3 Simple Ways to Overcome Sadness

Everyone gets cranky now and then. But when you’re in the midst of a total funk, it can be tough to know how to nip it in the bud. First thing’s first: remember that feelings are usually fleeting, and chances are, your bummed-out mood will eventually pass and you’ll find happiness again. But until the gloomy clouds part for good, it’s important to have go-to strategies to make feeling blue more bearable.

“Our emotions and feelings serve as cues to our internal life and they’re important to listen to,” says Los Angeles-based psychotherapist, Alyssa Mass. “Every person, and every situation, is different, but there’s always a balance between honoring and stewing in sadness.”

If you do find yourself stewing, it’s important to have some handy coping skills to help get you through to happier times. Whether you’re healing from heartbreak or are just super hangry, these three science-backed tips can help you weather the storm of a gnarly mood.

1. Get Social

Hitting the party scene is probably the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling down. But ruminating in negative thoughts isn’t the best idea. Besides furthering feelings of loneliness, studies have shown that social isolation can actually have profound effects on physical health, affecting cardiovascular function and sleep. It doesn’t take much to make a connection: meet a close friend or family member for coffee, volunteer for an organization you care about, or take a fun class that will get you out of the house. And if humans are just too much for you to handle in your current state, consider visiting the animal shelter: spending time with a furry friend can significantly cut your stress and boost your mood.

“Small successes are what lead to big gains,” says Mass. “If a party feels like too much, that’s okay—meet a trusted friend somewhere that won’t be triggering (for example, if you’re going through a bad break up, don’t meet them at your old favorite date spot). After you’ve made some efforts to get out of your internal process and connect to the external, take a few deep breaths and try to notice if you feel differently, and take stock of what has or hasn’t changed.”

2. Get Moving

You don’t have to log tons of miles to achieve that coveted “runner’s high” (you also don’t have to actually run): research shows that exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your brain, and reduces the not-so-feel-good chemicals that can worsen depression. Any kind of physical activity can put you on a path toward a better mood, and even sprinkling in short bouts of movement throughout the day can keep you from feeling down.

“Typically, low pressure activities that feel doable are a good place to start,” says Mass. “For example, plan to take a walk around the block before signing up for the marathon. If a person has always hated hiking, this probably isn’t the time to push them into it.”

3. Get Outside

Since you’re already on the move, why not take the action outdoors? Skip the gym and go for a walk in nature. For one study, a Stanford researcher asked 38 city dwellers to take a walk in one of two conditions: in a quiet, green part of campus, or next to a loud Palo Alto freeway. Brain scans and questionnaires indicated the nature walkers experienced some significant mental health improvements while the highway walkers were no less agitated than they’d been before the trek.

It can be hard to motivate yourself when you’re feeling down in the dumps, but by taking just a few simple steps, you can overcome the blues and come out on the other side feeling stronger.

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