I would describe the experience of being alive much like the ebb and flow of an ocean. There are bright, crystal blue waters and then there are the inevitable storms that take me by surprise. Sometimes there is nothing but grey- An overcast and heavy haze that blurs the water into the horizon. Everyone is familiar with this kind of bleakness- Uninspired, unmotivated, colourless. It’s easy to feel panicked within low-tide emotions. But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that emotions are as fluid as water. They come and go like waves. Grey days are okay, normal and (the best part) temporary! But in the meantime, we don’t have to let ourselves sink. Here are five small, easy ways that help keep me afloat during cloudy, dull days.
1. Make A Love List: Think of as many positive things as you POSSIBLY can. Things that you love, that you’re grateful for, that you’re excited about, that inspire you and make you glad to be alive. I often write these things down on the notes in my phone but this works just as well, when listed in your mind. The key to a love list is concentration. Intently focus on the positivity you feel when you think of these things. Magnify, amplify and exaggerate. You want to immerse yourself! Visualize these feelings as vibrant colour, slowing saturating your mind, staining any negativity in its path. I completely understand that certain circumstances can make thinking of anything positive seem impossible. Try anyways, even if you feel like it's a stretch. Sometimes the smell of the forest or the lyrics to my favourite song are all I can manage to come up with. Simple details work too! The goal is to shift your focus, even by the slightest degree. Acknowledging even the smallest bit of sparkle can go a long way.
2. Reach Out To Someone: Shitty feelings thrive in isolation. Give depression a dark corner and it will grow into a tangle of poison ivy. Socializing is hard when we’re feeling low but it’s usually exactly what we need. Make connection with someone who’s presence you know can lift you up (be sure to avoid the pessimists and the energy vampires…but that’s a different topic). Another human’s presence can help you feel less alone, add variety and inspiration to your day and most importantly, direct your mind away from ruminating on your own thoughts. This doesn’t even have to be done in person. Message a friend to simply say hi and turn your phone off of silent. The “ping” of notification tones are scientifically proven to light up the reward regions of the brain. Also…be vulnerable! Don’t waste so much energy trying to hide how you feel. Negative emotion is not something to be ashamed of. Telling someone you trust about how you’re feeling is both brave and liberating.
3. Move Yourself: It is commonly known that exercise equals endorphins and endorphins equal an improvement in mood. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to pound out a 10k every time you feel sad. In my experience, going outside, listening to music and simply walking can work wonders for lifting my spirits. I find that inspiration and ideas start to flow when I match my racing thoughts with physical momentum. Movement helps to clear out stagnant energy blocks and connects our minds back to our bodies. Although I love a good long run, my other favourite way to do this is through dancing. And by dancing I mean literally flinging negative energy out of myself. My roommate and I have actually put on Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine and flailed around our apartment like banshees. Yes, it looks as ridiculous as it sounds but it’s hilarious and fun and it really works. Getting caught up in our minds is all to easy and bringing awareness back into our bodies is so important.
4. Look Ahead To Something: Create something to look forward to in the future! Daydream about a trip you want to take and start to create a concrete plan. Buy tickets to a concert. Plan an outing with a friend. Order a gift for yourself online. You could even look forward to something as simple as your favourite food for dinner or another episode of a good Netflix series. There is a lot of emphasis put on how important it is to live in the moment but I think there is also a lot to be said for having a positive pull forwards. Anticipation can elevate and when in balanced amounts, can be used as great fuel for the present moment! Figure out what you want, give yourself permission to want what you want, and then be excited about getting it.
The next time you wake up feeling heavy and dragged down, I hope at least one of these tools can help you to feel a bit more buoyant! No matter what, remember that your tides will change with the moon and your storms can't last forever. Some days are more difficult to navigate than others but YOU have full control over your sails.