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Child Development

9 Quick Ways to Pick Yourself Up

3. Do something meant for children.

Key points

  • Sometimes people are not fully depressed, but they feel a bit low energy or "blah."
  • A simple change, like reading a new genre or switching locations, can give them a mood boost.
  • Challenging an inner critic and making progress on a task they've procrastinated on can also lift spirits.
Austin Wade/Unsplash
Source: Austin Wade/Unsplash

Sometimes people don't feel so bad they're worried they're clinically depressed, but they feel a little blah. Perhaps life feels stale, or it seems like "adulting" involves dealing with one stressor after another. If you feel a little low or flat, try these non-obvious ways to boost your mood and energy.

1. Catch up with a friend from childhood.

Why it helps: Adult life can feel all about achievement. Our childhood friends know us from before life was like that. Reconnecting with them, even if it's just a chat over DMs, can help remind you of the essence of yourself.

It doesn't strictly need to be a friend from childhood. A friend from any time your life felt simpler will likely do the trick.

2. Read a genre of book you wouldn't typically read.

Behavior drives thoughts and feelings. When we act like we have time for leisure, we'll feel more like we have time for leisure. Dig out your library card. If you typically only read for work, try reading for pleasure. Or read something about history or travel.

A couple of ways I've used this tip lately: (1) I read one of the Bridgerton novels before the new season came out. I can't recall ever reading a romance novel! (2) The last time I read a lot of fiction was in about 2008. I looked up new books by another author I remember enjoying at that time and listened to the audiobook version of one of those.

Our interests are part of our self-perceived identity. It's a good idea to periodically explore that your view of yourself and what you like is probably narrower than the reality. Plus, the more varied your sources of pleasure are, the more resilient you'll be.

3. Do something meant for children.

When you do something meant for children, it can help you feel more playful, inquisitive, and curious. I like to listen to a podcast called Bedtime History with my six-year-old. It's aimed at helping children feel a sense of wonder, and it seems to do that for me too. It's a relaxing, happy way to get off to sleep. I think I enjoy it more than her, though she does too!

4. Change a routine.

The benefits of consistent daily habits have been a popular topic in recent years. You've probably heard about these. What you may not have heard is that very consistent habits have downsides, too (I explain this in a lot more detail in my book Stress-Free Productivity). The act of changing your routines, even a tiny bit, will improve your creativity. This does not need to be dramatic. Even very slight changes work. For example, if you take your child to one branch of your local library system, try a different branch.

This tip can often feel onerous because everyone tends to assume changes in their routines need to be bigger than in reality. Even driving or walking somewhere by taking a different route than you usually do might invigorate you in surprising ways.

5. Do something you'd usually do inside, outside.

This is a simple example of the last principle. Instead of a big habit change (doing something new), try a small one (doing something you usually do but in a different location). Getting a different physical perspective on the world, even if it's just by having your coffee in the garden, will give you a different mental perspective.

6. Do a task you've procrastinated on that'll take less than 15 minutes.

When a task will take less than 15 minutes, the mental effort involved in putting it off will be more than the mental effort to do the darn thing. If you need an anti-procrastination strategy to help you, try one of these.

Most of us can probably think of something we're putting off that would take less than 15 minutes to complete. If you can't, you can also just spend less than 15 minutes moving an avoided task forward by one step.

7. Take the easy route.

A common cognitive pattern that causes stuckness is when you think you need to do a task a particular way. For example, I need to do X, but first I need to do Y. Perhaps you don't need to do Y first at all?

Try removing a self-imposed rule, condition, or criteria.

If there's a task that currently feels burdensome to you, ask yourself if there is an easier way to get it done adequately that you're overlooking.

8. Externalize your inner critic.

For no particular reason, while I was writing this article, a voice came into my head that said, "You should title this article 'More Stupid Advice from Alice Boyes.'" That self-critical voice came out of nowhere. Instead of seeing this as a self-generated thought, I reacted with a bit of anger as if someone was saying such a thing to someone I care about and trust.

The confidence wobbles can have many, many causes, often quite minor. For example, anything that gives you a sense you're not managing your life well can trigger these. Don't take them too seriously.

9. If you're a parent, find something you enjoy doing together with your child.

When families are stressed, everyone's behavior tends to deteriorate. When this happens, your relationships with each other can feel like a constant wrestling match. If it seems like you're always nagging your family members, take a break from focusing on discipline and managing unwanted behaviors. Instead, look for ways to improve your positive bond with each other.

Your kids will want to please you when they feel close to you. When they feel positively regarded by you, they won't want to jeopardize this by acting out. If they don't feel positively regarded by you, they'll feel like they have nothing to lose by acting out. Remember that the point of having children is to enjoy them!

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