Build your Self-care Tool box
Frustrated by a phone call or text? Disappointed that something isn’t going your way? Sad after reading something online? Or just having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? In early sobriety even minor disappointments and frustrations can derail your commitment to not drink. While you are building your toolbox and sobriety foundation brick by brick pay close attention to what makes you want to say, ‘Eff it.” and reach for “just one.” The key to winning here is to make a quick shift – a redirecting action – having a few tools in place to boost your mood naturally
Leaving the irritant to simmer leads to boiling over, aka drinking. Instead of thinking that a drink is the answer for everything- a happy pill, a stress reliever, a numbing agent, we need to have a toolbox of natural serotonin and dopamine (the “feel-good” hormones) uplifters to help us reset our mind’s framework or just to take a little break.
I made a big list of ideas because what works for me might not for you in that minute, day or ever.
Below are 22 ways to boost your mood naturally and that don’t require a pill or a pint of ice cream.
Laugh more often (and hard.)
You knew this one was going to be on the list. There is a reason that we will force ourselves to workout even when we don’t want to because we know how good we will feel after it’s over. We want the rush. You don’t have to 5K train here. Walk the mall. Swim or tread water. Do some yoga poses to boost your mood naturally.
Pet your pet.
Snuggle your fur baby for a few minutes. Loving your animals creates an immediate surge of joy for both of you!
Get out in the Sun.
These days, we spend most of our time indoors, sitting at a desk under artificial lighting, watching tv, even most exercising is done inside. Fifteen minutes of sunlight for the vitamin D benefits + fresh air works wonders to boost your soul.
Sounds tree-huggery, but it’s based on the science of the earth’s electromagnetic field energy. Ground yourself outside for 5 minutes by standing barefoot outside on the earth, grass, sand, whatever. Notice how it feels on your feet and let the sensation fill your entire body.
Water your garden or potted plants.
Taking care of your little green plant lives will make you happy. If you need a simple hobby, grow an indoor herb garden. It’s so much return for very little work.
Treat yourself to fresh flowers.
An inexpensive bouquet is worth twice its weight in fragrance and eye appeal. Pick one or two up cheap ($4-10) at Trader Joes, Wegmans, Costco, Walmart and most grocery stores.
Eat some fresh raw healthy food.
Raw vegetables, preferably organic, are the holy grail of what’s good for you and your gut. Eating fresh, raw food will immediately boost your mood naturally, plus it will physically make you feel better by giving you energy from healthy sources. Get your favorites and add a little homemade ranch or natural peanut butter.
You know that nervous feeling in your stomach before you stand up to give a presentation? Yep, your gut talks to your brain. So keeping it happy and clean will make you feel better all over.
“I can foresee more widespread usage of probiotics in the treatment of mental health, especially since most people can tolerate them well,” says Aparna Iyer, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The gut has been called a “second brain” because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a key role in regulating mood. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract.
If you are only going to take a few, here are your main ones: B vitamins (complex), Vitamin D, and curcumin are essential for healthy moods. Fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA) help the brain and have more benefits without the mercury of eating some types of fish.
Eat dark chocolate.
Dark Chocolate, specifically cacao (the unprocessed seeds from which chocolate is made), has a positive effect on mood due to its flavanols, which convert chemicals into the natural mood stabilizer serotonin. Studies show the taste, texture and smell make us happy. Go for a minimum of 70% cacao (not milk chocolate. Sorry.) ChocZero is my favorite brand. They use monk fruit and have zero sugar or sugar alcohols. And the varieties are plentiful and delicious. Use code __________ for % off your first order.
Make a mental gratitude list. Better yet, write it down.
When you feel a little down or overwhelmed, sit and list at least five things you are grateful for. As the gratitude starts to rush in, there isn’t much room left for the melancholy.My top six are: My family’s health, people who love me, the roof over my head, a car that takes me wherever I want to go, clean fresh water to drink, never going truly hungry. I definitely lean into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; your gratitude list is yours alone and can be anything you feel grateful for.
Diffuse Essential Oils.
All essential oils come from plants, and many can have medicinal properties. One study found that bergamot, lavender, and lemon essential oils are particularly therapeutic by releasing dopamine.
You have to do a little trial and error to find your soul scent. You might want to go to a store where you can smell a few. Chances are you probably know someone who is a direct seller of Young Living or Doterra, where you can order a starter kit and diffuser. There are so many diffusers, pick your own that makes you happy when you look at it.
Read a real book
Sit in your favorite chair and grab a book. Self-help, true crime, a devotional. Something that will give you a fast fix. Books let you quickly escape from your current thought pattern.
Go to a Coffee Shop by yourself.
Order something fancy. Pull out your phone and headphones, or fire up your tablet and do something that makes you happy or just pretend. The smell of the fresh ground beans coupled with a few calm minutes makes for a surefire boost.
I’m not advising that you go all Marie Kondo on your space. All you need to spark some joy is to tidy up something simple: Towel piles in the linen closet. The serving utensil drawer. Your vanity area. Your underwear and sock drawer. Creating order is an automatic mood boost.
Go to the car wash.
Vacuum your car out, too. It’s so satisfying to watch all that dirt get sucked up into the tube.
Get in your car or closed door room and blast 80’s tunes on amazon music, you tube, or the oldies FM station and dance it out! Music is one of the fastest, most universal wasy to boost your mood naturally. This is a good one if a little nostalgia will pull you away for a bit.
Pay it Forward (or backward actually)
When you get to the window at the drive thru, ask how much the person’s bill is behind you and offer to pay for it. This is probably safest at coffee shops and during breakfast.
Send someone a card.
Just because. I LOVE getting cards. I recently had hip surgery and I got a card from my mom who is a gold medal card sender and from my partner in the pickleball tournament. These cards were of course the best part of my recovery. It’s so simple, but it does take effort and the receiver knows that. Plus it means you’re thinking about someone you care about.
Reach out and text (or call) someone.
Ask how they are doing and let them know you’re thinking about them. Connection is super important in daily life, and especially in recovery. Feeling lonely is a main reason trigger for relapse or just drinking in general. It’s why it’s the L in H.A.L.T. : Hunger, Angry, Lonely, Tired. This is the handy acronym reminds us to take a moment (HALT) and ask ourselves what basic need really needs to be addressed rather than to just reach for a destructive numbing agent. It seems so simple, but we are more susceptible to self-destructive behaviors when these basic needs are not met.
Bonus section-No Nos:
The following are perceived remedies to lift our spirits and make us feel better, but because of their destructive qualities they actually do the exact opposite.
1. Consume sugary sweets and candy. Quick fix followed by a long low.
2. Eat refined carbohydrates like bread and pasta. You’ll be bloated and full of regret.
3. Hit the hooch when you’re feeling low. They will make everything worse. Love yourself enough to be your biggest fan. Take care of yourself first and best.
*None of the advice here should replace that of your physician. This is simply the writer’s opinion and experience.
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/ https://www.healthline.com/health/probiotics-for-brain-and-memory#5-Things-You-Might-Not-Know-About-the-Gut-Brain-Connection