For years I wanted to learn to play the drums, so it was quite a thrill when my husband bought me a set two years ago for my birthday. Since then, I’ve discovered that banging out a favorite tune, such as the Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That,” improves my mood in a matter of minutes.
San Antonio, Texas
I head to the gym, put on my gloves, and pound on the punching bag. As I strike it, I think about what’s bothering me and come up with a solution. The bag weighs 175 pounds, so hitting it requires a great deal of strength and exertion. It feels great to work out my problems and my body at the same time.
When I get down in the dumps, I set a timer for 20 minutes and vent—to a friend, to the dashboard of the car, even to the seagulls at the beach. That’s all it takes: Once the timer goes off, I’ve figured out why I am feeling low and have regained control of my emotions.
Narragansett, Rhode Island
About 10 years ago, I was having a typically awful day: I had overslept, got caught in traffic, made mistakes at work. In the midst of it all, a friend sent me an e-mail calling for donations for autism research. I logged on to her website, contributed, and immediately felt better. Now I give to charity whenever I get grumpy. Each donation reminds me of what really matters.
New Brunswick, New Jersey
My 40s were coming to an end, and I was dreading it. Then my brother-in-law suggested I watch a Saturday Night Live skit starring Molly Shannon as Sally O’Malley, a 50-year-old trying out for the Radio City Rockettes. It made me laugh so hard and helped me get over my anxieties. Now whenever I’m feeling down, I view it, have a belly laugh, and move on. As Sally said: “Book ’em, Danno! I’m 5-0!”
Songs sung by the White Stripes’ lead singer, Jack White, pull me out of a dark cloud. His tunes are upbeat, jazzy, and funky. The track “We’re Going to Be Friends” makes me feel happy and hopeful, while “Seven Nation Army” motivates me to get up and move. “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?” reminds me that I’m not the only person having a tough time. Listening to it, I feel less alone.
For me, getting out of a funk is simple. I sit on my porch and watch birds flutter around my feeders. In the spring and summer, I see fast-moving hummingbirds, red-plumed cardinals, and yellow finches, who gravitate to our cornflowers. I appreciate just how lucky I am to be able to spend my time in such a relaxing way.
Wesley Chapel, North Carolina
An instant antidote for a bad mood is an evening curled up in front of a movie based on a Jane Austen novel. I’m a huge fan of the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice, but my favorite scene is from the 1995 made-for-TV adaptation of Persuasion. When Captain Wentworth professes his love for Anne Elliot, giving her a letter that reads, “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope,” I always smile. It reminds me that good girls can win in the end.
New York, New York
I google “funny pugs” and browse the image results. Photographs of these bug-eyed, wrinkly, expressive pups would make anyone grin.
Champagne, darling! In the midst of performing the dreariest task, I’ll pop the cork to liven things up. Take, for example, the time I painted my basement. I hated it at first, so I placed a flute in my left hand, a roller in my right—and finished the job with a big smile.
Riding my horse always takes my mind off my grumpiness. As we gallop across a field, I leave all my troubles and worries behind.
Writing letters to my friends helps me get out of an emotional rut. I’ll describe what’s bothering me, or I’ll just ask my pals questions about their own lives. Knowing a surprise awaits in a friend’s mailbox brightens my mood. So does the prospect of receiving a response.
Clinton Township, Michigan
Talking on the phone with my young grandchildren. Jacob, five, always asks me what I ate during the day, and his little brother, William, makes kissing noises. Two-year-old Olivia invites me to visit her castle. (She thinks she owns Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World.) And the two infants just breathe—and occasionally giggle—into the receiver. Listening to them, I feel the purest form of love.
One word: pedicure. I grab a friend who needs a few hours of relaxation and we head to the salon—my treat. It’s amazing what nail polish, a massage chair, and helping out a friend can do for your mood.
Heather Kennedy Eden
Looking at bright colors makes me feel better. I find it nearly impossible to remain in a dour mood after I put on a lemon yellow sweater or paint my nails neon orange. Sunny hues remind me of my childhood bedroom, which was painted goldenrod, and of umbrellas, flowers, and other wonderful elements of spring.
Cliffwood, New Jersey
A few years back, a devastating event took the wind out of my sails. Trying to find my footing again, I remembered the fun I had had as a kid blowing bubbles. So I went to the store, bought five containers, and started blowing. Lo and behold, I laughed and felt happy! This childhood pastime has become the way that I lift my spirits and celebrate life. For example, my grandpa passed away recently, and we blew bubbles in his honor.
I put on scented lotion and enjoy some aromatherapy. One of my favorite fragrances is Bobbi Brown’s Beach perfume. The scent reminds me of my family’s vacation to Hawaii’s Big Island. Goodbye, doldrums.
Downers Grove, Illinois
Every now and then, my work gets stressful and my mood sours. To regain my composure, I quietly close the door of my office and go into a sun-salutation yoga pose, an exercise that causes you to breathe deeply, stretch, and expand your chest. After a few minutes, I find that I can handle things again.
Mary Lou Kinney
A solo visit to a beauty-supply store always does the trick. The products, especially sparkly eye shadow, make me feel beautiful, and the time spent alone, a rare luxury with two little boys, restores me.
Taking a cue from a song of my childhood, “I whistle a happy tune.” As I do, I remember that for every minute I spend feeling down, I lose 60 seconds of joy.