Even if, like me, you have a bona fide mental illness that sets your mood dial at a baseline of “fuck everything,” it is possible to turn that dial up to “meh” or thereabouts at least temporarily. Over the years I’ve developed a list of boosters – quick actions requiring little effort or commitment but providing a reliable return.
Now, a warning, for other neuroatypical types: These are not miracle workers. If you’re already in a really bad place, they might make it worse. “Not only am I worthless, I can’t even get it up for internet kittens!”
We’re talking about good old fashioned shitty moods here, not intense depressive crashes. If you are prone to the latter you likely know the difference. Even if you’re a well-adjusted neurotypical, though, I would wager you can use the occasional smack on the ass from Cheer Bear.
Not all of these will work for you, but they may spark off some ideas for your own list; it’s good to add a handful of these to your self-care arsenal, and to vary them as widely as you can so that no matter what situation you’re in at least a couple will be doable.
1 – Lavender. I mean a jar of the real thing, or a bottle of essential oil, not some kind of froofy shower gel that has probably never been within 100 miles of a lavender plant. I actually stick my nose in, shut my eyes, and breathe for a minute; not only does it stimulate your mind, it’s good for your sinuses. I used to have a jar called “Bitch B Gone” with lavender, rosemary, mint, a touch of sandalwood, and rose petals that I shook up and inhaled at work.
2 – Breathe. It’s way harder to be stressed out or bent under the weight of your own spine if your body is expanding fully to suck in all the air it can. I recommend four-count breathing: Sit still (toilet stalls are awesome for this) and breathe in to a count of four; hold it for a count of four; exhale for a count of four; and hold again for four. I like to visualize the air molecules seeping into my blood and organs and perking everything up. Just do this for, say, five cycles at first and see how you feel, then do more if you like. I like to use the four count to keep me focused, but for another take on the same practice, here’s one of my favorite teachers, Hemalayaa:
3 – Maru. That’s right, the fat Japanese cat on YouTube. Maru jumping in and out of boxes is like therapy for me. I’d also recommend making a video playlist of things that always make you laugh or squee or both. No deep thinking required, just smiles. In another example, this video gives me the giggles even years after I first saw it – I have no idea why, but it cracks me up. It works on my roommate too – we often “POOM!” each other.
4 – Take a walk. I really don’t use this one as often as I should – it would help with a lot of my problems. The benefits of physical exercise are well known, so I won’t belabor them, but even a five minute walk can shake up your brain as well as get your energy moving. This doesn’t have to be some kind of endurance test or “workout” – it’s just a little walk. If nothing else it will remove you from whatever environment you’re in, and that can be a huge help.
5 – Drink a big ass glass of water. I hate drinking water. I’d rather drink just about anything. But I am well aware of its many benefits (besides, you know, keeping you from dying). Because I tend to live on Coke Zero and giant coffees, I also tend toward mild dehydration – you’d be amazed what a difference it makes. Don’t bother measuring how many ounces or whatever, just have a glass, the colder the better (if you’re me it MUST have ice).
6 – Play a game for five minutes. Everybody’s got at least one fun app, right? Well, find a new one, or start a new game on your favorite. Set a timer and play for five minutes uninterrupted. It’s best if the game isn’t something that will piss you off if it goes badly – I like crossword puzzles myself or the occasional game of Tetris or Fishdom. Not much thinking required, but meditative action can help smooth out your brain waves. Just be sure you stop at five minutes; if you look up and it’s been an hour, stress might set back in over all the things you didn’t do during that time.
7 – Get the hell off Facebook. Social media have helped me keep in touch with friends all over the planet and make new ones, as well as promoting my work…but let’s face it, at least once a week, don’t you just hate Facebook? For some reason that site in particular seems to drag out the worst in people – and they make it really difficult to get the content you actually want and not a bunch of other crap. So you’re stuck with a friend’s Aunt Margaret going on about “the gays” or saying “Oh, come on, he just speaks his mind! What’s wrong with being honest?” whereupon I want to crawl through the internet and duct tape Aunt Margaret’s entire face shut. (Funny that I don’t have this problem with Twitter.) Thus, if you find you’re on FB and feel your mood sinking like a stone, GET OFF IT for a couple of hours. I’m not one of those “ditch all social media and only talk to people face to face or whatever barbarians used to do in the Dark Days,” but for your own sanity do whatever you can to maximize your contact with people you like, and minimize the contributions of babbling bigoted baboons.
8 – Go for a drive. I find driving very meditative and conducive to my creativity – I do some of my best writing while I’m driving. I try not to waste a lot of gas, but sometimes, I don’t have anywhere to go but I need to go somewhere, so I just go for a drive. There are particular routes around my end of town that I take pretty often. I crank up the radio and get a beverage from Sonic (vanilla limeade – trust me), and spend half an hour tooling around seeing new buildings and changes in the neighborhood.
9 – Make a list. Everyone knows about me and lists – but even a simple to-do list can boost my mood. It gives me a feeling of control, even if it’s just over a piece of paper. Sometimes I do creative lists, sometimes practical, but I end up feeling like I’ve done something useful either way.
10 – One-Track Dance Break! Just like with YouTube videos, I like to have a playlist of a dozen or so songs that I like to dance to, preferably livelier tracks but hey, whatever gets you there. All you have to do is pick one song and dance to it – less than five minutes’ worth of practice to wake up your body and maybe defuse a bad headspace. If you’re someplace without much room, you don’t have to move around a lot – I’ve done a lot of dancing sitting down and standing still. Just rocking your shoulders or hips can be enough – especially if you’ve got the music right up next to your ears where it can provide a sound barrier between you and whatever was going on that triggered your bad mood. Here’s a list of my favorites for this purpose:
- “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson w/Bruno Mars
- “The Obvious Child” by Paul Simon
- “Sing” by Ed Sheeran
- “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift**
- “Electric Daisy Violin” by Lindsey Stirling
- “The Dreamtime Returns” by Shaman’s Dream
- “Daddy I’m Fine” by Sinead O’Connor
- “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
- “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers
- “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk
- “Say Hey (I Love You)” by Michael Franti & Spearhead
- “Fever” by Adam Lambert
If you’re the singing sort, you could have another playlist of songs you love to belt out in the car – everything from radio tunes to bits from musicals or whatever makes you embarrass yourself in traffic.
Variation: Pick up your pet and dance around the room with him. Luckily Owen is a tolerant cat and just lays there on his back letting me bounce about.
** – The video for this song is on my mood-boosting playlist as well. There’s just something about dudes in bear costumes jumping up and down while playing guitar that sends me into fits of giggles.Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!