process of recovery. Do you have a healthy strategy for when you feel down? I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment or send me a note at amywallauthor.com.

All American & ranked 1500 meter masters runner. SDSU XC/Track alum. Write about running, health & well-being. Editor at Runner’s Life. amywallauthor.com

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