One common happiness question is: if you’re feeling anxious, blue, angry, or scared, what can you do to give yourself a boost?
Try to find a “comfort food” for your mind. By doing so, you’ll re-charge your battery, find it easier to stay calm and cheerful, find it easier to take action to remedy your situation — and you’ll sleep better. But this is easier said than done.
We all suffer from “negativity bias,” that is, we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. (What do you remember better, a compliment or a criticism?) Research shows one consequence of negativity bias is that when people’s thoughts wander, they tend to begin to brood. Anxious or angry thoughts capture our attention more effectively than happier thoughts.
So if you’re feeling blue, look for ways to pull your mind away from your worries onto positive topics.
One easy way is to watch a movie — not something upsetting! — or a favorite TV show.
My favorite activity is reading, and when I really need comfort food for my mind, I read children’s literature. I have a crazy passion for children’s and young-adult literature. I always re-read, too; when I’m upset, I want the comfort of knowing that I’ll love the book and that I won’t be upset by some unexpected plot twist. (For instance, I can’t bear any plot that includes unjust accusation. You wouldn’t believe how often unjust accusation pops up in books, movies, plays, and TV.)
I do find that some activities that are usually happiness-inducing don’t work very well when I’m preoccupied with bad thoughts. For instance, although going for a walk usually cheers me up, it also gives me an excellent opportunity to brood if I’m in a brooding mood.
Cooking, cleaning, playing with your kids, playing video games, playing basketball — different people find different solutions. If you can find an activity that gives you exercise, gets you outside, or brings you in contact with other people, that’s especially effective.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, give yourself some mental comfort food. By giving yourself a break and a bit of comfort, you’ll make yourself feel better, and you’ll also equip yourself to deal more effectively with tough situations.
What mental comfort food works for you?
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Annie Spratt.