Life gets all of us down sometimes. And that’s perfectly normal – you shouldn’t push your sadness, anxiety or loneliness away. But it isn’t helpful to get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, feelings and behavior either.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to instantly boost your mood. You might be tempted to drown your sorrows by eating junk food, having one more glass of wine or obsessively checking your phone. Those actions might brighten your mood for a moment, but they’ll only make you feel even worse afterwards.
To really get out of your funk, take a look at these 45 ways to cheer yourself up when you’re down (that don’t involve ice cream).
We’ve all experienced how singing along to your favorite tunes or trusting your thoughts to your diary can make you feel better. But did you know that regularly engaging in creative activities actually boosts your happiness and health?
Art therapy is a kind of therapy that uses creative self-expression in the form of painting, drawing or sculpting to support the diagnosis and treatment of psychological problems. Other creative activities like music, dancing and writing are also praised for their health benefits.
Studies show that art therapy not only provides distraction, but also relieves stress and improves your mental health. Because visual art transcends language, it helps people express emotions that are hard to put into words. Even celebrated artists like Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh probably turned to painting as an emotional outlet, to help them cope with disability and mental illness. What’s more, being creative can evoke positive emotions like joy, awe and inspiration – all of which help build your resilience.
Art in all its forms can even promote your physical health. Recent research reveal that art therapy reduces pain when offered during acute hospitalizations. Listening to your favorite music also results into requiring less pain medication after surgery and boosts your brain health. Finally, dance training turns out to be a helpful tool in rehabilitation settings, to improve the balance and gait of patients with reduced mobility.
Pretty impressive, right? So how can you apply art therapy in your own life to boost your health and happiness?
First of all, you should know that art therapy has less to do with being ‘artistic’ than you might think. It’s about expressing yourself in a creative way, for your own pleasure and self-development. You don’t need special skills or difficult techniques. So silence your inner critic and perfectionist tendencies and take a look at these44 creative ideas to get started.
When’s the last time someone told you to “just be positive” after sharing your struggles?
There’s a tricky relationship between positive thinking, health and happiness. Over the past decade, experts have promoted positivity as a simple but highly effective tool to lead a happier and healthier life.
And rightfully so. Positivity has been linked to lower levels of stress, stronger immunity, better cardiovascular health, increased feelings of physical and emotional wellbeing, and even a longer lifespan. Cultivating positive feelings like joy, hope and inspiration also builds good mental habits such as attention, resilience and optimism, which in turn buffer the potential negative effects of stressful times.
But anyone’s who’s ever been seriously sick knows there’s another side to positive thinking and health.
Just like time flies when you’re having fun, the days can feel endlessly long when you’re stuck in bed, sick. Sure, catching up on your Netflix queue is fun at first. But when you find yourself refreshing your social media feeds every 5 minutes because the only other option is staring at the ceiling, it’s time for some entertainment.
Luckily for most people, that’s when you start to recover from the flu or whatever virus has been bugging you. But when you’re living with chronic illness, injury or disability, you might not feel well enough to pick up your usual routines and hobbies again. Instead, life may feel like you’re trapped in Groundhog Day – and not a happy one.
Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.
— Chinese proverb
In recent years, we’ve learned to be selective about what we put into our bodies. After all, “we are what we eat”, and the food we consume forms the building blocks of our bodies and health. But how many of us ever stop to think about what we put into our minds every day?
Like the Chinese proverb above explains, we are shaped by our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. When you’re scared, angry, excited or in love, those thoughts and emotions trigger the release of specific neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers tell your body how to respond to the situation at hand – freeze, fight, flight, make love.
Much of the time, your thoughts cause temporary physiological changes, like that rush of dopamine you feel when you score a goal. But when something becomes a mental habit – like constant worrying or practicing gratitude every day – the patterns of neural activity sculpt your brain in more permanent ways. Busy regions in your brain will form new connections, which makes those neurological pathways stronger and more receptive to that specific mix of neurochemicals.
What’s more, what you repeatedly think shapes your deepest beliefs about yourself and the world. Your beliefs steer your actions, and regular actions become the habits that mold your daily life and (in part) your health.
That’s why a thought isn’t just a thought – it has the power to transform your life.
But your thoughts usually don’t appear out of nowhere. They don’t exist in a vacuum either. Your ideas, intentions, opinions, feelings and worries are sparked by the available input around you. The magazines you’re reading, the articles you’re browsing online and the TV shows you watch every week – they all have an impact on your thought patterns, mood, brain chemistry and corresponding physiological reactions.
And now that we’re bombarded with more information than ever before in history, it’s become even more important to mind your mental diet. But in a world filled with both chocolate bars and brain candy, what does a healthy mental diet look like? How can you nourish your mind with ‘nutrient-rich input’ and consume less ‘empty mental calories’?
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