7 ways to brighten your day

I consider myself pretty even keeled and happy as a person. Most of the time I’m appreciative of the good value folks around me, and my life’s decent. I walk in my neighbourhood feeling safe, and when I get home – well, it’s a great place to be. I also enjoy my work and mostly feel as though I’m moving forwards in things that matter.

But I still have bad days, and occasionally quite ugly patches. Just ask my family! Some moments my body fails to operate as I think it should, and others people simply won’t buy into my way of thinking (how dare they!). Technology regularly drives me crazy! And sometimes, it’s simply wet and miserable and I’m tired and grumpy.

It happens to us all.

On those days (or in those weeks) when things feel dark and distressing, you can do things to brighten your day. Don’t let the negemos keep you down, I always say. Here are seven ways to bring sunshine back into life that I use. There’s sure to be something to get you back on your feet too!

1. Make connection with Mum

If there’s anyone who’s put a lot of time and energy into you, it’s probably your mum. She knew you when you were helpless, red and squawking and has probably cleaned up more of your messes than anyone else, ever. What’s one more gonna matter? Even though you’ve probably grown up and become independent, your mum’s more than likely still on your side. Call her for a chat – or, if she’s tech savvy and further away, some form of video catch up. It’ll help you take a longer term perspective on life.

If your mum was never that close – or’s no longer around – how about your dad? A grandma, or cousin, or your bro? We often underestimate the longest term connections we have regarding the good they can do us when we touch base again.

2. Phone a friend

If your mum or close family doesn’t appeal, why not brighten your day by phoning a friend? I don’t mean flicking out a quick note into the electronic universe and waiting to see what happens. I mean putting in a call so you can at least hear the voice of someone who cares. For whatever reason, there’s more human connection in a voice to voice conversation than a bunch of letters on a screen.

Phoning a friend can solve bigger problems than figuring out the answer to a high cost question in some random games show – it can decrease your sense of aloneness. And with 60% of Australians often feeling lonely we need to find ways to help each other move past it. Oh, and if you get put through to message bank, ask your buddy to call you back. That way you’ll have a lovely surprise later, even if you’re feeling a bit more up by then.

3. Walk or workout

When the interpersonal thing’s just not happening, option three’s some exercise. Whether you make it a gentle wander or a strenuous workout will depend on your current exercise regime and level of health – either can work. So grab your sports shoes and get moving. Even 15 minutes is worthwhile.

Any form of movement increases the oxygen in your body and brain, helps the muscles release tension and encourages the feel good hormones to flow. It’s been interesting to watch the theories on treating depression swing round to include getting people to move more. An active body truly can help raise your spirits and brighten your day, especially if you can get outside. So go get to it!

4. Manoeuvre a mental health moment

Did your mum ever let your 7 year old self stay home simply because life had gotten on top of you? Mine didn’t, though I used to wish she would! As I grew older, I noticed many of my nursing friends seemed to take ‘mental health days’ with fair regularity! I know others who still do so today.

My suggestion’s that you do a version of that MHD. Stay in your pj’s, lie on the couch and let the world pass you by for a bit. Things aren’t moving so fast you won’t be able to catch up.

However, I’d recommend limiting the time down to just what you need – acting like this for too long will lead you to depression. Also, you should match what you do in this time to what feels special to you. And don’t jam it full of brainless wandering round social media OR trying to get your ‘to do’ list up to date! The point of this is you stop and refresh, and it won’t happen with either of the above activities!

5. Sit in the sun

We inhabit a world of fluorescent, LED and blue screen lights. All of them are unnatural to us humans. Which is part of why they wear us out and can negatively impact our moods. Whenever I’m feeling down, I try to access some natural light.

Enter the sun. It’s really bright and wonderfully warm (though sometimes too hot!). Why not let it naturally brighten your day? Go sit in it for 20 minutes. If it’s too hot, use the shade of a tree for shelter. If it’s too cold, wet or windy, hide under a roof or (even better in Winter) behind some glass. You can get the benefits of the sun without being in direct line of it.

Of course, probably the best option of all’s combining this idea with number three and going for a walk outside somewhere that you love. Can you get to a beach? A forest or park with some trees? A river? Then do so.

6. Snuggle up with some snaps

We take an increasing number of selfie type photos to record the key moments of our lives, but do we ever review them? Well, I’m suggesting that when you’re feeling flat could be a good chance to check them out again. Wandering down memory lane with some old pics can not only bring back good memories and therefore lift your spirits (and brighten your day!), it can also prompt you to contact someone you haven’t seen for a while or start planning your next holiday. Both of which are good mood improvers, as well!

7. Pat a puppy

Ok, ok, if you’re a cat or bird lover, they may work as well! But there’s something loyal and fun about dogs which makes this idea especially worth considering. Playing with or pampering your pooch’s an excellent way to help yourself feel better. Firstly they’re really good at modelling how to get love and attention, and secondly they don’t answer you back! So, whistle for your dog and spend some time with them.

If you don’t have a pet of your own, you’re not necessarily off the list. Visit a friend who has one, or simply take yourself to the nearest park. Most puppy owners are more than happy for you to praise their baby, and many will be fine about you patting them too. In my experience, dog walkers are more sociable than almost any other group out there. In fact, whenever I go out with Misteree (that’s our labradoodle) I set my mind for a twalk rather than exercise, because I know I’ll be stopped so often!

Will they brighten your day?

So, what do you think of my ideas? You’ll notice there are some obvious gaps in my suggestions. There’s very little that’s machine based, for example. And a noticeable absence of social media, too. That’s because the act of spending hours on Facebook (or whatever your preferred equivalent is) may very well make you feel worse. After all, FOMO  – the fear of missing out – is a phenomena mainly of our time. Seeing ‘everyone else’ having a good time is as likely to make you feel worse as it is to brighten your day. So I’d suggest you stay off for now.

Likewise, overindulging in your favourite substance is absent from my list. This isn’t about priming your self-sabotage button, it’s about healthy ways to cheer yourself up. We want to avoid things which’ll make you feel worse about yourself and life over the longer term! Go get some sleep and good-for-you food, and try one of the seven ideas above instead.

If you can’t find something out of that list, you’re being too fussy! My opinion, of course, but there it is.