I used to suffer from depression and anxiety, and it took me a lot to get back to myself. Because of this, I really like to do little things that make me feel better if I'm feeling down. So I spoke to a few therapists about things that make you happier that they tell their friends about, to see what they recommend.
I reached out to Annie Wright, a licensed psychotherapist from Berkley, California, Amanda Mulfinger, a clinical psychologist who owns a small practice in Minneapolis, and Veronica Vaiti, a licensed clinical social worker, and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of NYC Therapy Group. They were all super insightful regarding advice on little things to do that will keep you happier, which is always helpful, but especially relevant in the winter time.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is especially prominent in the fall and winter, and as someone who suffers from that (which is why I'm always chasing the sun), I was curious to hear more about it. "Winter is a time marked by shorter days, less hours of sunlight, cooler if not very cold weather depending upon where you live and the busy and sometimes difficult holiday season," Vaiti said. "So people tend to stay in, exercise less, eat more comfort-type of food, imbibe more alcohol, have less exposure to sunlight, and can isolate more and/or overextend themselves, all of which can depress and deplete the human system and mind."
Wright, Mulfinger, and Vaiti shared some really great products with me that could definitely help boost your happiness, whether you're suffering from SAD or you have ongoing depression or anxiety.
1. An Adult Coloring Book To Relieve Stress
Wright said, "The sky's the limit when it comes to imagining and cultivating creative self-soothing, home-based activities, resources, and methods to support your mental health." Coloring is a great activity to try to fit into your day. It can be incredibly therapeutic, and it allows you to tap into your creative side. Plus, it relieves stress and it gives you the opportunity to step back from social media, which she believes can be an added form of anxiety.
2. A Light Therapy Lamp, So You Can Balance Your Body Clock
"Purchase a natural day-light lamp for anywhere between $30-300, and spend at least 20 minutes a day in front of the lamp, in order to feel the benefits," Vaiti suggested to me. Benefits include balancing your body clock, and boosting your mood and your energy. The light mimics a sunny day, which helps keep the symptoms of depression at bay when the days start to get shorter.
3. Learn How To Be Happier Now
I think that Julie Morgenstern (author of New York Times Best Seller Organizing From The Inside Out) said it best, “wonderful. . . . Rubin shows how you can be happier, starting right now, with small, actionable steps accessible to everyone." Rubin's book puts life into perspective: It's short, and you should focus on what matters. And that includes being happy. Follow along with her on her year-long journey to find as much happiness as possible. Plus, Mulfinger told me, "It's uniquely inspiring and pushes you into behaviors that actually do increase happiness."
4. ...And Keep Track Of Your Progress For The Next Five Years With A Workbook
I personally love these kinds of journals. Most people don't have the time to keep detailed accounts of their lives, so one sentence journals give you the chance to reflect on a different quote on the top of each page, every day for five years. It's a really great thing if you suffer from depression because you generally write down good things that happened that day, which allows you to find something nice to look at in the future if you're having a bad day.
5. Make Life Easier And Do A Fun Activity
When I asked Wright about what kind of products she suggests friends and clients use to create more happiness, she told me, "I first invite them to consider if there is a product or service they could purchase which would help bring more joy, ease, and relief to their lives." She said that this could be something like a food subscription kit or meal plan that helps eliminate the stress and worry about feeding you and your family healthy meals. Instead of having to go to the store (which can sometimes be an overwhelming experience in itself), having items and recipes delivered to your door not only release anxiety, but it gives them a fun activity to do with their loved ones.
6. Practice Meditation To Release Stress
If you're into finding more natural ways to feel happiness in your life, Vaiti says meditation and stretching are a great way to accomplish this. If you're a beginner, you can use a program like this one that helps you learn how to harness the power of meditation. The book teaches you posture, breathing exercises, and helps you create a daily schedule, so you can work it into your busy life.
7. A Board Game That Helps You Find The Joy In Life
This is a great game that you can use to discover more about yourself and others. It's a great form of self-therapy that Wright often recommends her clients use. It's meant to help you work through issues with yourself and others, while instilling happiness into your everyday life.
8. A Book That Reminds You That You Don't Need To Be Perfect
It's important to step back and remind yourself that you're not alone. Nobody is perfect, and most people's lives become a mess at one point or another. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life does a great job in reminding women that life is hard — and that's okay. One reader described the author as "relatable, even though our experiences differed so much." It's rare to find a book that you can find a piece of yourself in, if the story is so different from your life, but this one does that.
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