I've dealt with anxiety, depression, and mood issues since I was a wee little kid. While this reality has often presented challenges for me, it also means that I continuously have to learn how to accept and cope with my mental well-being. Most of the time, at this point, I consider it a positive challenge, and my goals for my mental health center around self-acceptance and relative contentment. Now, along with getting my share of professional help, I also make sure I'm doing, and paying attention to, small things to make the day better every single day, no matter how I'm feeling. If I can make it a point to acknowledge and appreciate all those little things that put a smile on my face, it lays the foundation for all-around, better everyday experiences.
Now, hear me out for a moment before this sounds too much like a cheesy advertisement that's all, "five easy steps to the best life ever!" All I'm saying is that little changes are just as important as the big ones. Take it from me, as someone who has a very innate tendency to only focus on the negatives day to day: It is possible to turn your day in the other direction. I was never a believer in this myself, until I actively started to make tiny, mindful shifts in how I approached my moods and my overall days.
Trust me, you just might get a little burst of happiness when you try it, too. Here are eight little things that can make a big difference in making your day better.
1. Put On Your Headphones And Dance Around
I've started to do this at least once a day, every day. To make sure I don't disturb my roommates, I pop on my wireless headphones (one of the best investments a human can make, in my opinion), put on a great song, and I just dance.
Not only does it get my heart rate up and provide me with some fun, easy exercise, the expressive part of dancing actually improves mental health, too. A 2012 study done by researchers at Örebro University in Sweden randomly assigned one group of teen girls dealing with anxiety issues to participate in a group dance class, while another group of girls who were also experiencing anxiety weren't assigned to any sort of dance intervention. The results showed that those who danced experienced greater self-esteem, as well as a better ability to deal with everyday problems that caused anxiety.
2. Spend Time With Someone You Like
Or better yet, someone you love. Seriously, even if it's just that guy who works on the floor above you who makes you laugh when you see him in the cafeteria, it's absolutely worth it to spend time every day with people you genuinely like.
Social interaction is crucial for your well-being, and it can be easy to forget about just how important it is. Remember that when you feel like you're plowing through the day and need to take a moment to center yourself.
3. Do Something Nice For Someone Else
It's the littlest things that can make someone's day totally turn around — which can make your day better, too! Compliment a different person on how damn good they look every day. Drop off that package at the post office for your busy roommate. Share your lunch. These small acts of kindness really do make you feel better.
4. Get Some Fresh Air
I live in New York City, so I realize that fresh air is sort of a relative term. But still, get outside! Rain, shine, snow, sleet, heat — whatever it is, get out there for at least a few minutes to appreciate the sky above you and the ground below. It really is good for your heart and soul.
5. Sit Down While You Eat, And Just Eat
Make time to enjoy your meals — at least one of them — totally free from distraction. That means no phones, no computers, no reading material. Put your food on actual plates (even if you ordered takeout), sit down, and simply enjoy your meal.
This is a tip I got from my therapist, and it really makes a difference in my mood when I give myself time for nourishment.
6. Think About A Part Of Your Life You Really Appreciate
It doesn't have to be a whole list, but it can be. Jot some thoughts down on a sticky note that will simply remind you to take a quick pause for gratitude. Maybe today, it's simply that you got the perfect amount of ice in your iced coffee. Tomorrow, it could be the relationship you have with your favorite auntie. When you think of one thing you appreciate, like magic, you start to think of others.
7. Draw A Little Doodle
Grab some paper and colored pencils, and let your imagination guide your hands, or keep a coloring book on hand for when you just, you know, need a moment.
Creativity is shown to have a really positive effect on mental health, so finding time to express yourself and get in the flow might bring you out of a foul mood and into a whole new mental space.
8. Watch Your One Laugh Every Time YouTube Video
This might be, as the Germans call it, schadenfreude, or the act of taking pleasure in another's misfortune, but for me, there is no better way to make me laugh instantly than by watching this YouTube video of Fraiser's Kelsey Grammer falling off a stage during a performance (he doesn't get hurt, it's fine!). I can't explain why, but it just does it for me, you know?
Whether it's a cute and funny sloth video, or a hilarious compilation of old Vines, give yourself a minute each day to just indulge in some laughter. It is the best medicine, as they say, and it even boosts your energy.
Enjoy the day, my friends!