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Published on January 25, 2021

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

More by this author

Leah Borski

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

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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