An Optimism Doctor Explains How to Turn Around Your No Good, Very Bad Day
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed makes you not want to leave it, like, ever. But optimism doctor Deepika Chopra, PsyD, a happiness researcher and founder of Things Are Looking Up—A place for Optimism, has a few ideas on how to brighten the bleakest of days. (In fact, her newly launched "Things Are Looking Up" Optimism Deck Of Cards offers literally 52 different ways to boost your mood.) Think of this as your simple guide to finding happiness when you're feeling down.
Shift your language to see if you can turn your “have to dos” into “I get to do"
"Shifting language is so powerful, it has the ability to shift your mood instantaneously," Dr. Chopra says.
So how do you apply it? Well, if it's been a nine-hour work day and there's a gigantic load of laundry waiting for you when you get home; the idea that you "have" to do laundry when you get home makes you want to set all those clothes on fire. Totally understand. The way to rebrand that is thinking about what you "get" to do when you do your laundry, whether it's plowing through your Lou Reed biography or have clean underwear for the first time in a week (you've been wearing bathing suits, it's been rough).
Step out into nature
I know, I know, it may feel like a day for sweatpants, bed hair, and cradling some ice cream to your chest like it is your highly meltable firstborn. The truth is, even going for the quickest walk (to the bodega, to replenish your twins Ben & Jerry) can lift your spirit. Okay, maybe not that specifically.
"Research shows the more we spend outdoors, the lower our stress cortisol levels are, and the more increase in positive mood we experience," says Dr. Chopra. "A recent study showed that spending at least two hours outside in nature a week helped people to feel happier and healthier."
So if you're close enough to some forest bathing can help you wash away a case of the sads. If you're stuck in an urban wasteland, maybe there's a park on the way to pick up those groceries.
Doing something kind for something else
Helping others seriously and scientifically make us happy; acts of kindness make your endorphins rush and give you a sort of "Helper's High." How sweet! And though it's always great to start volunteering, mood-elevating can happen with the very simplest act of kindness.
"It could be something small like opening a door for a stranger, or if you live in Los Angeles, like I do, let someone cut in front of me on the road," Dr. Chopra says. "I can’t even begin to describe how good that makes me feel."
Move to your favorite music
It's 2019, so I'm not going to make the obvious Taylor Swift reference and say you should shake it off but...well, actually, I will, I'm very tired. Literally use music to shake it off. Turn on something high energy and dance for 30 seconds, or use it to pump yourself up as your meal prepping, cleaning, or on your walk home. Soon that stroll of defeat will turn into a winner's stride.
Surround yourself with happy people
Misery loves company and all that, but if you're trying to get out of your funk, ask your most bubbly friend to hang out.
"We always thought happiness was contagious and now research really shows that to be true," Dr. Chopra says. "Happiness spreads through social networks up to three degrees of separation—so if you’re happy, your friend of a friend and even their friends have a greater likelihood of being happy as well!"
Aww, it's nice to spread the emotional wealth!
"But, really the key here is to practice self-gratitude," says Dr. Chopra. "Try and think of at least one thing every day you are proud of yourself for or thankful to yourself for."
Done right, this is the most potent and esteem-bolstering kind of gratitude! So be objective about your strong points and where you're thriving, even have fun with it. Like, "For some reason babies always smile at me," or "My skin is the best it's looked since eighth grade," or "I'm the first person people tell their secrets to, and I'm mostly good at keeping them."
And hopefully, that positive energy will shine its way through to make tomorrow a little brighter.
Work sucks, I know. You can stay out of the negativity loop, though, by putting some pen to paper. And people with the most positive relationships all share this one trait.
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