Every Wednesday is Tip Day. This Wednesday: Nine tips for feeling happier when you've lost your job - or fear that you might lose it.
Being out of work is a major happiness challenge, and these days, a lot of people have lost their jobs, or are worried about hanging onto their jobs.
So, given this major drain on your happiness, are there steps you can take to feel better at such a time? Even if you don't think you can feel happy, you might be able to feel happier. Keeping yourself as serene, energetic, and cheerful as possible will make it easier to handle this tough situation.
1. Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep affects your mood more than you may realize. It makes difficult situations seem harder, drags down your energy, and lowers your immune system. When you're cut off from your usual schedule, it can be tempting to stay up late, so remind yourself to turn off the light at a reasonable hour. If you're turning off the light but having trouble sleeping because of all your worries, here are some tips for getting good sleep. Also, people who have trouble sleeping sleep better when they...
2. Get some exercise. Exercise both calms you and energizes you. If you can't face going to the gym or going for a run, just go for a 10-minute walk outside. The sunlight and the movement will boost your spirits.
3. Stay connected to other people. You may not feel like going out, making plans, showing up, or talking to other people. But prod yourself to make the effort. Seeing other people will give you a boost and will help distract you (see #8). Also, by staying connected to other people, you're more likely to hear information and to create relationships that might be helpful in the jobs arena.
4. Cultivate an atmosphere of growth in some area of your life. You may feel like you've been pushed a giant step backward; that you're out of control of what's happening to you. Look for a place where you can move forward and take control. Learn to do something new - a new software program, watercolors. Conquer a device - master your camera, a kitchen gadget. Clean something up - your messy garage, your attic. Create something beautiful -- plant a garden, catch up on the photo albums.
5. Help someone else. Your self-esteem may have suffered a blow, so remind yourself of how much you have to give. Teach someone something useful. Make helpful connections for other people. Volunteer your skills. Donate blood. Go through your closets and give away the clothes you don't need (see #6). If you can't face doing anything else, you can at least sign up to be an organ donor. It takes one minute, and you have potentially saved the lives of five people. You can feel great about your day if you've done that!
6. Clear some clutter. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm - and clearing clutter seems to have a disproportionately positive effect. Bringing order to a messy coat closet shouldn't make much of a difference to happiness, but for some reason, it gives a much bigger boost than you might expect. Careful: don't overwhelm yourself. Pick one small area of the messy kitchen counter, or clean out your fridge, or tackle one corner of your desk. Bringing order to your physical environment will help calm you - and is also a good way to observe #4.
7. Be wary of "treating" yourself. One of the 10 Myths of Happiness is that A "treat" will cheer you up. That cigarette, that extra glass of wine, that new pair of shoes, that extra brownie (or two, or three), that big mess in your kitchen because you don't want to deal with loading the dishwasher...will these treats really make you feel happy, in the long run? Or will you be happier if you don't treat yourself?
8. Distract yourself. Find your Area of refuge. Or rent a funny movie, re-read a book you love (I always re-read children's literature when I'm under stress), call a friend with a good sense of humor, visit a museum, or watch some sports on TV. Let yourself take a break from your worries. When you come back to them, you'll feel refreshed and with a better sense of perspective.
9. Remind yourself of what you have. You may have lost your job, but think about what's going right in your life, what you have to feel grateful for. It's a cliche to say "Count your blessings," but it really does boost happiness.
What other strategies would you suggest? What works?
* My friend, the hilarious Pamela Redmond Satran, author of the blog and book, How Not to Act Old (she's working blue there, so enter at your own risk), among many other things, has just created and launched Ho Springs, a serialized novel, with contributions by many other people, about "a little spa town near the gates of hell." Check it out. I think it marks a new way to approach story-telling. The mind reels.
* It's Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
-- Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
-- Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
-- Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 39,000 people get it)
-- Buy the book
-- Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
-- Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
-- Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.
Follow Gretchen Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gretchenrubin