Feeling a little crabby or down? While there is no substitute for therapy, there are steps you can take to help yourself feel better. And before you tell yourself you don't have any extra cash to spend, you should know there are a plethora of mood-boosters out there that won't have you emptying your bank account.
Keep reading for five free activities you can engage in next time you're feeling blue, antsy or just plain ol' upset.
Connect With Someone You Love
There are many ways to bond with someone — you just have to find the modality that brings you joy. Do hugs do the trick? "Touch is a powerful way to connect," says marriage and family therapist Pat Ladoucher. "Studies show that touch releases oxytocin, and thereby fosters a sense of belonging and connection."
Another means of relationship-building is to make "small, positive gestures" which "let people know that they matter," says Ladoucher. These can include telling your spouse how much you appreciate them or congratulating a coworker on a promotion. For maximum results, Ladoucher suggests selecting a specific action you wish to take, deciding when you will do it and repeating it over and over until it becomes a habit.
Implement A Relaxation Technique
As health writer Diana Rodriguez says, "Some simple relaxation techniques may help you escape your stress and anxiety." One of these methods involves mindful breathing, which "can help you release anxiety and relax from head to toe." Better yet? "Combine deep breathing with meditation for even greater relaxation, stress relief, and focus."
Go For A Brisk Walk
"Exercise isn’t just for burning calories," notes Women's Running. "Regular physical activity plays an important role in mental acuity and cognitive function, which can help support a positive outlook on life." As you work out, you help oxygen fill your blood stream and travel to all parts of your body. This, in turn, will leave you energetic and "charged up."
Healthy movement also "increases levels of a neurotransmitter called BDNF, which helps build brain cells and improves transmission of nervous system signals through the brain known as neural patterning." This will have you "feeling invigorated and mentally sharp" in no time.
Listen To Music
"Listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward," says Dr. Anne Fabiny, editor-in-chief of Harvard Women's Health Watch. Not only that, but according to an article written in 2011 and published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, listening to tunes also causes your body to release dopamine. So, hop on a free platform such as Pandora or Spotify and stimulate your ears — and your heart — with some Ed Sheeran or Mozart.
"Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that's no joke," notes the Mayo Clinic. "A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure." The end result of a hearty guffaw? "A good, relaxed feeling."
So, how do you get yourself to crack up when you don't feel like it? First of all, find things that make you chuckle and engage with them. Second, seek out friends who make you smile. Finally, if you're really desperate, do a Google search for the type of jokes that make you laugh— from embarrassing stories to witty quips — and read a few every day.
If, after accomplishing a few of these activities, you can't shake your negativity, it is likely time to seek professional aid. There is no shame in therapy. In fact, getting help before things get really bad can keep you from hurting the ones you love. And if you are wondering how to afford this sort of assistance, try one of the options listed here. After all, you are an important gift to this world.