Twenty Frugal Ways to Get Yourself Out of a Bad Place

I’m kind of a cyclical person. I’ll go for a month or two where I just feel great and happy all the time, and then I’ll hit a rough spot where I’m frustrated and unhappy with myself. I find myself being far less productive, and I end up wasting a lot of time not doing anything of value at all.

When I’m in that kind of state, it isn’t fun. I’m not happy with myself. I often feel like I’m putting on a mask of happiness when interacting with people around me. I sleep more, and find I often get sick more, too. I often find myself overspending via online shopping, too.

There are several things that I do to shake myself out of this bad state, none of which involve spending any money. I usually find that a few days of filling my time with these things really helps and I’m back to my typical demeanor.

Please note that I am not a doctor or a therapist, just someone who gets a mild case of the blues sometimes and has found some good ways to get himself out of them. If you feel listless and sad on a frequent basis, you should talk to a doctor.

Go for a walk outside. Get up from whatever it is you’re doing, put on appropriate clothing, and go for a walk around the block. Let some sunshine hit your skin. The combination of those little pieces – simply moving around, getting some vitamin D from the sunshine, changing your environment a little, allowing the sunshine to affect your serotonin levels – will naturally lift you up a little, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time inside lately. I have a “mile walk” that I often take even on cold days; I can complete it in fifteen to twenty minutes depending on my pace and I almost always end up feeling better afterwards.

Visit a natural area, preferably one with trees. You can easily do this in conjunction with a walk if you live near a park. If not, drive to a park somewhere and go on a walk in that park. Just wander around in a natural environment for a while, which gives you all of the benefits of a normal walk, plus there’s a little something extra that one finds in a natural environment, particularly a wooded one. There’s a ton of historical and scientific evidence that “forest bathing” offers some nice mental health benefits. I know that, for myself, a slow walk in the woods almost always leaves me feeling more “together” than before.

Get some mild exercise – anything that you enjoy doing that gets your heart pumping and your breath elevated for a while. This is another thing that you can combine with a walk if you so choose. Just raise your walking pace until you’re at the point where you’re breathing heavier and your heart rate is up and you’re maybe sweating a little bit. If there’s a different exercise you prefer, do that instead – maybe it’s squats or planks or push-ups. The goal is to simply convince your body to release a big pile of endorphins, which feel really good.

Call a friend or family member and have an actual conversation. Don’t just text them or like their social media posts. Call that person up and have an actual conversation with them. Simply say that you wanted to hear their voice, or perhaps reference something they shared, or simply ask how they’re doing. Listen. Ask questions. You’ll get off the phone and feel a lot better about yourself and about the world in general.

Invite a friend over to do something at your house. It really doesn’t matter what you do. It’s simply an opportunity to have some face to face social time with someone, where you positively interact with each other. Invite that person over for a simple dinner or to plan for some future event or to work on crafts or to work on a home repair or home improvement project. Whatever it is you choose to do, the key thing is to do it with someone else. That basic social interaction will do wonders for lifting your spirits.

Change a few elements of your daily routine. Instead of listening to the same radio station on your commute, listen to something different. Have something unusual for lunch. Instead of just watching television in the evening, do something else with that free time. Make something a bit unusual for supper. Just change up some of the elements of your ordinary workday and see how it makes you feel.

If you have a pet, curl up with that pet. Spend some quality time with your pet. Encourage your dog to climb up next to you and take a nap by your side while you pet him or her. Do the same with your cat. If you have another type of pet, spend some time with it, simply talking to it and taking care of it in some fashion. The act of caring for and bonding with a pet releases a lot of positive chemicals inside of people.

Focus on just the big three, and don’t worry about the rest. Identify the three big things you want to achieve today and simply don’t worry about anything else. Just focus on getting those done, then recognize that today was a pretty big success and just fill the rest of your hours with whatever comes to mind, knowing that you’ve taken care of the big things in your day.

Do a mindful meditation or prayer, and repeat it every day. This is one of those things that might help a little when you do it, but the benefit comes from making it a daily practice. Just spend five or ten minutes in a comfortable place with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing or on a simple phrase or short prayer. Whenever you notice your attention wandering, bring it back to your breathing or to that phrase or prayer. That’s it. Over time, you’ll find that it brings you a great deal of peace, but it’s not something that happens overnight.

Eat some fruits and vegetables. It is so easy in this modern world to get into a routine of eating convenient foods that don’t contain many fruits and vegetables at all. Making an effort to include fruits and vegetables in your diet can go a long way toward balancing your food intake and leaving you feeling healthier and more naturally balanced.

Fill up a couple pages in a journal with whatever comes to mind. This is a common journaling practice that I’ve found incredibly valuable in my own life. You just sit down in the morning with an open journal before you and try to fill up three pages with your thoughts. Just write whatever comes to mind. You can also set a timer instead and just strive to write for that length of time. What this does is it forces you to address whatever is on the top of your mind at a slower and more well considered rate. As you write down thoughts by hand, you have to think them through a little more, and because of that you often find yourself reaching deeper conclusions than you otherwise would. Again, this is a great daily practice.

List five things you’re grateful for, and do it every day. This is another practice that gets better and better if you do it every day. Simply make a short list of five things that you’re truly grateful for. They can be small things, like the smell of freshly-poured coffee or the feel of warm sunlight on your skin, or they can be big things, like the love of your life. Just think of five things that make your life better and write them down. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

Get a good night of sleep – not too little, not too much. Many Americans sleep too little, getting five or fewer hours of sleep a night. Others sleep too much, getting ten or twelve or more hours per night. The best balance for virtually all people is somewhere in the middle – seven to nine hours of sleep in a given night is pretty healthy. Start striving for that. If you’re sleeping far more than that, start using alarms to awaken yourself earlier. If you’re sleeping less than that, stop setting an alarm altogether and start going to bed earlier.

Watch your favorite movie, or re-read your favorite book. This is a comfort thing. Re-watching your favorite movie or re-reading your favorite book allows you to go through charted territory again, but it’s joyous territory. You know that media will make you think and lift your mood, so let that happen. Explore those familiar stories and ideas again and let them bolster you again.

Sign up for a volunteer shift at a local charity. While volunteering is all about helping others, there’s also an undeniable benefit that comes along with it – you feel good about yourself, too. It’s not so much a pride thing, but a sense that you’re truly making the world a better place. Volunteer Match is a great place to start this process, as the tool will help you find volunteer opportunities near you.

Help out someone in your life that you know could use a helping hand right now. You can take the same volunteerism approach but apply it to the people in your own life. Who in your life could really use a helping hand? Do you have an elderly relative or friend who is having difficulty getting things done? Perhaps you have another friend who is struggling with the blues even more than you are. Maybe you know some new parents who are burning the candle at both ends. Whatever the case, put some of your time aside and give those people the help they need. Help an elderly relative with some household chores. Visit a lonely friend. Help a new parent by running some errands for them or watching their new infant for a while. You’ll make a real difference, and it’ll feel pretty good.

Take a break from social media. Social media is often filled with people showing off the highlight reels of their life, mixed in with very negative political vitriol. Neither one is particularly good for a personal sense of happiness and well being. So, take a break from it. Log out of social media, delete the apps, and simply stop checking it for a while. You may just find some happier results in your life.

Take a long, warm shower, then brush your teeth and com your hair and put on some deodorant. Sometimes, the simple process of cleaning yourself up, putting on fresh clothes, and making yourself a little more presentable to the world can leave you feeling quite good about yourself and those around you. A shower and a bit of hygiene can really liven a person up.

Clean a room in your home. Choose a room in your home that’s a bit messy and put in the effort to clean it up. Put things away, vacuum the carpet, wipe markings off the walls, dust, change some of the wall decorations, you get the idea. Your goal should be to make the room feel fresh and alive instead of dreary and stale. That simple practice can really go a long way toward improving the state of your home.

If you’re in a relationship, hold onto your partner for a while. Even her hand. Just grab your partner’s hand and hold it for a while, or put your arm around your partner, or rest on your partner’s shoulder or lap. Just be close to your partner in whatever way works the best for you and your partner. That type of closeness unlocks a number of positive psychological and physical effects that can go a long way toward lifting your mood.

These strategies offer a repertoire of tactics that can help you get out of a sad phase in your life. They’re not foolproof and they certainly won’t work for everyone, but they often work for me.

Again, as I stated earlier in this article: Please note that I am not a doctor or a therapist, just someone who gets a mild case of the blues sometimes and has found some good ways to get himself out of them. If you feel listless and sad on a frequent basis, you should talk to a doctor.

Good luck!

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.