Wouldn’t it be nice if you could wake up every morning with a giant smile on your face, some pep in your step, and everything going just perfectly in your life? And when you walked outside lovely music would play to accompany your lovely mood? Of course it would, but that doesn’t always happen. Some days we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, our coffee machine is broken, we stub our toe walking out the door, and drop our iPhone onto the subway tracks. Here are some tips for handling those days, and even finding a way to still be happy.
Self-soothe. Find time in your day to do something that you really truly enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a vacation to the Bahamas. Buy a coconut water, and maybe slow down while you’re drinking it instead of chugging it while running across 5th Avenue dodging cars. Let yourself enjoy it instead of it just being another task that you have to finish in service of doing the next thing on your list. It can really be anything: a hot bath, petting a dog on the street, reading that book you haven’t found time for. Sometimes it is the little things.
Keep Buddhism in Mind
You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama to appreciate some of the core concepts of Buddhism. One of the principles of Buddhism that I find particularly encouraging is the nature of impermanence. Nothing stays the same. This bad mood, or bad week, it is not going to last forever. That is an unequivocal fact. Don’t believe me? Do a body scan. That’s where you sit with your eyes closed and mentally survey each part of your body, truly noting the sensations as you get from your feet to the crown of your head, then move downwards from there, back over your body one more time. I bet you that the sensations going down won’t be exactly the same as the sensations you felt while going up. That may seem minor, but it demonstrates a point: this feeling won’t last forever. It will transform. Just knowing that and reminding yourself of it can be a great pick-me-up.
I know, I know. You’ve heard it before, and you already would like me to piss off. But it really is true. Despite having higher intelligence, human beings are still just animals, an amalgam of veins, neurons, chemicals, and so on and so forth. Bearing that in mind, it is scientifically proven that physical exercise, even for half an hour a day, stimulates the production of endorphins that chemically boost your mood. Even if that half hour sucks, it will be worth it. It isn’t voodoo: it is science, and all creatures are a slave to science. You got this!
Consider Giving Back
More science for ya! Studies have shown that people who volunteer their time and/or resources to those in need are actually more happy than those people who do not. It’s easy to see why. Isn’t life often about finding purpose? Sometimes it is hard to parse out if you are attaining purpose in your life by doing that job or reading this article, but how can you fail to note that there is something very purposeful and rewarding about reading to a child who otherwise wouldn’t be read to, or helping feed the homeless, or assisting at a animal shelter by walking a dog or two and getting them out of the room they are in 22 hours a day? Check out newyorkcares.org. There are a million opportunities to give back. You won’t regret it!
Blast Happy Music
It is often said that you should listen to music for the mood you want to be in, not for the mood that you are currently in, and I am a staunch believer in this idea. By the way, music can stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which is the cause of feelings like accomplishment. I know it can be tempting to coordinate your mood with your music, but it is counterproductive. Ditch the Nirvana, and hit up some Mika: “Love Today.”
When you’re feeling bad, your thoughts very often are in free fall. You can’t control them, you can hardly even seem to see them, but it is terrifying and it is all happening so fast. Meditation is a great way to help you calm down, and slow down. A misconception: During meditation you should have no thoughts. False. During meditation you should hone the skill of noticing your thoughts, not identifying with them (as in, they’re thoughts not facts) and letting them go, letting them pass by. Try 20 minutes a day of focusing on your breath while eyes closed in a seated position, and it will soon become a great tool for improving composure, understanding of self, and yes happiness in the face of a bad day.
The Diving Reflex
This is strange. But it is also proven scientifically that dunking, and submerging, your head in cold water for 30 seconds and no more than 60 (not too cold, but pretty cold) can cause rapid reduction in anxiety and panic, and an elevated mood. Your heart beat slows down, your blood shifts from your limbs to your chest, and your breathing slows. Try it in your sink!