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A Few Ways to Find Hope When the World Feels Bleak

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If you’ve been feeling distracted, emotional, angry, or anxious lately, I can assure you you’re in good company. I’ve been feeling devastated about the news, both globally and here in the U.S – sometimes it’s hard not to feel a sense of despair, even paralysis. I’ve had to remind myself that the antidote to despair is action, even the tiniest of actions can feel empowering.

I’m reposting a list I’ve created of simple things we can all do to boost our spirits and make a positive impact today, and any day.

boost our spirits

Find Small Ways to Help

Whatever current event or crisis is bringing you down, there are always ways, both large and small, to show up and help if you look for them. Make a phone call to your elected officials, post or share a resource that you trust, donate your talents, time or money, find a creative way to volunteer. Even something as simple as calling a friend or family member and checking in on them can create a ripple of kindness. Doing something always feels better than doing nothing.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness

When I was a kid, my Dad used to pay the toll for the person behind him every time we crossed a bridge, and we would get such a thrill from seeing the look of surprise and elation on their faces when the toll-taker waved them ahead. Pay for a stranger’s coffee, leave a massive tip for a server, liberally dole out compliments to everyone in your life, surprise someone with a floral delivery, gift card, or gift. Send someone a handwritten letter telling them how much they mean to you. Bring your partner or children breakfast in bed. Cook dinner for a stranger in your community through this brilliant new project, Lasagne Love. Random acts of kindness are a surefire way to give others (and yourself) a boost, and a little bit of sunshine when things feel dark or turbulent.

Escape to Nature

Escaping into nature doesn’t have to mean deep sea diving, exploring hidden caves, or scaling a mountain. Take a drive with the windows down. Go on a hike and look up at the trees. Head to your closest body of water, or park, and drink in the sights and sounds. At the minimum put all devices away, go outside, take a deep breath of fresh air, and let the sun (or the cold) touch your skin. I am a city girl at heart, but a few minutes of staring at the ocean waves, or the nearby redwood trees, can give me an instant sense of calm and perspective.

Make Something

Bake banana bread, write a story, throw a pot (I’ve never said that sentence in my life!), gather a bunch of wild flowers into a beautiful bouquet… just create something – anything – that adds creativity and beauty into the world.

Engage the Senses

Engaging the senses is an easy way to feel more present and calm your central nervous system. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Light a candle. Boil a pot of water filled with lemon and herbs (I did this once, forgot about it, and burned the herbs. It was a disaster, but I know if you do it right it’s really quite lovely). Put on music that you love. Curl up with your favorite book. Wrap yourself in your coziest blanket (I still haven’t caught on to the weighted blanket craze, but people seem to love it). Open your eyes and look at things that make you happy – pictures of loved ones, your favorite pieces of art, images of cities or beaches you hope to one day visit.

Refresh Your Environment

Our physical surroundings inform how we feel, and it doesn’t take much to make a big impact. Clear a surface. Declutter a drawer. Vacuum up the dust bunnies. Bring in some greenery. Swap out art or textiles or decor. Rearrange the furniture if you’re feeling ambitious.

Get Dressed

Our clothing can be a reflection of our emotional state and a shorthand for how we are feeling. I know when I am particularly down I tend to put far less energy into my appearance and sometimes get stuck in a fashion rut (i.e. the Covid classic: workout leggings and sweatshirts again). Instead of waiting to feel better (or lose weight, etc.) to start dressing your best, I encourage you to start now. Lay out your favorite outfit the night before so you don’t have decision fatigue in the morning. Put on your favorite lipstick or accessory. Paint your nails. Identify a daily uniform that fits and flatters and wear it unapologetically on the regular.

Move Your Body

Exercise can be the best medicine and an instant mood booster. If you tend to get stuck spiraling or overanalyzing like I do, get those walking shoes ready and head right out the door. Even fifteen minutes of fresh air and movement can help completely reset when the going gets tough.

Sending my love to those who are suffering or struggling right now and hoping these ideas bring even a little bit of relief. Also linking to this brief poem by Wendell Berry my mother sent me (I’m not so into poetry but this one really moved me) full of hope and beauty and worth a one minute listen. I’d love to know – what strategies work for you when you really need a pick me up?

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson 

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