January is always a bit of a sad month for me — and I know I’m not alone in this. For a lot of people, it’s a gloomy, gray month filled with the dreaded post-holiday blues. It’s back-to-work after a couple of months of fun-filled activities, and it’s a especially tough time for anyone who suffers from SAD. About a year ago, I drew the image above when I was having a hard time after the holidays (it’s always such a letdown when they’re over, isn’t it?), and I spotted it recently when I was flipping through my old sketchbook.
Just like last year, this January has been less-than-stellar for me. I’ve always disliked this month, though I’m not sure if it’s because of the post-holiday blues, the weather, or just the coincidence that things seem to get harder for me when the first month of the year rolls around. Whatever the reason, January is usually tough. And this one has been no exception. It’s been filled with a lot of uncertainty and moments of unhappiness. When I rediscovered this image I created, I realized that it would be a good time to start taking my own advice — and to share it, just in case anyone else out there could use some suggestions for those sad days.
Whether you’re going through a sad situation (a loss, a break-up, etc.) or you’re just having a bit of a down day, these are some of the best ways I’ve found to feel a little happier when I’m feeling low. If you have any other tips or tricks you use when you’re feeling sad, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below!
WRITE YOURSELF A LOVE LETTER
Self-love is a great place to start when you’re having a down day. Take a few minutes to write up a letter to yourself about all of the reasons you’re awesome. This might sound like vanity or excessive self-pride, but it’s actually really helpful when you’re feeling sad. It shifts your focus from what’s wrong to what’s right. (If you find it too hard to write a love letter to yourself, give a gratitude list a try. Gratitude is a great way to focus on happiness!)
SMILE IN THE MIRROR
Smiling at yourself in the mirror can be a great little pick-me-up, even when you don’t at all feel like smiling. (In fact, science shows that smiling might actually make you feel happier!) If you’re a lipstick-wearer, it can also be fun to add a bright red or pink lip. It’ll add a little fanciness to that smile of yours. You’ll probably feel silly when you first try it, but that’s part of the fun. Usually you’ll feel so silly that you’ll start laughing at yourself, which is a great mood booster.
TAKE A NAP
While I’m not a big nap-taker personally, I know there’s a lot of science that says a well-timed nap can make you feel a lot better (particularly if you’re sleep-deprived, something that can happen when your feeling sad or stressed). Even if you don’t love naps, give yourself time to rest and relax. Sadness — even just a little dip in your mood — can be exhausting, and you deserve a nice little rest. When you’re sad, give yourself permission to take time for rest.
TREAT YOUR SELF
Inspired by this episode of Parks & Recreation, one thing you can try when you’re feeling bad is give yourself a little treat. Go grab a favorite scoop of ice cream, order a pizza, schedule a spa day, buy yourself a new book — whatever it is you love, treat yourself to it! Of course, sadness can’t be bought (or eaten…) away, but I’ve found that it’s really nice to have a little treat when I’m feeling sad.
PUT ON A GREAT OUTFIT
When you’re down in the dumps, it’s so tempting to sit around in sweatpants, fueling that sad feeling. While I’m not at all against sweatpants (I love them), I’ve found that it’s really useful to get up and get dressed in something you really feel great in. Consider what outfit always makes you feel great about yourself and put that on — even if you’re just staying at home. Decking out in your best gear will give your mood a boost.
DRINK SOME TEA
Drinking tea has a ton of health benefits, which makes it a great go-to when you’re feeling sad. Not only is it healthy, but I’ve found that the warmth of it can be really soothing (especially during the cold month of January!). Sadness won’t ever be cured with a cup of tea, but it’s a nice way to add a bit of warmth and calm into your day. For an additional happiness boost, give a new kind a try. Doing something new is a good way to perk up your brain!
CALL A FRIEND
One of the absolute best ways to cheer yourself up when you’re sad is calling a good (and positive!) friend. You know that person who always knows how to find the good in a situation? Or the one that makes you feel like a rockstar when you’re down? Call him or her up for a chat — and a mood boost. Another great option is to create a connection with someone positive. Check out the Happiness Amplification Project to learn more about increasing happiness.
LISTEN TO HAPPY SONGS
Sad songs can be alluring when you’re feeling sad, but, believe me, happy songs are the way to go. Check out my Stay Positive! playlist on YouTube if you don’t have a lot of happy songs in your life. Happy tunes can really boost your mood, and they work even better if you move to the music. One of my go-to tactics for down days is putting on some positive songs and dancing around my apartment. It sounds (and probably looks) silly, but it’s a great way to feel happier.
BUY YOURSELF FLOWERS
I’ll admit — I’m not big on flowers myself. I’d much rather have a box of chocolates or a playlist full of songs. But I know a lot of people benefit from the bright hues and floral scents that flowers bring to a room. So if you’re feeling down, pick up some flowers for yourself as a little mood boost. And if flowers aren’t your thing, find a way to focus on colors, sights, or scents that make you feel happy.
LIGHT A CANDLE
Another great scent-related mood booster comes from lighting a candle. Not only is it pretty (and it sets the mooood), but if you pick a scent you love, it’ll perk you up a little bit. I personally love anything that is sickeningly sweet (think: fresh baked cake, frosted sugar cookies, etc.), but there’s a candle out there for every single scent preference. Try making your dinner a candlelit one or taking a bubble bath surrounded by scented candles.
WRITE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS
Writing is my outlet when things aren’t going well. Whenever I feel sad, I grab a pen or my laptop and pour out my feelings, and, man, does it feel good. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, writing about how you feel can be so cathartic and clarifying. Often it’s when I write that I find solutions to my problems or uncover a perspective I hadn’t thought of before. And the great thing is — you can get it all out you and not show it to a soul.
I love creating things, and it’s one of the quickest ways for me to boost my mood. Not only does it feel good to make something that no longer existed before, it’s also a great way to get out of your mind (and rumination on sad thoughts) and direct your focus to what you’re working on. While it’s never a good idea to ignore your feelings, sometimes it’s good to take a break from them and create something with your hands.
TAKE A WALK
Another way to break the rumination cycle is to go for a walk. Take a turn around the block, visit a local park, or go for a power-walk at your local mall. It doesn’t matter where you walk — just get out of where you’ve been feeling sad and experience a new environment (with a little light exercise thrown in!). Add a soundtrack if you like (like my Relaxing Walk playlist) to keep excessive rumination at bay.
READ A GOOD BOOK
Nothing feels quite as wonderful as good book (at least, if you’re a book nerd like me!). A really captivating book can take your mind away from your sadness and allow you to focus on a story that’s far away from wherever you are. Choose a genre that really appeals to you and set aside some quite, alone time to spend turning pages and becoming absorbed in someone else’s words. You can check out what I’m reading on GoodReads (and check out my book here!).
WATCH A FUNNY FILM
Another great way to cheer yourself up is to watch a really funny film. My go-to film for sad days is Elf. I don’t care what the season; if I’m having a down day, it’s going on the TV. If you have a film like that — one that you always want to watch when you’re feeling down, a sad day is the perfect time to put it on. And if you don’t have a favorite? Ask a friend for a recommendation or check online for good ideas.
LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
The absolute best thing you can do for yourself when you’re sad is focusing on the big picture. Whatever’s causing your sadness might feel overwhelming and all-encompassing at the moment, but it will get easier to cope with in time. In most cases, what’s got you down today won’t matter in a year — or even in a month. And even if it will, the pain will lessen as time goes on. Also, I’ve found it helpful to look up at the stars and realize just how small I am in this crazily huge universe. It helps, I promise.
Like it or not, sadness is part of life. We all have our down days. We all have the moments that break our hearts, the times when we just feel like crying. But there are lots of little things you can do to help yourself cope with sadness. The tips I’ve listed above are useful for bouts of heartache or a bit of post-holiday blues. If you think you might be suffering from serious sadness or depression, please reach out to a loved one or a therapist and seek help. We can be happy every moment of our lives, but we all deserve as much happiness as possible. If you’re just feeling a little down, hang in there. You’re not alone — and it will get easier!