“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama
It's a well-known fact that the holidays bring on the blues. According to the National Mental Health Association, reasons for feeling blue around the holidays range from fatigue to financial limitations to tensions in personal relationships.
As for me, I'm generally a happy person. I don't dwell on things I can't control, I have realistic expectations, I've learned overtime that trying to change people is futile, and I've even come to appreciate some of my flaws.
But sometimes, melancholy finds me. Like a thick fog that threatens to shroud a picturesque skyline, it creeps up seemingly out of nowhere until I can no longer ignore it.
I had an experience with this recently.
After an intense couple of nights with human rights activists from Ethiopia and Russia, learning about how fiercely and fearlessly they fight to preserve the rights of citizens of their countries, I feel blessed to be in a country where much of our basic rights are intact. Where we have a right to protest, to organize, to speak out. Where, though many may complain, its citizens are still quite a bit more privileged than those of most other countries.
After these intense couple of days, a sadness lingered, a sobering feeling that made me feel slightly off-balance, not-quite-myself, and a little bit powerless.
But, as I have done many times in the past, I've learned not to let sadness take over. It's not easy to do at first but, as always, a little effort goes a long way. Here are some ideas to chase the blues away:
1. Let the sadness in then let it pass.
2. Pray or meditate.
3. Take a nap.
4. Cry it out. It's cleansing, it brings a sense of relief, and it releases stress hormones that can cause serious damage to brain cells.
5. Think about your favorite things.
6. Practice yoga or do any kind of exercise.
7. Retreat. Be at peace with silence and limit outside stimuli.
8. Take a social media fast and instead, connect only in real time and in person.
9. Sip tea, coffee, or wine with someone. Ponder the depths of existentialism. Or gossip about Angelina Jolie and all her great humanitarian work.
10. Break out a cookbook, invite a friend or two over, and make a meal from recipes you've never tried before.
11. Recall a fond memory about someone and contact that person and let that person know you remembered him/her.
12. Give a co-worker a ride home.
13. Talk to a stranger. Ask a safe and simple question and see where it leads. Or, share an anecdote and wait for a response. Be open to how easily others are willing to connect.
14. Visit some blogs and leave a comment.
15. Perform an anonymous act of kindness.
16. Pop a feel-good dvd in the player and allow yourself a little veg time.
17.Do something silly and let go of self-conscious feelings.
18. Do something you wouldn't normally do.
19. Laugh it up at an improv/comedy show.
20. Invite a little unpredictability into your life.
21. Go for a drive without a particular destination. Feel the breeze and let your senses take in the feeling of not having a particular place to go.
22. Go sightseeing in the town where you live.
Let Nature Fill Your Senses
23. Get outdoors. Whether it's a walk down a busy city street or a nature hike, there's something about being outdoors that makes a little bit of the sadness evaporate. Perhaps, if you're open, you'll notice a stranger or two smiling at you.
24. Surrender to nature and feel its immense power.
25. Watch the ripples of waves as they grow more and more intense.
26. Hug a tree and feel its strong unyielding roots.
27. If you're an early riser like me, watch the sunrise and remind yourself that you'll never ever see the same exact sunrise again.
28. Go surfing or go for a swim in the ocean or lake.
29. Do a little gardening.
Get Creative or Immerse Yourself in Art
30. Take pictures. Channel your inner Sebastiao Salgado or Brigitte Lacombe.
32. Write a song, a poem, or a short story.
33. Read a classic.
34. Be in awe of a work of art. A photograph or a painting is a good source of awe-inspiring moments that can transport you to another place and melt sadness.
35. Listen to music that moves you.
36. Sing and dance.
Take Care of Yourself
37. Pamper yourself by getting a mani/pedi, a facial, or a massage. It sounds indulgent but who says you don't deserve it?
38. Plan a vacation or a simple day trip.
39. Get a haircut.
40. Make a smoothie. Throw a whole bunch of fruits in season in a blender and nourish your body and spirit.
41. Start a new healthy habit.
42. Learn about a new country you haven't visited before but have been curious about.
43. Take a class. Pottery, philosophy, business, anything.
44. Do some chores. Purge your closet of unwanted things and donate a bag of clothes and shoes to Goodwill. Or, de-clutter your home and clear your mind in the process.
45. Throw yourself into your work or start a new project.
46. Plan and throw a party. Watch the sadness turn to excitement.
Do for Others
47. Visit a friend who's pregnant or with a newborn baby and find out if there's anything you can do for her.
48. Visit a sick friend and offer to pick up take out.
49. Walk your neighbor's dog.
50. Offer to run an errand for a parent with young kids.
51. Pick up a greeting card or a present for someone. Any chance you can focus on making someone else's day will help brighten your day.
52. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
53. Help wrap presents for orphans or sick children through a local charity.
Photo by Phil Nelson