When you’re down, chances are you’d like a pick-me-up. When you’re feeling good, chances are you could probably feel even better! With that in mind, here’s 7 less-common (or modified) ways to feel better about who you are and what you’re doing in the world:
Probably the most accessible item on the list: indulge in some art, even if it’s the televised kind. Whether you’re into tragedy or comedy, both exist to make you feel better about your life. In tragedy – whether it’s Oedipus Rex or Sons of Anarchy – we’re meant to walk away thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have it as bad as them.” If tragedy’s a downer for you, try to find a comedy or comedian that hits your funny bone.
When you can, try to indulge in some live entertainment. Studies have shown that there are some special elements to live theater: we empathize with characters in a way that we don’t when there’s a screen separating us. That increase in empathy yields a greater response and better feelings from you, the viewer.
If you think that going to the theater, comedy club, or watching TV is escapist, you’re potentially right. Occasionally we’ll identify with characters and use the show as a source of reflection. But even when it is escapist, there’s a point to it.
- Escape – with an end in mind
Some escapism from time to time is perfectly healthy. The problems come when we want to escape all the time, and wind up escaping in an unhealthy way. To avoid this, try thinking about what exactly you’re escaping from, and how your chosen method of escapism might be improved or changed to help make your activity more fulfilling.
For example, let’s say that you’re busy all the time. Whether you’re escaping by going to the gym or playing video games at home, does it make sense to multitask while you’re doing it? Maybe doing it without music playing or trying to pay attention to the TV at the same time could make your escapism more fulfilling. Maybe it’ll even be less escapist, and you’ll wind up using the time for reflection.
- Do something your childhood self would want to do
Careful with this one! First off, you’re an adult now and will be charged as such with any activity you’re old enough to know is illegal. Second off, a personal example: my childhood self was a huge fan of sweets, and my adult self has dealt with the gastric consequences of following this advice more than once.
With that out of the way, weren’t we all told not to do things as children for no good reason? Now that we’re adults, can’t we rectify that? Darn right we can. So when the supermarket’s relatively empty, why not ride your shopping cart around like a scooter? If anyone (including yourself) asks, “Aren’t you a little old for that?” Tell them the truth: you’re never too old for fun.
On that note, chances are you have greater access to bedding materials and better knowledge of engineering as an adult. Now is the perfect time to build your dream pillow fort. Take pictures of it and be the envy of all your Facebook friends. Or don’t, and proceed to the fourth item on this list:
- Try something new
A lot of credit goes to Kurt Vonnegut for this one, in a letter to high school students. The idea is that we never stop “becoming.” Ideally, we keep improving until we literally can’t improve anymore. Build something. Write something. Learn a new skill. Even if no one else ever knows about it, you do. And shouldn’t the person most impressed with you, be you?
- Seek organized praise
No one likes a braggart, but there are socially acceptable ways to blatantly seek praise. If there’s a community theater near you, chances are that they’re looking for actors. If they’re an inclusive group, most likely they’ll be specifically looking to cast new people when they can. It can be seen as an extreme escape, but being someone else for a short while can allow us to come back into our own lives with a sense of perspective on ourselves and our position. Regardless, at the end of each show you’re virtually guaranteed some applause, attention, praise, and/or compliments. As a baby step, maybe just going out to a local karaoke night would be fun. Music, stand-up comedy, and other arts can be much more difficult and hit-or-miss than theater tends to be, but you can take solace in knowing that most famous performers have horrendous stories of rejection (you can look them up to indulge in #1 on this list!), and that you’ve at least tried something new.
- Make small changes in the here and now
What are your goals? If they seem unattainable and far-off, let me be the billionth person to tell you that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Want to work out more? Maybe you can do some bodyweight exercises during TV commercials or while something is loading on your computer. Want to learn something new? You don’t need to enroll in classes when Khan Academy and Wikipedia offer free self-improvement.
- Check in with a loved one
When taking self-inventories, people often find it much easier to list what’s wrong with themselves than what’s right. When all else fails, I have to figure that the people who associate with us have reasons for doing so. Asking for the occasional (or even daily!) affirmation from a close friend or family member can not only be a self-esteem booster, but life-affirming