When I’ve got a case of the blues, I sometimes cheer myself up by buying a new book or two on Amazon. Perhaps you have some similar habits: you know what cheers you up, whether it’s going shopping, eating a giant bag of chips, opening a bottle of wine, lighting up…
The problem is, a lot of these little habits don’t really cheer us up, and, over time, they can have a very negative effect on our health, our wallet, or both.
These are some perennially popular ones – and reasons why they’re not a good idea:
1. Comfort Eating
Do you ever turn to food when you’re bored, stressed, or feeling low? Many of us have a long-established pattern of eating for emotional reasons – this may be something we learnt as small children, if parents gave us candy as a comforter (or to keep us quiet!)
The problem with comfort eating is that, even if a king-sized candy bar dulls our misery temporarily, we usually feel worse afterwards. If you’re trying to take care of your health, or lose weight, you’ll probably feel guilty for using your bad mood as an excuse to succumb to temptation.
A short-term sugar crash won’t do much for your state of mind, and your long-term health is likely to suffer if you regularly over-indulge in sweet, salty or fatty snacks.
2. Alcohol or Cigarettes
When I realized in college that I often felt I “needed” a glass of wine at the end of the day in order to unwind and relax, I knew it was time to go teetotal for a while. You might be far from being an alcoholic – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a drinking problem.
Turning to the bottle when you’re feeling blue isn’t going to help. At best, you might forget about what’s troubling you for an evening – but your problems will still be there the next day (and they may well be accompanied by a hangover). If you’re starting to feel that you “need” a drink in order to de-stress, be careful.
I’ve never smoked, but a few of my friends are smokers, and from what they’ve said, I know that cigarettes do provide some stress-relief. This comes, however, with a hefty price tag, both in monetary and health terms. If you’re putting off quitting because you can’t relax without a cigarette, start exploring some better stress-busting techniques.
There’s nothing wrong with using your money to buy things that bring you enjoyment. If you regularly go shopping to lift your mood, however, there’s a good chance that you’re buying a lot of stuff that you don’t really need and don’t really want.
If you get into the habit of shopping when you’re down, you’ll be more susceptible to succumbing to cunning marketing ploys. As with comfort eating, alcohol and cigarettes, excessive and unnecessary shopping won’t make you feel good about yourself the next day.
Plus, if your financial situation is a bit rocky, shopping will add to your worries.
So, if these popular mood-boosters don’t really work, what does? There are a whole host of things you might try, but three that are pretty much guaranteed to lift your mood are:
Don’t groan! Getting your body moving is a great way to boost your mood (and, of course, it’s good for your health). Have you ever had that satisfied, completely de-stressed feeling after a workout? Or have you ever gone outside to “walk off” some excess nervous energy, or to get some space and recover from a bad mood?
If you’ve tried exercising in the past, you’ll know how effective it is. Over here in the UK, doctors are increasingly encouraging patients with mild to moderate depression to exercise regularly – it can help people to manage their depression without the need for drugs.
2. Doing Something for Others
Many volunteers find that giving their time and energy to a good cause helps them to feel fulfilled and satisfied, and that it can be a great way of meeting new friends with similar interests and values. Knowing that you’ve used one of your skills to help someone in need can give your confidence and your sense of self-worth a massive boost.
You don’t necessarily need to join a formal scheme as a volunteer. How about dropping in on a lonely neighbor, doing a favor for a friend, or taking the time to phone someone who you know will appreciate a chat?
3. Get On With Something Absorbing
When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to feel motivated to start on anything. Perhaps you’ve got a stack of emails to reply to, but you just can’t face them. (Indeed, a backlog of work might even be the cause of your bad mood.) Maybe you’ve got a particular hobby or interest that you never seem to get time for any more.
Getting on with something – anything – can sometimes be enough to lift your mood. It might mean throwing yourself into work, or enjoying a chapter or two of an engrossing novel. Sometimes, all that’s needed for your mood to lift is to simply find an activity that occupies your brain.
How do you lift your mood when you’re feeling down? Do any of the above tips work for you, or do you have some of your own to add to the list?