When you’re feeling blue, it can be hard to muster up the physical and mental energy to do the things that make you happier. Plunking down in front of the TV or digging into a tub of ice cream seems like an easier fix.
However, research shows (and you know it’s true) that these aren’t the routes to feeling better. Try some choices below. The more you push yourself, the better you’ll feel; but if you can’t tackle a big task, just do something small. Even a little step in the right direction will give you a lift.
According to my ground-breaking happiness formula, to be happy, you need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. What’s dragging you down? Is it a lack of fun, of connection? Do you feel a lot of guilt, boredom, or anger? Do you feel that something’s “not right” about your life? Do you feel stagnant or stuck? Focus your efforts on the choices that will do the most to address what’s not working in your life.
Your menu of choices -- commit to doing as many items as you can:
__ call or email one of your closest friends
__ call or email three friends to whom you haven’t spoken in a while
__ track down an old friend who has drifted out of your life
__ add a fun thing to your calendar
__ better, add a fun thing to your calendar that involves other people
__ best, add a fun thing to your calendar that involves other people doing something outside
__ think of a subject that you wish you knew more about (be honest! something that really interests you!) and spend 15 minutes on the internet reading about it
__ take a step toward acquiring a new skill that you want – research Italian classes in your neighborhood, investigate Photoshop
__ if you absolutely can’t think of one single subject that interests you, visit two bookstores (one huge chain, one independent) and browse until some book catches your attention – and buy it
Do good, feel good
__ sign up to be an organ donor, and remember to tell your family
__ give $25 or more to a worthy cause
__ sign up to volunteer or participate in an organization
__ walk around the block
__ do ten jumping-jacks
__ go the gym or go for a run
__ clear out the space around your computer
__ clear out a closet
__ walk through your house with a garbage bag, and clear clutter until the bag is full of trash; then walk around again and fill a new bag with things to be given away; repeat
__ make a dentist’s or doctor’s appointment that you’ve been putting off
__ reach out to a family member whom you’ve been neglecting
__ make something right: apologize, confess, repair, replace, or return something you borrowed
__ clean out three old emails that you haven’t answered
__ stop off at the drugstore to buy supplies you need
__ stop off at the hardware store to buy supplies you need
__ fix something broken
__ Throw away someone else’s litter
__ Be helpful to an elderly person or a person with small kids
__ Be friendly to a store clerk who seems grouchy
__ Reflect on the following quotation, from Marjorie William’s The Woman at the Washington Zoo:
We could hear her friends pull up to the curb. As her momentum carried her to the top of the stairs, Alice looked back and tossed me a radiant smile. She had become my glimmering girl: She looked like a rock star. She looked like a teenager. She looked absolutely stunning. She thundered down the stairs in those shoes, and as the front door slammed behind her, it came to me—what fantasy I had finally, easily entered this Halloween.
I’d just seen Alice leave for her prom, or her first real date. I’d cheated time, flipping the calendar five or six years into the future. The character I’d played was the fifty-two-year-old mother I will probably never be.
It was effortless.
Editor’s Note: A month after Marjorie wrote this, her oncologist concluded that there was no further treatment to recommend. Marjorie died, at home, on January 16, 2005, three days after her forty-seventh birthday.
__ Reflect on the following quotation, Winston Churchill to the House of Commons, June 4, 1940:
We shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do.
Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender; and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old.
__ Reflect on the following quotation, from Thomas Arnold, diary, June 5, 1842:
[Of reading the newspaper] “So much of sin and so much of suffering in the world, as are there displayed, and no one seems able to remedy either. And then the thought of my own private life, so full of comforts, is very startling.”
At the end of the day, look back on your list. Did you hit all the items you checked off? Do you feel happier?
One Last Thing
Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?
Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. I share ideas for being happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.
Dive into The Blog
More Posts For You
Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.
The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t act. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.