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21 Simple Pleasures to Enlighten a Gloomy Day

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21 Simple Pleasures to Enlighten a Gloomy Day

Do you ever wish you could jump on a plane to Tahiti to escape the stress of everyday life or brighten a gloomy day? For most of us, it’s unrealistic to drop everything and leave. But what if you didn’t have to?

The best solutions aren’t hidden away in some far-off destination where we can only access them for a week or two. In fact, they are often right under our noses! We are just too caught up in busyness, distraction, and exhaustion to notice.

Here are 21 simple pleasures you can easily treat yourself to—without the plane ticket!

These hacks—most of which we can do from the comfort of our own homes—boost our mood and brighten our day by elevating our feel-good hormones (serotonin, endorphins, dopamine), helping us relax, and shifting our focus from gloomy situations or thoughts to more positivity and satisfaction with our lives.

1. Stand on the Bright Side

The simple state of being outdoors triggers a neural bath of happy hormones. Even as little as ten minutes of exposure to daylight outdoors (without sunglasses for optimal results) boosts our levels of both serotonin and endorphins.[1]

2. Treat Yourself to a Salty Soak

Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths are often used for treating aches and pains, but they’re also an amazing stress-buster.

Magnesium is an essential mineral known to relax muscles and relieve tension, stress, and anxiety. Some research shows it to increase serotonin production in the brain, helping to stabilize mood.[2]

If you don’t have access to a tub for full-body indulgence, fill a foot bath or large bowl with hot water and Epsom salt to soak up the mood-boosting benefits through your feet. Feeling extra decadent? Add a few drops of essential oils — calming lavender or perky peppermint are good mood scents to try!

3. Illuminate with Intention

Lighted candles can symbolize our emotional selves and reflect the radiance of our hearts, even when we feel distressed. This pairs well with a positive affirmation of what is going well for us, as a reminder of our blessings. We can also focus on an intention of who we are becoming or what we are committed to fulfilling in our lives.

Light your candle and state your affirmation or intention either out loud or in your mind (whichever feels most comfortable). Repeating this simple ritual on a regular basis reinforces connection with ourselves and moves us into a more positive mindset.

4. Calm Your Mind Without Forcing

Quiet inward focus has a powerful effect on our mood. Sometimes, however, trying to sit still and silence our mind creates what I call “relaxation anxiety”: exacerbated feelings of stress caused directly by the effort of trying to relax. In this case, attempting to relax through traditional meditation (and feeling like you’re failing) can be counterproductive.

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If this sounds familiar, try an alternate method like walking or cleaning—any activity that you can carry out without consciously thinking about the steps to perform it. An empowered calm washes over us when we decide to allow our minds and thoughts to wander instead of being rigidly fixated on controlling them.

5. Tune in to a Positive Note

Music is such a powerful companion to, and driver of, our emotions, it is even used to treat anxiety and depression in dementia patients, as musical memory and emotions are among the last capacities to be lost.[3]

Fortunately, we don’t need to have any formal musical education or inclination to enjoy and respond to the benefits at a deep level.[4] The simple act of listening to upbeat music, combined with setting the intention to shift into a more positive mood, is proven to elevate happiness levels.[5]

6. Indulge in Soothing Sippers

There is a natural tranquility that comes from comforting ourselves with a warm mug of deliciousness. Sit back and relax with your favorite blend knowing just the act of mindful sipping will nurture you.

For extra gloomy days, try lemongrass with its bright flavor and uplifting aroma, or turmeric with its rich spicy undertones and feel-good-hormone boosting effects.[6]

7. Expand Your Awareness to Crave “Good Mood” Foods

“You are what you eat” is not just an overused motivator for losing weight. The truth is, every system and process in our bodies is affected by the nourishment and fuel we provide them.

Think about how you feel—physically, mentally, and even emotionally—when you eat a certain food. If what you’re eating leads to feeling fatigued, bloated, guilty, foggy, etc., reassess your consumption of those foods.

On the flip side, some foods with nutrients and minerals known to positively affect our mood include sweet potatoes, blueberries, flaxseed, wild-caught salmon, yogurt, and brown rice. Here’re more options for you: 9 Superfoods To Fight Inflammation And Boost Your Mood

8. Send a Lasting Token of Affection

Receiving a thoughtful note from a friend or family member is at the top of the list for most people when it comes to what brings us joy. Sending a thoughtful note, on the other hand, brings us a double dose: it reminds us of the wonderful people in our lives, and it’s fun to imagine the reaction of the recipient.

Keep it simple if you like. A quick “thank you” or “something I admire/appreciate about you” goes a long way.

9. Launch an Upward Spiral

While it’s never a good idea to ignore or deny our problems, taking our minds off them to notice what’s also going well is a potent mood elevator.

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We all have blessings and gifts which we tend to take for granted. Turning our attention to these not only helps us feel better in the moment, it creates an upward spiral of receiving and noticing more things to feel grateful for. Jot a few down in your journal or in a note to post on your fridge. Mention them in your prayers at night. However you choose to acknowledge your blessings, you’re bound to experience an immediate lifting of your spirits.

Here’s a reminder of what you should be thankful for: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

10. Marvel at the Abundance and Beauty of Our World

It’s one thing to step outside for a quick walk or breath of fresh air. It’s quite another to slow down and fully immerse your senses in the experience of being out there.

In Japan, this practice is called shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” The method is actually highly studied and proven to benefit mental health, relieving anxiety and stress levels.[7]

Next time you step out, do it with intention. Notice the color of a flower or the pattern in a pinecone. Feel the crisp air nip at your face. Inhale the aroma of grassy earth. Listen to the music of wind rustling the leaves.

11. Break up Boredom to Boost Your Brain

Novelty—an experience or state of newness—not only relieves monotony, but also amplifies dopamine production and stimulates memory retention.[8] This is great for prolonging a good mood by creating a domino effect of positive emotions and memories. Reflecting on these promotes expansion of positive thoughts and feelings.

12. Focus on Giving

Physical gestures of affection reduce stress and promote wellbeing.[9] This works just as well for givers as receivers.

If you don’t have a friend, partner, child, or someone else close to you who can hug you back, don’t despair! Give a caring embrace to your pet, yourself, a stuffed animal, a pillow, or even a tree! The benefits outweigh any sense of weirdness you might feel over this.[10]

13. Sniff Your Way to a Boosted Mood

Our emotions, long-term memory, and sense of smell are closely interrelated. This means that smelling scents associated with happy memories, like Grandma’s blackberry pie or Dad’s spiced cologne, can bring our emotions into a positive state almost instantly.

You can easily hack your own aromatherapy connection for a quick anytime pick-me-up. Use incense, candles, oils– anything that has a scent you enjoy– while engaging in an activity that makes you feel good. Inhale, smile, and lock in the memories for proactive positive effects.

14. Infuse Movement

Any activity that gets our blood pumping and increases oxygen intake boosts endorphins, which are powerful mood-lifting brain chemicals. The key to this one is the “enjoy” part, though, because if you’re forcing yourself into it, then it’s not much of an escape. So whether it’s dancing, running, or playing with your dog, make sure it makes you happy.

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It doesn’t have to be high-intensity or even long duration. As little as 20 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise will do the trick. Bonus benefits if you do it outside (see #1) or to music (see #5)![11]

15. Lose Yourself in a Process

Research shows that happiness and creativity go hand-in-hand.[12] One reason is that creative projects allow us to distract from our problems in a constructive way. Another is that many creative pursuits activate the reward centers in our brains.

Grab a coloring book, sketch pad, or canvas and unleash your inner Picasso. Knitting, writing poetry, woodworking, and other projects also work just as well.

16. Help Yourself by Helping Others

Altruistic endeavors help us by giving us a sense of purpose, a necessary requirement for true, deep happiness.[13]

Even if it’s not possible to be physically present, there are many volunteer opportunities to serve from home. Check with your local food bank, homeless shelter, or animal shelter, or plug your zip code into a site like volunteermatch.org to find a varied list of events and causes into which you can invest your time and effort.

17. Untangle the Mental Jumble

Writing down our thoughts, emotions, and challenges has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.[14] This also makes it an effective stress management tool.[15]

The simple act of expressive writing allows our brains to disentangle from overwhelm, confusion, and frustration. Writing sparks intellectual growth, gratitude, and happiness.

Your journal doesn’t have to be about anything monumental or life-altering. Thoughts, plans, or simply what happened that day are all valid options. There are no rules. Let go of any “shoulds” or inhibitions and just allow whatever comes through to flow from your pen to the paper.

Need journal inspiration? Here’re 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart.

18. Look at the Sky

Opening our eyes and hearts to the awe of something greater than ourselves is instantly enlightening. Often we can feel limited by geography or circumstances, believing that we must behold a great wonder of the world or conquer some massive challenge to experience this “awe.” But all we have to do is look up.

Whether we’re watching the clouds float by, or pondering the wonders of the vast universe as we gaze up at the stars, we all have access to this simple source of inspiration.

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19. Nap Like a Cat

Despite the fact that it’s widely considered lazy in our culture, naps are proven to have several benefits, including elevated mood.[16]

Give yourself permission to indulge in a short catnap (no more than 20 minutes, or this strategy could backfire).

Not only does this feel ultra pampering, but sleep is a restorative function that gives our brains the opportunity to sort through challenges at the subconscious level, allowing us to wake feeling more emotionally and mentally invigorated.

20. Freshen Up

Small shifts to our physical environment can have a massive impact on our inner world. Sweep away dust and cobwebs, and allow your gloomy mood to go with them.

Add a vibrant splash of color with pillows, throws, or artwork to instantly uplift your spirits. Make simple shifts to placement of furniture or decor. You can even apply a little Feng Shui in your rearranging for some enhanced energy flow in your home or workspace.

21. Unplug

Being “always on” and constantly connected to our technological devices is leading to stress, depression, and anxiety on a massive scale. It can be a hard habit to break, but worthwhile in the long run.

By ditching your devices for even just 20 minutes a day, or 1 full day per week, you will have that time and energy available to invest in more enriching and empowering activities, like the ones listed above.

Try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.

Make Yourself a Priority

As you can see, there are a multitude of ways to wrap a silver lining around a gloomy day. The key is to make your physical, mental, and emotional well-being a top priority by creating space in your everyday schedule for intentional nurturing, self-connecting activities. Five minutes. An hour. A day. Whatever you can give yourself, but do it deliberately and with love.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t still get away for the sheer fun of it. It just means that you’re not going on vacation seeking joy and relaxation due to lack of it at home. Show up consistently, meeting yourself where you are, and you’ll be happier overall—no plane ticket required.

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] NCBI: Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
[2] PubMed: Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis – PubMed (nih.gov) ]
[3] Digital Commons: Is Music Therapy Effective in Improving the Quality of Life in Dementia Patients?
[4] Practical Neurology: Music and Dementia: An Overview
[5] Tandfonline:Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies: The Journal of Positive Psychology: Vol 8, No 1
[6] NIH: An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders
[7] SpringerLink: Effects of Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy on Mental Health: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
[8] Scopus preview – Scopus – Document details
[9] SAGE Journals: Affectionate Touch to Promote Relational, Psychological, and Physical Well-Being in Adulthood: A Theoretical Model and Review of the Research
[10] iCelandreView: Forest Service Recommends Hugging Trees While You Can’t Hug Others
[11] Medical News Today: Endorphin release differs by exercise intensity, study finds
[12] APA: The latest research on creativity and the arts
[13] Berkeley Edu: How Volunteering Can Help Your Mental Health
[14] Hans S. Schroder: The effect of expressive writing on the error‐related negativity among individuals with chronic worry
[15] Journal of Affective Disorders: An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder
[16] Journal of Sleep Research – Wiley Online Library: Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping – MILNER – 2009

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Leah Borski

Certified NeuroHealth Coach, specializing in Stress Management and Integrative Wellness Lifestyle for Work-Life Balance

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Last Updated on January 24, 2022

21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

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21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

Having texting and video conferencing at our fingertips, it appears that maintaining a long-distance relationship is easier than ever. Long-distance calls are no longer a luxury; the days when they needed to be rationed are long gone.

Long-distance couples do not have to depend on 3 p.m. postal delivery, waiting for news that is at best four days old.

Now we’re no longer even in the days of waiting for our loved ones to check their e-mail when they get home from work. Instant messaging keeps us hooked to each other even when we are out shopping, working, playing, watching a movie and doing much more.

Technology, however, cannot compensate for everything in a long-distance relationship, as anyone with a long-distance relationship will tell you.

Many long-distance relationships still seem emotionally difficult despite the lack of regular physical proximity.

People often think long-distance relationships will never work. It may be discouraged by your family, and some of your best friends may tell you not to take it too seriously in case you end up heartbroken.

Many things are not possible due to the extra distance – no one can promise it will be easy. Things could get complicated, and you might feel lonely and sad at times.

Still, many of us try them.

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However, the extra distance also makes the simplest things the sweetest. Being able to hold the other person’s hand, eating together at the same table, feeling each other’s touch, taking a walk together, smelling each other’s hair… these small wishes could suddenly mean so much more in a long-distance relationship.

Long-distance relationships may be tough, but they have their own surprises too.

Here’re 21 tips on how to make a long distance relationship work:

1. Avoid excessive communication.

It is unwise to be overly “sticky” and possessive. You two don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going. Many couples think that they need to compensate for the distance by doing more. This is not true. And it might only make things worse. Soon you would get tired of “loving.”

Remember: Less is more. It is not about spamming — you are only going to exhaust yourselves. It’s really about teasing at the right moments and tugging at the right spots.

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2. See it as an opportunity.

“If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

View it as a learning journey for both of you. This is an opportunity for you to prove your love for one another. According to a Chinese proverb, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” Instead of thinking that this long-distance relationship is pulling you two apart, you should believe that through this experience, the both of you will be bound together even stronger.

As Emma says it to Will in season four of Glee,

“I would rather be here, far from you, but feeling really close, rather than close to you but feeling really far away.” – Emma, Glee Season 4

3. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations.

Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long-distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise.

For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it all right for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.

4. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.

Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem.

To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips, and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.

5. Talk dirty with each other.

Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. In a way, sexual desire is like the glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Sexual need is not only biological but also emotional.

Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.

6. Avoid “dangerous” situations.

If you already know that going to the club or going drinking with your group of friends late at night will displease your partner, then you should either 1. Not do it or 2. Tell your partner beforehand to reassure them.

You should not let this sort of thing slip by because it will only make your partner extra worried or suspicious – and of course, very upset because they will feel powerless or lack control over the situation.

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You can fall victim to your traps by going out with eye candy from work after work or dating someone from your past who has been flirting with you without realizing it. Before entering a dangerous situation, you need to recognize the dangers.

Listen to your heart, but don’t just rely on it. Make sure you also listen to your mind.

7. Do things together.

Play a game online together. Watch a documentary at the same time on YouTube or Vimeo. Share a song on Skype while another plays the guitar. Video-call each other and go for a walk together. Together, go online shopping – and buy each other gifts (see #13).

You really have to be creative and spontaneous about it.

8. Do similar things.

Recommend books, TV shows, movies, music, news and etc., to each other. When you read, watch and listen to the same things, you get to have more topics in common to talk about.

Even if you live apart, it’s nice to have some shared experiences.

9. Make visits to each other.

Every long-distance relationship is enriched by visits.

After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfil all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. These are typical for couples in long-distance relationships but more special and intimate for long-distance couples.

The atmosphere will be filled with fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows, and butterflies.

10. Have a goal in mind.

Are we going to be apart for a long time?” “what about the future?” These are the questions you should ask yourselves.

In fact, a couple cannot stay in a long-distance relationship forever. Eventually, we all need to settle down.

So make a plan with each other. Set up a timeline, mark down the estimated times apart and times together, and draw an end goal.

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It is important that you two are on the same page and have the same goals. So that even if you are not living in the same space and the same timezone, both of you are still motivated to work together in the same direction towards a future that includes one another.

That’s right, you need some motivation to make a relationship last too. Find out more about what motivates you here.

11. Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family.

You are alone, but you are not lonely unless you choose to feel like it. You don’t have to let your world revolve around your partner — you still have you, your friends, and your family. Take this time apart to do more with your friends and family. Go to the gym more often. Get a new hobby. Binge-watch shows. There are plenty of things for you to do that don’t involve your partner.

12. Stay honest with each other.

Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from the inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. It’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.

13. Know each other’s schedules.

It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and free. So that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when they are in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Make sure you are aware of everyone’s small and big events in their lives, i.e., college midterms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews, etc. Particularly if you live in different time zones, this becomes more important.

14. Keep track of each other’s social media activities.

Facebook and Instagram photos of each other. Send each other tweets. Tag each other on Facebook. Post stuff on each other’s wall. Let them know you care. Be cool with stalking each other.

15. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to.

Memories have power. No matter what it is–a pendant, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a perfume bottle. Everyday items and things have meanings to us, whether we realize it or not. We all try to store memories in material things so that when our minds fail, we will still be able to look at or hold onto something that will help us recall our memories. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person when others may see little or no value in it.

16. Get a good messaging app.

This is extremely important because texting is the most frequent and common way of communication the two of you have. You need a good messaging app on your phones that allows interactions beyond words and emoticons.

Personally, I use this messaging app called LINE. I find it highly effective because it has a huge reserve of playful and very funny “stickers” that are free for its users to use. You can also go to the app’s “Sticker Shop” to download (or gift!) extra stickers of different themes (e.g., Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Snoopy, MARVEL, etc.) at a low price. Occasionally, the app will give out free sticker sets for promotions. This messaging app is cute and easy to learn to use.

17. Snail-mail your gift.

Mail each other postcards and hand-written love letters. Send each other gifts across the globe from time to time. Flower deliveries on birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day. Shop online and surprise each other with cool T-shirts, sexy underwear, and such.

18. Stay positive.

You need to constantly inject positive energy into the long-distance relationship to keep it alive. Yes, the waiting can be painful, and you can sometimes feel lonely, but you need to remind yourself that the fruits at the end will be sweet as heaven.

One good trick to staying positive is to be grateful all the time. Be thankful that you have someone to love — someone who also loves you back. Be thankful for the little things, like the hand-made letter that arrived safely in your mailbox the other day. Be thankful for each other’s health and safety.

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19. Keep each other updated on each other’s friends and family.

This will help you two to know each other’s culture and values. Knowing small habits of each other helps in developing an understanding and building mutual trust.

Talking about family and friends gives you more matters to talk about. The best thing to talk about is gossip and scandals.

20. Video-call whenever possible.

Because sometimes looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.

A video call is though nothing like being together, but it’s the best thing and the most to do for coziness in a long-distance relationship.

21. Give each other pet names.

Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going. Having special names for each other reserved only for one another are heart-warming. Hearing that one word with love lifts our spirits up, and we feel assured all over again.

Chaos seems to fade away just by hearing that special word from someone special.

With the best wishes…

Love (or like) is a force that is beyond your control. Love just happens. The same goes for turning off those feelings, even when you get the perfect job halfway across the country.

Neither one of us expects to be long-distance in a relationship. But if you’re in a relationship like this, you’ll just have to make the most out of a difficult situation. These advice for long distance relationships will hopefully help you stay strong and cheerful when living apart from one another.

More Recommended Relationships Experts on Lifehack
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  • Dr. Magdalena Battles — A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault
  • Randy Skilton —  An educator in the areas of relationships and self-help

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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