when things are this down, there's only one direction they can go: sideways
January 28, 2008 6:19 PM   Subscribe

What are some little things I can do to stay positive and kind to myself while going through some heartache?

I tried searching for similar questions but I didn't really come up with anything specific, maybe because my question isn't too specific.

I'd like to hear your brain hacks -- little things you do for yourself when you're feeling shitty or having a bad day or going through extended winter blahs or feeling lonely or trying to recover from love lost (or in my case, never won).

I know about the cliché click-flick stuff like taking a bubble bath and eating Hâagen-Dazs or whatever, but those things have little resonance for me. I need some little acts of kindness to myself that will remind me that I'm alright, I gotta keep looking forward, I've got good qualities, it will get better, gotta stay aware of and grateful for the good things, anything that's a boost to your outlook when chips are down.

Anyone who can advise on simple meditation for beginners (with ADD), I'd definitely be interested in giving that a try, if it could be helpful. I'm even willing to do freakin' affirmations in the mirror if it truly helps.

(Sorry this isn't a very articulate question -- not really feeling it these days. I hope it makes sense anyway.)
posted by loiseau to Health & Fitness (50 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
Move your body. Walk, run, play a sport, yoga, anything that will give you a nice endorphine rush. Nothing like a little built-in chemical high to beat the blues.
posted by trinity8-director at 6:28 PM on January 28, 2008

When I get into one of these funks, I've always tried to embark on some sort of minor but easily obsessed over self-improvement effort. I have joined a spin class, for instance, scrimped to pay off a credit card, volunteered for something, learned about or read about something new, that sort of thing. By focusing on that activity, I would think about how much better it was going to make me feel in the future, which would remind me that there would be, of course, a future, and when I got there, I'd have forgotten about whatever was getting me down.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:34 PM on January 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think this is going to be fairly specific but:
- work out
- watch a sappy movie (distract myself)
- hang out with some good friends
- drink with some good friends
- flirt with fun/cute boy
- do something good for someone else - REALLY - random acts of kindness seem to cheer me up
- splurge on something for myself - e.g. clothing
- read an engrossing book (distract myself)
posted by n'muakolo at 6:34 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

For the last couple of months I have been fighting a severe suicidal depression episode which has even manifested into a bit or agoraphobia which is not normal for me. something that worked yesterday won't always work today. I have found that forcing myself to search you tube for tags like "baby laughing" lightens my mood sometimes. just try not to laugh at them-impossible. also I have immersed myself in watching movies (just no girly movies I'm not ready for them). also walking outside helps. even when its cold. for what its worth, you are not alone there.
posted by meeshell at 6:41 PM on January 28, 2008

This might not work for anyone else in the world but me, but I listen to "This Year" by the Mountain Goats. Just saw the video for the first time... doesn't work quite as well.
posted by BugsPotter at 6:47 PM on January 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Seconding the cute youtube vids, especially baby animals. This one is adorable. Or do a search for kittens or puppies. Or there's Cute Overload. Stuff like that always makes me feel better.
posted by Sar at 6:47 PM on January 28, 2008

I marked this as a favorite because I'm going through something very similar: love never won. My plan is to go find Ben and Jerry and pop in my "Golden Girls" final season DVD. Call it cheesy but laughing always, always helps. Sorry you're feeling bad.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 6:52 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: The following links are not all maudlin chocolate and bubble bath quick fixes. They're practical solutions when emotional turmoil makes day-to-day necessities difficult. I think, anyway.

Molly Gordon's work/life balance helps me. So does Adrian Savage's ten simple ways to keep from messing up your life. Here's a checklist to help identify things that might make you feel better. Page 10 of this PDF has similar suggestions, both of these from the Woman's Comfort Book.

I think avoiding television (and similar media) with it's constant "You're not good enough" message is important.

This thread reminds me of the little things that mean so much.

And when things are not so good in one aspect of my life, I try to make another aspect better - clean out a closet, do some uncluttering, gardening, painting.

The world poverty link that I can't find puts a lot of my angst in perspective, seeing as I'm in the richest 5% of the world's population, even if it doesn't feel like it.
posted by b33j at 6:52 PM on January 28, 2008 [6 favorites]

Best answer: And be sure to force yourself to wear a little makeup and lipstick and wear a nice outfit for the rest of the week.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2008

I'd like to hear your brain hacks -- little things you do for yourself when you're feeling shitty or having a bad day or going through extended winter blahs or feeling lonely or trying to recover from love lost (or in my case, never won).

Mine is a change of scenery. Get in the car or get on the train, and go to a new city. See things I haven't before, and try actively to embrace the new, which kicks me out of the rut and recalibrates my head. If I can get on a plane and go somewhere even farther, all the better. Granted, this works for me because I enjoy being alone, but I realize that might not always be the solution.

I have a dear friend who keeps emergency funds on hand for a full body massage, for just this sort of situation. Afterward, she has a sauna session and then finishes in the pool. She finds not only physical comfort but also emotional release in the process; she believes that the massage lets out karmic toxins and that the heat and water cleanse and purify her. I know it sounds a bit woo-woo but she swears by it.

speaking of a bit woo-woo, I hope all the MeFites who are looking for solace and comfort find it.
posted by pineapple at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

The thing that has helped me the most, when I get in a particularly awful mood, is to verbalize how I'm feeling and why, e.g. "I'm feeling irritable because I haven't slept well for three days" or "I'm feeling depressed because there's way too much fucking snow on the ground" or "I'm feeling bad about myself because all of my friends have had success in their jobs recently and I haven't." Usually the source of the feeling is something I've dealt with before and know how to get through. It sounds cheesily simple, but it works wonders for me, and it prevents me from spiraling into the pit of nobody-loves-me-i'm-worthless misery that's so easy to fall into. Next time you're in a funk for whatever reason, say to yourself, "I'm feeling _________ because of ________." It's not an instant cure, but being aware of my reasons for being unhappy helps me ride out the blues so much better.

I second getting in motion, too. Inertia fuels depression. It can be incredibly hard to drag yourself out of bed at the worst of times, but when you're there all you have to keep you occupied is your negative thoughts. You don't have to go for a run or drive across town - just getting up and vaccuuming the floor or organizing your shelves will create momentum and get your mind off the negative. Getting up is the hardest part; once you're in motion you'll stay there for a while.

I hope things look up for you soon; I've enjoyed your contributions here and hope that some of this will help you out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:22 PM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: every night before I go to bed I write "what worked today" in a journal specially for that purpose. even the suckiest day has SOMETHING that was nice: a good cup of tea? actually got out of bed today? saw a bluejay? it's nice to remember something good right before going to sleep; helps me sleep a little better when times are tough.
posted by epersonae at 7:31 PM on January 28, 2008 [10 favorites]

I tried to do sometime significant every day, whether it was writing ten pages of my thesis or volunteering. It kept me going because every day I had to think of what I was going to do to fulfill that obligation to myself. It made me do some random crazy awesome things.
posted by melissam at 7:33 PM on January 28, 2008

- Lift weights (works on a metaphorical level, too! bonus!)
- Put on music. Sing--if you don't like your voice, turn up the volume so you can't hear yourself. Dance--if you don't think you're a good dancer, close your eyes and just move all goofy.
- Make yourself smile. Seconding CuteOverload, etc (here are my recent favorites). Or just, quite literally, force your mouth to curve upwards. Force yourself to laugh. It feels silly, but it still releases the endorphins, so after a minute you're smiling for real.
posted by hippugeek at 7:45 PM on January 28, 2008

Exercise. Nothing beats it. But find something that's actually fun, rather than hauling yourself to a horrible treadmill at a gym. Tennis, cycling, swimming, whatever rocks your boat.

A bit like what epersonae & melissam suggested, from time to time I've kept a daily diary, tallied up at the end of the week, noting down things in a bunch of different categories, the aim being to get me out & exploring more, constantly pushing to find new things. You'd be surprised how many great experiences are right under your nose, if only you get out of your nice familiar comfort zone more. The categories were things like:

* best new food eaten this week
* most interesting new person spoken to
* best new place
* best sensual experience (not meaning necessarily sexual - this one gets you out doing things like nightswimming, lazing around in tall grass, jogging in the rain, that kinda stuff)

After a few weeks of this, you should find that you're a lot more outgoing, curious, sociable & having a lot more fun.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:48 PM on January 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Here's a couple of mine (chick flicks have never done it for me, although I'm sure I've done drunken bubble baths after breakups):

1) volunteering. Mine was cooking for a soup kitchen once a month.
2) meditation for ADD? Check. I find either a repetitive mantra/series of prayers (mine is the Anglican rosary) or turning my attention outward to focus on something specific in the outside world (bird-watching and following dragonflies have been two)
3) a gratitude journal. (A lot like epersonae mentions)
4) if you're of a spiritual bent, asking friends and such to pray for you. I did this after a serious breakup of a 3-year relationship. I asked friends, relatives, and astrologer Rob Brezsny to pray for me and got some wonderful answers. I wish I had kept these -- the best ones were Brezsny's (which was, predictably, psychedelic) and an aunt's (she said she'd put a word in to her recently deceased cousin, the monk in the family, and see if that helped).
posted by lleachie at 7:55 PM on January 28, 2008

Thanks, lleachie! Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology!
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:06 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few of my favorite strategies that haven't been listed yet:

- be extra conscientious about flossing and taking a multivitamin daily, as concrete ways of taking care of myself

- hang out in nature, somewhere quiet. (hike, sit on a park bench, or -my favorite- stare at the stars for a while)

- visit the dog park, even if you don't have a dog

You might also find some good suggestions in these previous threads.
posted by vytae at 8:14 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: Anyone who can advise on simple meditation for beginners (with ADD), I'd definitely be interested in giving that a try, if it could be helpful. I'm even willing to do freakin' affirmations in the mirror if it truly helps.

The powerful thing about meditation is that there's not much to it - it boils down to cultivating a state of presence. You might have to trick your mind in to it sometimes. I find a gentler approach makes more sense, and that's probably what you need right now anyway.

I've mixed (more shaken than stirred) feelings on Pema Chödrön - as I have about most Buddhists, actually - but I once read something she wrote that stayed with me: it was the idea of letting oneself experience one's emotions, neither repressing them or - this is the hardest part, actually - acting on them. Even naming them is a way of acting on them, as is giving them special places in our internal melodramas. Obviously there are times to act on your feelings, but there's value in just experiencing them, watching them, to see where they come from and where they go when left on their own.

If you're not accustomed to this, or if it makes you anxious, it works well during a simple breath counting meditation. But you may find that eventually you start to see how often you unconsciously tell yourself stories about your feelings, or their causes, and how this is capable of letting them spiral beyond your control, or masking what's really going on. I've had problems with anxiety in my life - when I let myself experience it, neither repressing nor acting on it, I found two things: it was connected to a deeper, subtler sadness, which I could then begin to address; and it was, really, pretty unnecessary and actually kind of amusing in its own way. Realising this allowed me to slow down and address deeper problems, but with a light heart.

Heartbreak's tough. We make it even tougher. Aside from the real pain of loss, it's often tied to all sorts of doubts we have about ourselves, parts of our lives that we've been neglecting, places where we're not as self-sufficient as we could be. Pain is a message your body is sending to you. If you let yourself watch and listen to it, without getting down on yourself, and without repressing or acting out - watch it like you would a robin in a field doing its thing - you may arrive slowly, to a place of greater understanding and calm.

I hope it doesn't seem like I wasn't answering your question. I think at times like this, being able to feel what you feel, but doing it with amusement, curiousity, and permission, rather than with dramatic investment, can be really useful and very liberating.

You can also just do the breath meditation on its own, focusing only on the breath, when you don't feel like staying with those feelings. When they come up, just let them pass without judgement, and return to the breath. It's a way of escaping without escaping, and you'll find things start to settle after regular practice for a while.

Other than that, yeah, I second the exercise (swimming and cycling would especially be my choices - anything that lets you get in to a rhythm). Oh, and the massage was a good idea - I think the ideal is to find ways to let yourself work through things without over-focusing or ignoring. Let your body do the work when it can, it's good at it.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:29 PM on January 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Sorry, re-reading your question I realized I might have unfairly translated "heartache" as heartbreak. But even if this isn't a relationship thing, I think my reply still applies.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: Loving everyone's answers here, particularly as I go through a little pain in the heart myself.

I find it helps to ask the question: I wonder what will happen next?

For example, I would say: The man I love doesn't seem to love me the way I hoped. Damn.....

I wonder what will happen next? (wait few minutes)

Shit. Rain.

I wonder what will happen next? (few minutes)

Oh, hey. My bus. Sweet.

Personally, I find this reminds me that my life is ever moving forward, like any good adventure novel. Oddly enough, by just acknowledging what is happening, I'm able to be present in the moment without fixating/wallowing.

Ok, time to get the trader joe breaded eggplant cutlets out of the oven. Yummy.
posted by anitanita at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2008 [8 favorites]

The only thing that has consistently worked for me over the years is music. I make time to listen to music that I love and it always fixes me.

I am listening to some now, in fact.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:55 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


search for babies laughing on youtube. it is impossible not to cheer up watching the babies. also, that sneezing panda suggestion was faaantastic.
posted by ncc1701d at 9:18 PM on January 28, 2008

You know, I feel your pain. I've been there. The best medicine is time. In the meantime, try all of the above.
posted by wv kay in ga at 9:21 PM on January 28, 2008

treat yourself to a full body massage, maybe even a manicure/pedicure and then to dinner at a great restaurant with your most positive, supportive friend. also, a yoga class is great way to combine meditation and some endorphin-boosting exercise. best of luck!
posted by enaira at 9:26 PM on January 28, 2008

All of these suggestions are great. Make sure to take care of yourself.

But if you really start feeling crappy about life and yourself in general I would strongly recommend reading "Feeling Good" by David Burns. It just recently really helped me out of a hard time and I can tell the skills I've learned from it will help me immensely in keeping myself out of those really dark, deep holes that can be easy to fall into when life circumstances are less than you hoped for.
posted by Defenestrator at 9:44 PM on January 28, 2008

I take a long drive with appropriate tunes on the I-pod. For a love lost - probably mopey somebody-done-somebody-wrong Country songs. Oh, and I sing out loud. That's me on the highway, singing and driving and crying. Good luck to the officer who pulls me over for speeding.

At some point, I get bored with mopey songs and I start moving over to happy stuff. I sing out loud to that too.
posted by 26.2 at 10:19 PM on January 28, 2008

Such great suggestions, I don't think I have much else to say except to emphasize music and nature as others have. I find when I'm down I get so wrapped up in my head that I forget to listen to music, and there are some songs that help remind us of other times and other parts of ourselves that feel good to be reminded of. Finding songs that really express how you feel, or on the other hand, have a lot of happy energy in them, might work well for you too.

I've also found during some down times that deciding to make time to do something you've been meaning to do for awhile helps promote that feeling of moving forward and satisfaction of getting things done. Maybe it's organizing the closet, maybe it's signing up for a class or volunteering, but because you've been thinking about doing it for awhile, it feels all the more satisfying and hopeful to finally get around to it.

Paying attention to the nature around me is always calming and reassuring too. There is so much beauty in it, but there are also some helpful metaphors in it too that I like to remind myself of. Ecosystems are always in flux, always changing and yet in some kind of equilibrium, and we are a part of this too so how can it not be the same for us? I like how it reminds us that no state is permanent, or how there's a powerful resiliency in nature, or how plants find a way to grow in the most inhospitable places... etc. I find that the more you look for it and watch nature, the more humbling and encouraging it can be in rough times.

Good luck :) this is a hard season to get through even without additional heartache.
posted by onoclea at 10:47 PM on January 28, 2008

Best answer: My two cents: riding the train, the book When Things Fall Apart (good meditation instructions), exercising in the morning, planting seeds in little pots, going on bike rides (seriously, it is hard to ride a bike and be unhappy at the same time), going to yoga class, and working toward new friendships for next year.
posted by salvia at 11:16 PM on January 28, 2008

Seconding a lot things on here, here's my take - I have a playlist on iTunes called "Smile" and have filled it with songs that make me do exactly that. Works every time, whether I sing along, dance, jump around or whatever.

Make a list of shit things you need to do (tidying, paperwork, talk to the bank, sort your pension etc). Simply making the list focusses my attention on these things and they slowly start to get done. Doesn't matter if you don't cross them off, make another list a couple of days later if you need to, it's the list itself which soothes me, makes me feel as though I'm achieving something.

Trying to figure out whether what I do is the right path paralyses me into inaction - remember that there is no right or wrong decision - I watched Charlie Wilson's War last night and a line from Philip Seymour Hoffman tickled me, a bit cheesy but it tickled me:

A boy is given a horse on his 14th birthday. Everyone in the village says, 'Oh how wonderful.' But a Zen master who lives in the village says, 'We shall see.' The boy falls off the horse and breaks his foot. Everyone in the village says, 'Oh how awful.' The Zen master says, 'We shall see.' The village is thrown into war and all the young men have to go to war. But, because of the broken foot, the boy stays behind. Everyone says, 'Oh, how wonderful.' The Zen master says, 'We shall see.'

Good luck...
posted by jontyjago at 2:51 AM on January 29, 2008

change of routine (listen to music instead of watching tv, or go out for a movie or something)
change of scenery (weekend day trip)
spending time with friends and family
cleaning the house top to bottom (wonderful sense of accomplishment)
a good haircut

and hang in there. if this doesn't lift soon, see a doctor. it's been shown that prolonged grief/sadness due to external events can actually lead to a biochemical depression, and that's something you want to avoid.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:33 AM on January 29, 2008

Throw out some junk. Be vicious, and don't be afraid to use the garbage can or donate stuff to charity that you could conceivably sell yourself - it's great to find better ways of disposing of things but sometimes stuff hangs around for years because we never get around to actually organizing things properly.

There is some evidence that doing something nice for someone else actually makes you feel better for longer than doing something nice for yourself. This could be as simple as paying someone a sincere compliment.
posted by teleskiving at 5:03 AM on January 29, 2008

Best answer: This is going to sound weird, but . . . when I was very sad about a break up, I took a quote that inspired me to sort of aim for a pure heart and hung it up where I could see it most of my day, which for me was at work. (I don't know if it matters, but my particular quote was Robert E. Lee's admission that he had surrendered to Lincoln's goodness as much as to Grant's artillery, which now seems weirdly impersonal but at the time spoke to me about people in defeat rising above it by being true and honorable.) It did not take away all the pain, obviously, but it helped to make me aim for hope and goodness in my everyday acts towards others, and banking up those small kindnesses to others was something that made me proud of myself again in small steps.

Good luck. You will get through it.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:27 AM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Related to what teleskiving said, I see, so really not that weird!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:33 AM on January 29, 2008

Best answer: Great suggestions in this thread. I have only one thing to add, and that is that it was a revelation for me to learn, sometime within the past 10 years, that I could choose what I was thinking about, to some degree. Today, when I feel myself getting down, I'm often able to short-circuit it by recognizing the feeling - something like what Metroid Baby says - and then saying to myself "Do I need to feel this right now? Can I postpone it? What about thinking about/getting involved in something else right now, and coming back to this feeling tonight if I need to? Would it be nicer to feel something else right now?" I would have laughed this strategy off when I was younger, but it's effective at changing my mood about 50% of the time now. It used to be that moods seemed all-powerful and inescapable, but they aren't, at least not always. If you give yourself permission to feel another way, it might be that you can choose to.

When you do feel good, go with it, and make the most of it. Even for a moment. Really notice and enjoy it.

Question your assumptions and avoid catastrophizing. Bad thoughts can spiral: for instance "my relationship failed" can lead to "all my relationships have failed, I am obviously terrible at relationships, I will probably never establish a healthy relationship, I am a fundamentally flawed human being" -- all of which is highly debatable and not very helpful. You don't know anything about the future, and there are many, many ways of interpreting past events. Don't follow that trail when it comes up - recognize the facts, but see if there are alternative interpretations, or just allow yourself to think about something else. You don't have to have everything figured out - really.
posted by Miko at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Laughing, for sure. Favorite sitcoms, lolcats, Overheard in New York, podcasts.

Music. I discovered recently that while listening to music that matches my sad mood (my "Sad sacking" playlist) can be cathartic, it can also reinforce that mood. So I have an upbeat playlist for times when I need to jolt myself out of it.

Dancing. I think Hermitosis suggested this on another thread, and I just loved it: Impromptu ten-minute dance party! Put on your favorite booty-shaking music and let loose in your bedroom. It's fun, it gets your adrenaline going, and the effects last for much longer than the ten minutes.

Get enough (but not too much) sleep. When I really need to take care of myself, I do a full-on, half-hour bedtime routine: turn off the phone and computer, engage in various beauty methods of choice, put on calming music (I find that classical is the best), and even light some candles for a few minutes while I lie in bed and try to empty my mind. Which reminds me--a shower by candlelight sounds weird, but if you don't have the time/patience for a full bath, it can feel indulgent.

Finally, my favorite way to feel like I'm taking care of myself: Cook or buy a really good meal. I prefer to have these be a little luxurious (spend a little more money?) but also healthy. I pick my favorite high-nutrient foods (spinach, sweet potatoes, etc.) and really do it up.

Remind yourself that you can take care of yourself and make your life good in very basic but important ways. Good luck.
posted by CiaoMela at 6:46 AM on January 29, 2008

Best answer: Get. Out. Of. The. House!

seriously. That's the first and most important step. Turn everything off, grab your camera or a sketchpad or some knitting and go to the park. Watch babies and dogs play, and do something that doesn't involve focussing on screens. At the risk of sounding like a loony moonie, the screens only want to give you bad news. Don't let them.

If the thought of 'traditional' exercise exhausts and/or depresses you more, try taking some beginning, low impact style yoga; I'd recommend hatha for the meditation concepts. The instructors will teach you the poses and how to concentrate.

also: I'd like to second this poster's list. ESPECIALLY the part about selfless acts and flirting. Nothing will make you a more self confident person than practising a little (harmless) flirting. I found that being a SERIOUS PERSON made me even more moody and introverted. Flirting does NOT have to be sexually freighted at all. Hell I flirt with people old enough to be my grandparents and young enough to be my kids. By "flirting" I really mean "interacting with people-regardless-of-age-or-gender in a lighthearted, friendly manner". This takes a lot of practise, and your first attempts may WILL probably be awkward. It doesn't matter, keep trying, it's like exercising a flabby muscle - time and repetition makes it stronger. Compliment a colleague on a cute sweater, tell the grocery clerk you like his tattoo, where did he get it done?, blablabla. Try it once or twice a week at first, soon you'll be doing it (and genuinely, too) with regularity. Do it with a smile and harmless intent and no expectations for reciprocation. Practise, practise, practise.

Selfless acts: Nothing makes me feel better than picking up a stranger's book/pen/whatever that they dropped, holding a door, giving away a bus token or a bicycle tube with *no* thought of ever being reciprocated. I do this kind of stuff ALL THE TIME, and (here's the tricky part) I really don't let it weigh on me if I get indifference or even rudeness in return. Because seriously, even if it's the shitty stuff you remember? A great majority of the time people are really nice in return, and I get the perc of having helped them out. I don't know what it is about the human brain that wants to latch onto the assholes and the suffering to make it out of proportion to everything else, but trust me, try not to let that stuff loom in your consciousness. The more you can learn to shrug off the slings and arrows (and the random dickheads too) and just nurture your own awesome, the more it will grow and expand to encompass the world around you.

I've borrowed this quote before, but it's so true: you have to GIVE love, to get love. Not just from other people, mind you, but also from yourself.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:40 AM on January 29, 2008

Wonderful suggestions. I came in to suggest Pema Chodron's When Things Fall apart, already covered by regicide and salvia.

My own brain hack: I remind myself that feeling bad is inevitable, but feeling bad about feeling bad is completely optional.

For example: sadness over a lost love -- part of life, inevitable, happens to everyone.

However! Obsessing over what might have been, feeling stupid for being so upset, wishing I felt differently -- all of that is meta-feeling-bad. And I can choose not to go there.

It's more or less the Buddhist distinction between pain and suffering. As a person who tends to be hard on myself, it's been very helpful.

Best wishes to you, loiseau. May you hold your sorrow lightly so it can fly away soon.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:02 AM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I started to mark best answers and then I got frustrated because I don't want anyone to think that if I didn't best-answer theirs, it wasn't helpful. To be honest even just the fact that you all posted has been helpful, on top of your ideas. So thank you!

The Youtube suggestions recall a time last year when I was searching for the word "bloopers" on YT now and then. I'll post some smile-inducing links for fellow-travellers:
the kayak around 0:11 is my favourite... sometimes I watch it over and over
the guy trying not to bail on top of his kid, and the first and last waterslide ones are my favourite
"women bloopers" (?)
"A Horse With No Name" covered by Legion of Rock Stars (thank you, The Blue)
Nora the piano-playing cat

I've got a few forces of negativity in my life right now besides hopeless, unrequited love (I even woke up today with a cold) so I'm going to re-read the posts here over and over and try stuff. Again, thanks to everyone for posting -- do keep it coming if you've got more.

And virtual cups of tea to those riding on a bummer right now too... we can do this thing!
posted by loiseau at 11:46 AM on January 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: loiseau: bloopers

I had forgotten why I favourited this on Youtube... now that I'm re-watching it I remember it's the dude rollerskater!!

posted by loiseau at 11:48 AM on January 29, 2008

So many of the suggestions above are great, but I'd like to really emphasize just big a role music has played in giving me a life-raft when things looked dire. The key is not having The Right Song - they key is having the right song for you - the song that hits a note deep inside of yourself, whose lyrics can be a mantra of sorts. Two songs that've performed that role for me are Winter, by Tori Amos, and Parking Lot, by Mineral. In both cases, there are lyrical snippets that have emotional connotations so much deeper than first glance would reveal. These are simple, simple lyrics that somehow do it for me.


When you gonna make up your mind? When you gonna love you as much as I do? When you gonna make up your mind? Because things are gonna change so fast.

The idea that a. life is so, so fucking short, and everything around us is constantly changing, and b. the command by someone, even an anonymous-to-us singer, to love ourselves as much as they do...this gets me every time.

Parking Lot:

So come on with the darkness, and come on with the fear, because I've gotta start somewhere, and it might as well be here.

This simple rhyme has just stuck with me since I heard it years ago. When I'm in a particularly rough stage, especially when struck with anxiety attacks/social shyness, or about to have a potentially painful conversation, I just repeat that to myself. It's not a magic rhyme - but it's magic for me. It's all about finding that one peg of poetry you can hang yourself on when there's not much to hold on to.
posted by Ash3000 at 8:13 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You know, to be honest I'm kind of avoiding music. Why? Music is too personal to me. Almost everything I listen to is evocative of a time, a place, a person, an emotion, a sensation... It's intimate. Always has been. Even that which doesn't evoke anything to do with my wasted love brings up some feelings for me, and it makes me feel vulnerable. Today was the first time I have gone out willingly without my MP3 player in a very, very long time.

I think if I listen to any music it has to be stuff I've never heard before. At least for now, until things are less raw.

About meditation: this may be the stupidest question ever, but how do you know when you're doing it? How do you know you're in the zone or whatever? Because I always have thoughts. Is that normal?

Tonight I decided to spend a little money I don't have to cheer myself up. On the way to the mall I took the wrong bus -- ended up going 45 minutes out of the way, then ended up INSIDE the bus garage because the bus went out of service and the driver didn't know I was still on it; then I had to take another hour's worth of buses to get back to the mall in the complete opposite direction. However I did find a pair of jeans on sale for $10 so maybe I've evened out my balance for today.
posted by loiseau at 10:37 PM on January 29, 2008

When I feel bad, especially during heartbreak, I tell myself what I am feeling is life at its most authentic. Emotions like that are the marrow of life. In those sad moments, I remind myself that life is playing out one of its more riveting and more importantly inevitable scenes.
posted by kaizen at 9:59 AM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here's a Youtube vid that's guaranteed to make you smile.

And because it always cheers me up, no matter how many times I've heard it, I'll throw in The Laughing Policeman.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2008

About meditation: this may be the stupidest question ever, but how do you know when you're doing it? How do you know you're in the zone or whatever? Because I always have thoughts. Is that normal?

That's totally normal. In the zen meditation groups I've participated in, people consistently express great happiness and surprise that they "didn't think anything" for maybe a solid 5-10 seconds. But then of course they thought to themselves, "Hey, I'm not thinking!" Heheheh... And these are people who have been meditating daily for months or years. For me, I always had trouble trying to push thoughts away, because then I'm just thinking about not thinking. And it's too hard, too much trying to do something. What seems to work better for me is, when I notice myself thinking about something, to gently say in my head, "you don't have to think right now." Not that I needed to force thoughts away, but that I don't need to bother continuing them. It shifts the emphasis from "making an effort not to do something" into "not making the effort to do something." Of course I still think all the time, but this approach helps me let go of the thoughts. (Sorry, it's hard to explain, I hope that made sense.)

Another approach that a lot of people do in mindfulness meditation is to focus on one thing. So, maybe it's the feel of your breath coming in and out of your nostrils. Or the feel of your belly moving against the inside of your shirt as you breathe. Or the way your weight shifts onto different parts of the soles of your feet as you veeeerrrry slowly walk around a room. Or the sounds you hear in your environment. When you find yourself thinking about something else, just go back to paying attention to the one specific thing.
posted by vytae at 12:56 PM on January 30, 2008

**in case of emergency**

first off,

get in your car and go for a loooong drive, preferrably out in the country. The less traffic, the better. find a spot and cry your heart out if you have to, it'll give you relief and then listen to soothing music or a comedy channel. try to laugh at something.

i did this when i was in a miserable relationship where i had to find a place to escape to. i used to sit in my car in the supermarket parking lot and just cry, scream and yell until my mind went numb and i had no tears left. it helps temporarily, but eventually you will have to find a solution to your problem.

**on a regular basis**

sometimes it helps to take a natural herbal remedy to keep yourself on even keel. calm thoughts by source naturals works for me, especially during pms time. chamomile tea helps, too.

excersize and taking care of your heath is the most important. then you can splurge on yourself a bit with luxurious baths or maybe some shopping. Ultimately though, you have to confront what is bothering you. Take charge of it, even if you have to go out of character and be an ass. I ended up breaking up with the guy who drove me to the point of insanity and called off the wedding in the nick of time. I pissed off a lot of people but now I don't have to find a parking lot to cry in anymore.

the human soul can only take so much suffering.
posted by seagrass at 12:16 PM on February 1, 2008

Response by poster: seagrass: get in your car and go for a loooong drive, preferrably out in the country.

I don't have a car -- it would be nice to get out of town though, if I could. Right now renting one is not in the budget. But I do think you're right generally, I love driving and when I did have a car some years ago being able to scoot away on my own was truly a saving grace.

But, not having a car means I do get exercise regularly, because I walk everywhere. (I miss my bike but the weather just is not fit for the next while.)

One of the most helpful bits in the thread has been the reminder that I don't have to think about this right now. I have many times caught myself ruminating on events over the last while that have been bothering me, and it has been very liberating to just tell myself, I can think about that later if I decide to. But I won't think about it right now. That's because I'm able to tell it's not the productive kind of thinking. It's just going over details of things I can't change. And I think right now the best thing is to let myself off the hook and just push through the worst days and weeks beating myself up as little as possible.
posted by loiseau at 9:57 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Go to a can't-miss tried-and-true salon and get a bitchin' haircut. I know it's cliche, post break up hairstyle changes, but it really does work wonders. I got one after the last break up and I got appreciative smiles on the walk home from the salon! ...And for weeks after. I felt lighter, too. Like a weight had been taken off in more than one way. Silly but true.
posted by ifjuly at 9:04 AM on February 2, 2008

Always see a health professional about serious depression over a significant timeframe. Serious depression is overwhelming, and it needs serious medical help. Your trusted family doctor is a good place to start.

For mild depression, self-care amounts to harnessing your own body's ability to heal itself. A first step in healing is to put good fuel into your body: cut down or cut out alcohol (which is a central nervous system depressant) and eat nutritious foods. To improve mood, i.e. boost happy neurochemicals, the most effective reliable method is exercise. You don't have to buy a gym membership to get the positive effect on brain neurochemistry - brisk walking, stair climbing, a pickup game of soccer, etc. will do just fine. Try to get your heart into its aerobic range for about half an hour per day, most days a week. Pick activities which are easy to begin quickly (so you actually end up exercising) and which are easy to vary (so you don't get bored), like bicycling. And, as other commenters have pointed out, giving and receiving love with your favourite people - and listening to emotionally helpful music - are also good ways to help set your brain chemistry right.

Cognitive-Behavioural (CB) techniques, such as positive self-talk, are also effective on most cases of mild depression. Suppose you are in a pit of negativity, feeling a downward spiral of worthlessness after a relationship breakup. Then suppose you say out loud: "Uh-oh! ... Whoa! ... Stop that, girly-girl! ... C'mon! Change gear! ... Up we go! Off to make a cup of tea! And then - I'm gonna clean the shower/bath with my swimming togs on! Ha ha!" Note: of course, chivvying yourself along out-loud like this does feel totally ridiculous - for the first few weeks, until you start to realize that this little CB technique actually works. :-)

My own technique? The Happy Box. To work, the Happy Box has to be 100% secret (so, unless you live alone, you might want to lock it) and it has to contain only items that reliably make you guffaw. Your Happy Box might contain... a collection of hilarious youtube videos of laughing babies, tutti-cutie kittens, sneezing pandas, etc., that you burned onto a CD... a physical trinket which reminds you of a cherished hilarious childhood incident... a juvenile poo-joke that you found eye-wateringly funny at age eight and secretly still do... a smiley picture of a super-favourite person... a handwritten funny true family story... a silly fun gadget... whatever works for you, eh? The act of laughing causes a good cascade in your neurochemistry department, and it is even good exercise!

Hope this helps.
posted by kiwinerd at 7:33 AM on February 3, 2008

I avoid thinking about anything serious first thing in the morning before I have woken up. I think my emotional brain is awake and churning and my rational brain is still dozing, so I start to obsess on every negative thing in my life. 10 minutes later I'm out of the shower, awake and ready to actually deal with things, and my problems seem smaller and manageable.
posted by tomble at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2008

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