It’s the New Year and we're making our annual Resolutions in an effort to both drown out and ingratiate our inner critic.
The ultimate goal, usually arising out of a sense of anxiety or even depression, is to “feel better,” you know, later. Eventually.
The thing is, there are many ways to “feel better” in the here and now, even as you work towards larger goals. And increased well-being inspires motivation. It gives us traction.
In that spirit, here are a few proactive suggestions to get the blood moving, quiet anxious thoughts, and lift your mood right now.
1) Take a long, hot bath. You know the kind. Candles, bath salts, bubbles, a good book.
2) In keeping with the ablution theme, a sauna or steam followed by a cold shower never fails to awaken the spirit.
3) Clean out your closet. Follow tips in Marie Kondo’s fun book for decluttering: discard everything that does not “spark joy.”
4) Find a nearby free trial class or seminar for something you’ve always wondered about—or never even considered. Karate. Hot yoga. Story-telling. Book it and go.
5) Clean out your email and back up your computer. It’s amazing how much this quiets the mind.
6) Repot and manicure all of your houseplants. You’ll feel better. They’ll feel better.
7) Make a playlist. Title it “Dancing.” Put it on and dance until you drop.
8) Count your blessings. Be creative.
9) Find a local food bank or shelter and volunteer. Or find a volunteer position that matches your skills and interests using a resource like TVO/Q Media’s GetInvolved volunteer matching site.
10) Make a fruit salad. As you savour it, pay attention to how your brain lights up. That's serotonin. And it is good.
11) Do your taxes early. Seriously.
12) Just before going to bed, write down three things that went well that day and why. This exercise, described by the founding father of positive psychology Dr. Martin Seligman, has been shown to increase well-being and decrease depression—if you do it for seven days in a row. The reason? You are using that late-night time challenging yourself to do an analysis of small and big successes. It’s replacing what can be a time of anxious repetitive thoughts with positive ones.
13) Go for a walk. Shake the dust off.
14) Tell someone you love just how important he or she is to you.
15) Forgive. Consciously decide you are going to let go of your anger towards someone who has wronged you. In some cases, this could mean reaching out to that person—but not always.
16) Drink a tall glass of cool water. Sometimes feeling better is just that simple.
17) Set a goal and architect a plan. Write out the steps. Worry about obstacles later.
18) Do some deep breathing or meditation exercises.
19) Find a free mindfulness app—like “Stop, Breathe, and Think.” Try it out. The mindfulness trend has its detractors, but it’s one of the best tools for stopping negative thoughts in the moment.
20) Assemble your own list of all the things you can think of to make you feel better in the moment so you can get down to the business of living your life more fully.
For more on the science of New Year's Resolutions, check out this recent article from Mother Jones Magazine explores how day-dreaming can set us up for success or failure when it comes to making positive change.