Five Myths About Fighting The Blues

Treating yourself won't always feel better in the long run

Movies by Name The Blues Brothers (Jake and Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi) bargain with music store owner  Ray Char
AP

We all have a few tricks for beating the blues-things we do when we're feeling down. It turns out, however, that several popular strategies don't actually work very well in the long term. Beware if you're tempted to try any of the following (all of which I often, and unsuccessfully, have tried):

1. Comforting yourself with a "treat." Often, the things we choose as "treats" aren't good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day. So when you find yourself thinking, "I'll feel better after I have a few beers...a pint of ice cream...a cigarette...a new pair of jeans," ask yourself-will it really make you feel better? It might make you feel worse. In particular, beware of...

2. Letting yourself off the hook. I've found that I sometimes get a real happiness boost from giving something up, quitting something, or breaking a bad habit. When you're feeling down, you might be tempted to let yourself off the hook, to think, "I'll allow myself to skip my run today, I need a break" or "I'm not going to put away the dirty dishes, I deserve a day off." In fact, sticking to a resolution will boost your sense of self-esteem and self-control. So not letting yourself off the hook might do more to boost your happiness.

3. Turning off your phone. Studies show that extroverts and introverts alike get a mood boost from connecting with other people. Although it can be tempting to isolate yourself when you're feeling unhappy, you're better off making pleasant plans with friends or family. Restorative solitude can boost happiness, but that's not the same thing as shutting yourself away from other people because you don't feel like dealing.

4. Aggressively expressing your negative emotions. Many people believe in the "catharsis hypothesis" and think that vociferously expressing anger is healthy-minded and relieves their feelings. Not so. Studies show that expressing anger often only aggravates it; as Plutarch observed, "Anger, while in its beginning, often can be ended by silence, or neglect." I've certainly found this to be true; once I get going, I can whip myself into a fury. Once I'm in a more composed state of mind, I can express my reasons for anger, resentment, or other concerns in a straightforward, calm way, which is far more constructive.

5. Staying in your pajamas all day. One of the most helpful things I've learned in my happiness research is that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. As improbable as this sounds, it really works. Sometimes it can be fun to hang out in your sweats all day, but if you're feeling lethargic, powerless, or directionless, not getting dressed may make you feel worse. Put on your clothes-including your shoes-so you feel prepared for whatever the day might offer. While you're at it, make your bed. Yes, making your bed, as insignificant as it seems, can give a real happiness boost.

Have you ever tried to cheer yourself up using a strategy that just made you feel worse, in the end? Or what are more effective ways to beat the blues?

Search Job Openings

In Partnership With

Filed under: Career Advice
Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

Contributor

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project--accounts of her experiences test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, www.happiness-project.com, she reports on her daily adventures in pursuit of happiness. Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject. Though her conclusions are sometimes counter-intuitive—for example, she finds that true simplicity is far from simple to attain—her insights resonate with readers of all backgrounds. Response to Rubin’s practical approach to happiness has been overwhelming. Psychiatrists suggest these books to their patients, professors assign them to their students, book groups read them, families pass them around, and groups have sprung up across the world where people do Happiness Projects together. Exhausted parents and college students, senior citizens and professionals, clergy and social workers, and people facing divorce, illness, and drift have written to tell Gretchen Rubin how she’s influenced them. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, Rubin started her career in law, and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. She has written several books, including three novels safely locked in a desk drawer. But of everything she’s ever written, she says that her one-minute video, The Years Are Short, is the thing that resonates most with people. Rubin is an enthusiastic proponent of using technology to engage with readers about ideas, and she has a wide, active following on social media. “The Happiness Project” was even an answer on the game-show Jeopardy! She loves to connect with readers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube—and on her popular daily blog, of course. Gretchen Rubin has a free monthly newsletter which features highlights from the blog and Facebook Page (sign up here) and the free daily “Moment of Happiness” email with a happiness quote every morning (sign up here). If you’re interested in launching a happiness project group, for people doing happiness projects together, you can get the “starter kit” here.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

Search Jobs

In Partnership With
Keywords:
Location:

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

July 27 - Aug 3

Looking for work? See what companies added new openings this week.

×

Check out our new Map Search

Locate your next job using the new AOL Jobs Map Search!

Pin down your next great opportunity today.