Sad bad days come to us all.
Maybe you are dealing with something particularly painful.
Maybe you’re not even sure why you are feeling the way you do.
For some, the answer is to blot out how your feelings with alcohol, drugs or other distractions.
But at the end of the day, after the latest binge, the issues are still there glaring at you.
And sometimes they have grown bigger and scarier than they were before.
If you are wanting a solution that doesn’t make you feel worse in the end, read on.
Here are three strategies that can help when you are feeling down.
1) STAY PRESENT & GIVE YOUR FEELING SOME LOVING ATTENTION
I know the topic of being present and mindful has been done to death recently, but please don’t glaze over.
Feeling the feeling allows it to release.
And the feeling that is there, as bad as it feels, is actually your friend.
It’s there to help you.
Think of it as an internal guidance system, letting you know that your thoughts and beliefs are taking you off course and need your attention, or that some need is not being met.
The problem is, however, that, instead of thanking our ‘heavier’ emotion for the awareness it is trying to bring, we attempt to push the uncomfortable feeling deep into our darkest recesses.
Doing so can make us unhappier and even physically or mentally ill.
You will add to the accumulation of already previous stuffed down emotions.
These eventually spill over, often in the form of a volcanic eruption towards a situation that does not warrant the reaction you are giving it.
For, as the saying goes, what you resist persists.
So, stop stuffing the emotion down, and instead, allow it to release by giving it some loving attention.
Doing so, will allow it to and drift off and out into the ether where it belongs.
You can begin this process now by taking a few deep belly breaths, in through the nose, expanding the belly, and out through the mouth with a big heavy sigh, relaxing your shoulders as you do so. Do this a couple more times.
Now take a moment and, as odd as it may sound, work out where you are physically experiencing the emotion. Where does it reside in your body? It’ll be there somewhere. Perhaps, your heart feels physically heavy, or you have tension in your solar plexus or shoulders, or your eyes may feel teary.
Once you have identified where you are physically experiencing it, place your hand on that spot if it feels comfortable to do so, and take a few deep, slow breaths in and out again, but this time, imagine, that you are breathing in and out from the place where the emotion has been identified your body. The air you are deeply breathing into that spot, and as you sigh out, is flowing out from that spot. Do this a few more times. You may even feel the tension, physical heaviness or pain move somewhere else. Flow with it. Continue to imagine the breath coming in and out from where ever it leads you.
If you want to take it a step further, you may even imagine beautiful warm light coming in with the breath and filling up that area and expanding out.
In doing so, you are shining a welcoming light on it’s existence, and saying to it: I hear you, I know you are there, I appreciate you, thank you for bringing this to my attention, but it’s all okay now, you have done your job, thank you.
Not in a, I want to get rid of you, so move on, sort of way. More of a, I welcome you, appreciate you, thank you, sort of way.
Staying with the emotion for three to ten breaths, welcoming it, and being curious about it, can actually help the emotion to dissipate and complete.
Now, when you feel ready, after you have imagined filling that area with your breath again, as you sigh your breath out, imagine the tension, pain, frustration or sadness leaving with each breath. Do this a few more times.
This may seem a bit wacky at first, as we aren’t taught how to handle emotions, to actually be curious about them and embrace them.
But, in my experience, it is an effective process for releasing emotions, and can help you avoid the emotional overwhelm and overreaction that comes from stuffing them down instead.
2) DON’T SPEND TIME OVER ANALYsING THE PROBLEM AND/0R DIGGING UP THE PAST
Sometimes, when you do this exercise, thoughts and memories from the past may surface, and that’s fine.
But my advice is - don’t get bogged down trying to find the reasons, or analysing the problem in an effort to change things.
As Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t initially cathartic or helpful to talk to someone about the problem, or challenges that you are facing.
But I have found that solutions to problems are rarely found by over analysing the problems or the past.
In fact, you will more likely find the wisdom as to what to do to improve your situation when you are in a good mood and have a quiet mind and heart.
Over analysing problems and digging up the past to find reasons for how we feel rarely creates this state of well-being.
Neither does dwelling on possible negative future occurrences or those that happened in the past.
So, my suggestion for the rest of the day is to create a state of well-being by keeping yourself in present-moment gratefulness.
3) KEEP YOURSELF IN PRESENT-MOMENT GRATEFULNESS
It might seem simplistic, but by noticing and acknowledging what you can see, hear, or that is happening right now for which you are grateful, you will bring yourself back to a healthy state of mind.
In that place, despite circumstances, contentment and happiness generally follow.
So look around you, and as you go about your day, make a concerted effort to notice all the things for which you are grateful.
And, when you find something you love - a colour, a scent, item, texture, gesture or sound - take a moment and acknowledge that you love whatever it is, to yourself or someone else.
If you start thinking about what you want or don’t have, bring your thoughts back to what you do have.
If you find yourself thinking negative, which often occurs when our thoughts jump around into the imagined future situations or a dis-satisfactory occurrences of the past, bring your thoughts back to the present again by finding something in the moment that that you are grateful for again (or that you love).
To help this process along, give yourself a booster shot of feel good chemicals such as serotonin, endorphin and dopamine by going somewhere pleasant for a walk, preferably in nature.
If the weather isn’t to conducive for walking, any form of exercise that you enjoy will help. Stuck indoors - try dancing along to your favorite decades music.
Then let me know how you get on.
Solution Focused Therapy can also help kick start this process, helping you to move beyond the grip of whatever the problem is creating to make positive life changes in your life, self and/or relationships.