Admit it, sometimes we all get so down that we have a hard time motivating. It happens to the best of us. When sadness hit you hard, it can be really debilitating. Without trying to oversimplify what might be a very complicated emotional situation (all due respect to your feelings), I’d like to suggest a couple of cheap pick-me-ups, for those times when you just don’t have the luxury of lying in bed all day with a box of tissues, watching old tearjerker movies.
When I get slammed with a bad case of the blues, I try to remember something I learned a long time ago that has generally proven to be true. Feelings aren’t facts. Just because you’re feeling that something is so, doesn’t make it true. You might be convinced that you are vibe-ing on some awful truth about yourself, but what seems certain in your moment of vulnerability might seem ridiculous later on. Try not to draw any big conclusions when you are not feeling at your best.
I find cooking very soothing. Call me crazy, but there’s something very calming about stirring a pot of soup or roasting a chicken. For you vegetarians out there, what about the zen of chopping and roasting vegetables? Or experimenting with a new tomato sauce recipe? Developing a new omelet filling from the leftovers in the refrigerator? The possibilities are endless. You can nourish your body and your soul at the same time…
When I start feeling overwhelmed by life, and my motivation starts dropping, the first thing that usually goes is my orderly environment. I throw my clothes all over the place, the papers start accumulating, and the dishes begin to pile up in the sink. I recently decided that if the weight of the world got to be too heavy and I felt tempted to just let everything around me go to pieces, than at the very least I would make sure to clean my kitchen and my bathroom.
Cleaning : I know this one might be a stretch for some of you, but there is a joy in seeing a mess, or even a small portion of a mess, disappear. Even if the prospect of cleaning my entire house just fries my circuits, at least I can maintain small circles of cleanliness and sanity. I have found that expending the energy it takes to do those small things sometimes starts a positive momentum that leads to other constructive efforts!
I absolutely LOVE the feeling of the warm water on my hands as I’m washing my dishes. Even more, I love the way my sink looks when it’s empty and clean. It can make me so excited, I will get inspired to clean my toilet. And next thing you know, I’m mopping floors, doing wash… it’s like a chain reaction! Seriously, the prospect of clear surfaces all around me, drawers filled with folded clothes – it can be intoxicating…
I often tell my son, “Do the things you need to do first, then you can do the things you want to do.” In other words, take care of business! Then you can treat yourself to the things you want. It’s important to earn your leisure time, and reward yourself for your hard work. You can trick yourself into doing many unpleasant yet necessary tasks if you know there is something wonderful waiting for you when they are completed. Try it, one task, one reward at a time, and
see if works for you.
I am also cheered up by completing old projects. My mom used to be someone who would put things off for long periods of time. After she died, I found an unfinished piece of needlepoint in one of her drawers that she had started decades earlier, and I decided to finish it. What a cathartic experience that turned out to be! I have that piece of embroidery hanging in my living room, and from time to time I look at it and reflect on the sense of completion and closure it has brought to me.
Do you sense a theme here? The main ideas behind all of these suggestions are to take control of the little things that are within your power to change, keep it small, and try and nurture yourself in the process. I’m not advocating expensive vacations or material purchases, nor am I suggesting major escapes from daily life. While these can also be enjoyable, they do not ultimately bring us any sense of inner peace or empowerment.
The funny thing is, my sadness often comes in waves. I have found that if I can distract myself with some constructive or productive activity for long enough, pretty soon the next wave of joy arrives unexpectedly, and I can start breathing deeply again.
Although when I’m considering throwing myself a serious pity party, I might love to curl up with a good book, or turn on one of my favorite movies. And yes, I might even need a box of tissues.