In the “bad old days,” I used to respond to a bad day by spending money on something. The immediate perk of acquiring something new was usually enough to raise my spirits at least a little, and that little raise in spirit would be enough to help me finish off the day and rise for a new one.
What I came to find out is that this was just another sign of a spending addiction. I was not much different than an alcoholic, using spending to get through the bad days as well as the good.
The solution to this was simple. I started identifying little actions that improved my mood without spending money. Then, I simply would try one (or a small handful) of these actions at the end of a bad day and use those for my mood lifter, without the unnecessary need to spend.
Admittedly, these little actions vary a lot from person to person, but I found that the following worked well for me.
Going for a short jog I would do it just enough so that I would be sweating well and breathing heavy – no need to really push it. That amount of jogging gets my endorphins running, lifting my mood.
Playing with my children If I’ve had a bad day and I’m stressed out, few things improve the situation more than just setting things aside and devoting some uninterrupted time to my children. I’ll wrestle in the living room with my son, tossing him in the air and letting him leap on my back. I’ll hold my daughter and try to eke a smile or a giggle out of her. Or I’ll hold them both and read them a book, my daughter staring at the bright colors and my son trying to name everything on the page.
Looking at my “favorite pictures” I keep a folder of my favorite pictures on my laptop, mostly consisting of pictures of my children. If my children aren’t available to play with, I use this folder.
Eating something rich in soluble fiber, vitamin D, or folate My favorite of these is a small bowl of oatmeal, but canned salmon is very good, as are lentils. These are all natural mood lifters that exist in food – their effects are subtle, but they often amplify the other things I can be doing.
Meditating I like to go to the downstairs bedroom, before my wife or children have arrived home, and just sit on the bed and let everything fade away. I just sit there calmly, focus on my breathing, and try to avoid thinking about anything at all. Sometimes, I’ll slip into a state that’s something like sleep – whenever I do that, I almost always emerge in a better mood.
Talking to an old friend or a loved family member I have a small list of people who really elevate my mood almost every time I talk to them. Usually, when I’m down, I’ll carry on a conversation with one of them and everything begins to seem better.
One factor that elevates things over the long run is realizing I’m not spending the money. After several times of substituting spending money for one or two of these activities, there’s suddenly more money in my savings account and I suddenly feel a lot better about things.