On those days when grief feels like an unbearable burden and you think you just can’t go on, remind yourself that there are steps that can be taken to ease the burden. Here are simple, but effective actions you can take to feel better now.
1. Exercise. Sure, this may be the last thing you really want to do, but physical activity is good for body, mind and spirit.
2. Write or email a note of gratitude or encouragement to a friend. You’ll feel better expressing yourself this way and so will your recipient.
3. Stream a comedy program or a comedian via a streaming service or on You Tube. Laughter heals. “I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off,” said Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. “They might be healthier, too.”
4. Meditate. Ten minutes of silently focusing on your breathing—inhaling and exhaling—can leave you feel refreshed mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
5. Listen to music that you really, really love—music that lifts your spirits no matter how low they may be. Psychologist Michael Friedman, PhD., said, “Does music heal emotional suffering? Research says yes. We now know through controlled treatment outcome studies that listening to and playing music is a potent treatment for mental health issues. Research demonstrates that adding music therapy to treatment improves symptoms and social functioning among schizophrenics. Further, music therapy has demonstrated efficacy as an independent treatment for reducing depression, anxiety and chronic pain.”
6. Tune into a podcast of someone who has overcome a major life trauma. This will inspire you to keep chipping away at the burden of grief.
7. Bake. Bread, cookies, a cake. Enjoy what you’ve created. Then, enjoy it more by sharing your baked goods with a neighbor.
8. Create a gratitude list. Write down a dozen things that are good, right, positive in your life. Don’t think too much about it or censor yourself. Just let the gratitude flow out of you.
9. Donate money to a person in need or to a charity. “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up,” noted John Holmes.
10. Change your posture. Your body reflects how you feel. Hold your head high, straighten your back when you walk anywhere.
11. Spend time outside. Take a long, leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, a park or a forested area. Nature soothes. Author Sylvia Plath observed, “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
12. Be friendly. This means smiling at everyone you encounter. Make eye contact as you smile. Yoko Ono said, “Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.”
13. Affirmations. Create or select a positive, life-affirming phrase and repeat it several times a day. Some examples: I can do this! I am confident and capable! I can deal with this! Make this a habit and you be sure to cut back on so much negative self-talk that we all do.
14. Explore. Do something you haven’t done before. If you only read non-fiction, pick up a science fiction book. If you always walk the same way to a location, change it up.
15. Help someone. There are many people in your community who are struggling. Some are lonely, some are unemployed, some are trying to get through a separation or divorce. Be a friend to one of those individuals. Listen to them and offer your support in any ways you can.
Victor M. Parachin, M. Div., is a bereavement educator and grief counselor.
He is the author of numerous books about grief, including
The Lord Is My Shepherd:
A Psalm For The Grieving and Healing Grief.