Barbara Markway Ph.D.

Shyness Is Nice

Three Easy Tips to Beat the Blahs

These mood-lifting ideas require low energy but enjoy high pay off.

Posted Dec 27, 2017

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

There are all sorts of reasons for feeling blah. In my case, I've been going through radiation treatment that has led to some intense fatigue and in general feeling blah. The doctor says that it's "normal," but that hasn't made it much easier to cope with. My usual go-to self-care strategies for improving my mood have required too much energy. For example, going to the gym has been out. Some days I can manage a slow walk around the neighborhood, but not every day. So I've had to come up with some new ideas that require little energy. Regardless of the reason for your blahs (winter blues, health-related, mild depression), I hope these suggestions will help you feel a bit better.

1. Go for a Drive. My parents tell stories about me that when I was cranky as a baby, a drive in the car would soothe me. It still works. Lately, if I've been cooped up in the house and my husband can tell I'm getting restless and cranky, he suggests we go for a drive. I admit, sometimes I've been so lethargic I've gone in my pajamas and slippers with a blanket wrapped around me. Even if I initially don't want to go, by the time we're down the drive way I can feel myself perk up. Maybe it's the sunlight. Usually we just drive around and explore different neighborhoods. Sometimes we go to the grocery stores and I sit outside while my husband picks up a few things. The change of scenery always does me good. I've never come home in a worse mood than when I left. I usually come back refreshed and with a better perspective.

Another variation on this idea could be as simple as change the room you're usually in. I gravitate toward the recliner in the family room where my two dogs like to curl up with me. Sometimes, if I just go and spend time in another room my mood will brighten. It's like I forget we have a whole house I can be in! Even better, if the weather is nice (where I live, it's wintery and cold right now), go outside, even for ten minutes. Look up at the sky and the trees and I'll bet you'll feel better.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

2. Use Your Hands. I've always enjoyed art and found it to be a good self-care activity. But lately, pulling out all my art supplies has seemed like way too much work. Luckily, I've found a few things that don't take much energy that boost my mood. In a fellow Psychology Today blogger's post, art therapist Cathy Malchiodi advocates what's called bilateral drawing--which she says is kind of like "scribbling with both hands." The goal is not to create any type of form, but simply let your limbs be loose and move crayons or chalk over the paper. She says it can help soothe and regulate your emotions by using both sides of the brain. I like it because it's fun and easy, and I have found it makes me feel better.  (She explains the research behind it here.) Similarly, there is actually similar research that knitting and crocheting is good for your health. Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind/body medicine and author of “The Relaxation Response,” says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. So I've picked up a little crocheting. It's nice because I can do it for 10 or 15 minutes and set it down when I'm tired.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

3. Press Play. I have a regular meditation practice, but lately, it’s seemed like so much effort to do all the steps I usually take (going to a certain room, lighting a candle, doing a little inspirational reading first, etc.). To get around my inertia, I’ve enlisted what’s called a behavioral trigger. The trigger is a simple action or impulse that moves a person to act. It’s like pushing over one domino that sets up a whole sequence of things to take place.

So for me, I’ve said that all I have to do is use a meditation app on my phone and press play for a guided meditation. “Press Play.” That’s all I have to do.

You can use this principle for any behavior. Let’s say you want to do some yoga but you can’t seem to get yourself off the couch. Set your mat out in a room you’re frequently in. Commit to sitting on your mat for only two minutes. For this to work, you have to feel free to get up after two minutes if you want. Usually, though, this trigger (sitting on the mat) is enough to allow your body to want to stretch and move in ways that feel good.

The main idea is to simplify your usual self-care routine so that it is easy and effortless.

You might also like: Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress.