Read a really sad book.
This may seem counterintuitive. If life sucks, you want to read something uplifting, right? Not necessarily. Not too long ago, I was working on a very difficult project with an even more difficult person. I discovered the sad book remedy quite by accident, as my current book club read was “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. I came to a detail toward the end of the book that sent me into a gushing fit. I cried so much that I had to stop reading because the words became too blurry—and then I felt so much better! By the same token, an emotional movie will probably also do the trick.
There’s nothing like a good run or walk outdoors—even if it’s raining. The exercise blasts away stress. Nature helps you to connect to something other than your sad life, and you just might see something that makes you laugh. For example, one night in the rain, I went for a walk and happened to walk past an unhappy looking teenage kid who had set up a recycling container next to his parent’s car. He’d dumped the recyclables on the lawn and, one at a time, tossed them against the car, as if the car was the basketball backboard and the container was the net. I assumed his parents had told him to take out the recycling, he hadn’t liked the chore, and that this was his personal coping strategy. Something about it made me laugh and reversed my mood just enough to be able to rationally talk to my husband when I got home—something I certainly could not have done just an hour earlier.
Think about how things could be much worse.
Whenever I find myself worrying about household finances, feeling frustrated about work, or dismal about life in general, I think about how much worse my life could be if I walked in someone else’s less fortunate shoes. My daily problems are not as severe as …
…living in poverty.
…having a child who is a victim of bullying.
…losing my home in a natural disaster.
…being affected, myself or a loved one, by cancer or another life-endangering disease.
I don’t know about you, but when I have a nagging problem, I stay silent. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t want to be a downer, or I like to fool my friends with the illusion that my life is perfect, or if I simply hate to admit my shortcomings, but I often resist telling someone about what’s bothering me. I’ve learned, though, that opening up allows me to feel so much better.
Say the F-word every other word.
“F-ing dishes in the f-ing sink f-ing again! That f-ing man never f-ing thinks to f-ing put them in the f-ing dishwasher. How f-ing hard is that?” Okay, so it doesn’t make you feel positive about the situation, but it does help you to feel oh so much better.
Think long term.
If the present moment is a miserable one, then this is the one time you want to take yourself to the future. Remind yourself that your pain is temporary. My Jewish grandmother often told me, “This too shall pass.” And, usually, it does. I also like to remind myself, “What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger.” No matter what hardships we suffer, we tend to emerge stronger, healthier, and more balanced once they are over. Hardship teaches us how to survive; it teaches us resilience and courage. I’m not suggesting you ignore problems that you can work on and solve, only that there is always an end to the misery.
Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the real life story of how she went from the brink of divorce to falling back in love. It's available for pre-order on amazon.com. Visit her blog at http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com.