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how to feel better about yourself

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.
I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.

~Audrey Hepburn

There are days when you feel down in the dumps. No matter what you achieve, how many boxes you “tick off” or how productive you are, on some days it is just plain hard to feel better.

I am not talking about persistent happiness (although that certainly could be the after-effect of feeling good on a consistent basis). What I am talking about is lifting up your mood right now.

Related: The Science of Self-Improvement

For times like such, here are some tried and tested ways to feel better about yourself now:

1. Laugh out loud

As a kid, I grew up with lots of laughter around me. When dad used to leave the hours for his practice (he’s a doctor), I, my mom and my little brother would have a gala time. More than a parent, mom was our friend. She’d play with me and my brother and we’d pull each other’s leg! I can still hear the three of us laughing and giggling in my mind.

So what do I do when I am down? I laugh! I have a signature giggle which is anchored to all those happy times as a kid. I am pretty childlike when I laugh out loud from deep within. It draws my partner in too – and we end up laughing at little things. The result? We both end up feeling much better and happier.

2. Write it down

Writing is free therapy. I bet you’ve heard that one before. When I am down, I’ll get a piece of paper or my journal (depending on what I am about to write) and start writing.

Since I’ve a lot of projects going on simultaneously, I can get overwhelmed easily. I find that writing what needs to be done now – the next-best-immediate step – helps.

I am also a fan of urgent v/s important tasks. So I’ll sit down and make a list of all things that need my attention now because of my procrastination. I’ll also make a list of most important things based on my personal and professional goals so they don’t get delayed or sidetracked.

Writing gives goals a meaning and tangibility. It clears my head and I feel productive, because I know where I am going.

3. Get creative

When I was little, I used to paint a lot. Over the years I somehow convinced myself that I am a mediocre painter. In doing so I didn’t acknowledge the fun and dose of inspiration I’d get from it.

That happens when you’re too focussed on the end result and forget the beauty of the journey itself. Isn’t that also true about life? We’re so busy running toward the destination that we un-train ourselves to engage in what we’re doing right now.

The other day I was talking to a client and she said, “You know, I used to be so judgemental of my work that I decided to blindfold myself and paint without any expectations!” Painting blindly, she wouldn’t expect much out of it and still manage to create beautiful work. Doing so gave her the inspiration to keep going.

It could be something else for you. Dancing, writing, coding a piece of software, teaching – you name it. Focus on one creative thing that you enjoy and check in with yourself. Are you too focussed on the end result? Or do you stop to smell the roses every now and then? You’ll be amazed when you do that.

4. Spoil yourself!

One of my favorite pick-me-ups is indulging and spoiling myself. I love to get a new hair cut, a massage or go shopping.

Believe it or not, how you look can have a huge impact on how confident and good you feel about yourself. Now, I am not a size 0 proponent, so please spare me the look! All I am saying is that it is OK to spend time and money on grooming yourself once in a while.

5. Try a new thing

When you do things the way you have been doing them, your brain forms a neural pathway for each habit. So if you have a certain way of learning, you’ll repeat it every time unless you decide to change it.

Let’s take an analogy: You take the same road from work to home. It takes 15 minutes to walk from office to your home. One day, you decide to drop by at a friend’s place, so you take a detour. This new path is full of lush green fields and gardens. It is blooming with flowers and you wonder why you didn’t discover it before.

So you start taking this new path to home every day. It takes 20 minutes now, but you’re happy to walk an extra 5 minutes in fresh air. This path is slowly becoming worn because you take it every day. But it may be not as worn as the old one yet.

That is how your brain forms new neural pathways. The beliefs ingrained in your psyche since you were a child are like your regular path. The new beliefs you form and new activities you try form a new pathway in your brain.

When you try something new, you get a boost and feel happier about yourself. I read somewhere “Do one thing you’re afraid of every day.” What a way of living!

Try a new thing – an exotic cuisine, travel alone, listen to a new band – go explore!

6. Cherish memories

One of my favorite past-times is to look back at old times. I keep a personal diary which has been a best friend since 2006. Back then, I was going through a phase of life where I did a lot of soul-searching, gave up on religious practice and embraced spirituality, and went through some major emotional ups and downs. It was an intense internal journey.

When I reflect on those days, I realize how far I’ve come. Looking back at your achievements and tough life lessons make you feel better because you’ve conquered so much.

7. Talk to a close friend

If you are not great at acknowledging yourself for what you’ve achieved, a close friend can give you an energy boost with a pep talk.

I rely on my friends and family for dull times. They can remind you of how amazing you truly are and uplift you. Try it, you won’t regret it!

Your Turn!

Scientists have noted that as you get older, you become happier, naturally. It is not clear why that happens but hey, at least you can be sure you are ageing into happiness! Here’s more on the study.

 What other things you do to feel better about yourself? Share your best tips below!

Image by antonkudris.

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