Alexis Novak is a yoga instructor, NASM-CPT, and mobility enthusiast. As a contributor for THE/THIRTY, Alexis will be sharing her knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, and meditation to help you find your own personal balance between strength and serenity. Her approach to wellness is to simplify and keep a sense of humor. This month, she's sharing 10 simple, free acts of self-love you can do to instantly boost your mood. Read up!
"I need to get dressed and go outside: a memoir." Sound familiar? There are days, maybe once every few months, where I feel like I really can't get a grip. I feel irritable for no reason, I feel sad about what could have been, and all I want to do is sleep all day. But all of that is sandwiched between waves of guilt about feeling down and depressed because my life is concretely great; I am fortunate. It's a tough dichotomy to sift through when these pangs of depression and hollowness pop up. Thoughts like, When will I ever have money? Why won't [insert name] text me back? Is my social media pointless? whirl in an endless loop. If I sit long enough and dig deep enough, chances are I am seeking validation or confirmation that I am "good" or "worthy" through outside sources, and I have learned enough by now that none of that really helps remedy those unexplainable and heavy emotional aches that arise.
So what do I do when these bouts of anguish creep in? I can look online for ways to feel better in my body, and all of the solutions are resourceful but take time to attain: eating more greens, starting a meditation practice, or trying a colonic are all things that I don't disagree may help me (minus maybe the colonic, but that's another story). But what about right now? What about right in this moment when I'm feeling down?
With that in mind, I've compiled a list of small, doable, free, micro activities you can engage in to give your cup a few more drops toward being full, without using the internet or your phone. Keep scrolling to see!
1. Sit with your body for 10 breaths, and listen to it.
Even if you have one million things to do, take 10 seconds out of your day to sit and collect some fresh O2. Have a conversation with yourself. Do you feel fatigued? Do you need a nap? Should you maybe reschedule that Spin class so you can get some rest tonight? Whatever your body is requesting, make it a balanced priority to listen and give it to yourself.
2. Drink a glass of water.
It's underrated how important and emotion-quenching a glass of water can be. Dehydration can mask itself as sadness, irritability, hunger, and other unpleasant symptoms. Wash your insides with a fresh glass of agua, and feel at least 6% better.
3. Get dressed.
It's okay to put on yoga pants, but maybe wear your favorite pair. A simple gesture of putting on some threads that bring out your confidence can give you a little bump toward feeling better. Hey, maybe you'll start to feel yourself so much you may even end up changing into that sundress you bought that you thought you would wear more. Today may be the day.
4. Find a mantra that sets you north.
The Sanskrit word mantra consists of the root "man," meaning "to think," (also in manas, which means "mind"), and the suffix "-tra," which designates tools or instruments; hence the literal translation, "instrument of thought." If you have never worked with a mantra before, that's okay. A mantra can be a simple phrase that resonates with you, maybe a phrase that your therapist or someone else special has said to you that you find comforting and confidence-inducing. Some examples are: Love energizes my life. I can breathe now. I am powerful. I am lovable.
5. Phone a friend.
Sometimes all you need is to hear a friend's voice or know that you have a human soundboard to bounce ideas off of. Most the time, the negative feelings that consume us aren't as "big picture" as they feel. (Though, let me tell you, I know they feel real.) A friendly reminder from your funniest girlfriend or trusted cousin to zoom out and take a step back can lend a helping hand in times of trouble.
6. Clean up your space (or make your bed, if you have time).
Whether you are at work, in your car, or at your house, tidy up a few wrappers and papers you don’t need. Organize that drawer you've been avoiding, or donate that pile of old clothes you've been meaning to get rid of. Clearing physical space can help make room for fresh, good feelings. (Everyone should read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if you haven't already.)
7. Give your ears an audible treat.
Listen to your favorite upbeat song, put on a thoughtful podcast, or listen to a comedy track.
8. Pick up a book.
Even if you don't have intentions of reading through pages on pages on pages, allowing someone else to take your brain for an adventure for a few moments can provide some space for your thoughts to breathe. You never know—maybe you'll get pleasantly lost there.
9. Take a walk, and up your vitamin D intake.
One foot in front of the other, literally. Mindfully moving your body upright can release some of the same pleasure endorphins released during sex or intense cardio spurts. You don't have to deplete your energy to get those feel-good sensations! Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms. Head up to the sun for a simple five-minute stroll; it could turn your whole day around.
10. Take it to pen and pad.
Make a list of things you need to do, or jot down your current emotions. Getting your thoughts out of the cyclical rumination in your brain and onto a tangible piece of paper can be game changing. We live in a high-tech world where everything is electronic. Rev up your tactile stimulus by dusting off that cursive you learned in fifth grade and thought you'd never use.
Regardless of the source of your suffering, or even if you can't locate the origin of it, remember that you are hurting but you are not helpless—your life is happening right now, and you are the only one equipped to deal with it. Not only that, but remember to totally work it. This too shall pass. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. You're beautiful, and you've got this.
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