10 Things to Do in the Next 10 Minutes to Feel Noticeably Better
Sometimes, the reason you feel like crap is obvious: You have a stomach ulcer because you’ve been eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for breakfast. But more often, suffering is disguised by numbness — a coping mechanism to get us through the day — making it much more difficult to identify the source of pain.
If you’re having trouble pinpointing the root of the problem, taking a small action outside of your normal routine can help. I’ve compiled this list of things you can try right now to feel better. If number one doesn’t work, keep moving down the list. Think of yourself as a snowball perched atop a hill. All it takes is one little push before momentum takes over, accelerating faster and faster as you grow into a bigger, stronger force of a snowball. Here we go.
1. Turn off your damn phone
Just turn it off. Lock it in your car if you have to. Stick it in a shoebox and bury it three feet under. The Instagram ads, clickbait headlines, and vitriol will still be there tomorrow.
2. Lie down on the floor
If you have some kind of grounding ritual that you already practice, like meditation, yoga, or prayer, by all means do that. But many of us find the idea of undertaking any focused action overwhelming at the moment.
So I’m here to tell you that sometimes you just gotta lay on the floor. Close your eyes or stare at the ceiling — whatever feels most comfortable — and breathe in and out. In and out. There is nowhere else you have to be, nothing else you need to do. There are no rules you need to follow. Let your thoughts wander, but try to focus on your breath. Give yourself permission to feel all the emotions that may arise, including boredom. Be still until you either fall asleep or some thought compels you to get up.
3. Floss your teeth
Congrats! Your oral hygiene is better than it was just a minute ago.
4. Take a walk
When’s the last time you went outside just to look at stuff? You don’t need to walk for exercise or to meet some daily step quota. Just use your legs and enjoy watching the scenery roll by.
For those who can’t go for a walk for whatever reason, an aimless drive with some good music also does wonders in resetting your mood.
5. Get started on that task that’s looming over you
You know which one I’m talking about. It’s so intimidating, you’ve wasted hours of your life distracting yourself from the fact that it exists. You probably realize that you’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring it and that this project isn’t going anywhere, but you still can’t bring yourself to start.
Here’s what you need to do: Turn off all distractions, close your eyes, and imagine a point in the future when that task is done. Think about how relaxed you will feel when it is no longer weighing on you.
Picture the ideal result you hope to achieve. Realize that your actual result will fall short of that idea. Admit that’s okay. Now, open your eyes and write down each step you need to do to complete the task. Now, select the easiest piece of the puzzle, something you can do right now, and, in the words of Nike and Shia LaBeouf as an extremely loud motivational speaker: JUST DO IT!
6. Call Grandma
I know I just told you to bury your phone, but if there is one thing it’s good for, it’s calling Grandma. She’s been waiting for your call, so go dig it up and give her a ring.
Or call another family member or friend you enjoy talking to. Work your way down the list until someone answers. Don’t worry about being awkward by calling out of the blue. Your loved ones will be flattered and delighted, and it will feel good to know that you made the effort. All people need people.
7. Put your hands to work
I have a weekly ritual of painting my nails, and I do it largely because I enjoy the activity itself rather than the finished result. It takes my mind off whatever I’m worrying about because I have to focus on the very precise task before me.
What are some other (PG-rated) things you can do with your hands to hijack the brain? Cook a recipe that requires a lot of chopping? Apply a full face of makeup just for fun? Assemble a piece of furniture? Even washing the dishes with some great jams blaring can be an enjoyable divergence.
8. Write a happy list
One of my favorite books is 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. It’s a seemingly endless list of small, usually unnoticed things that produce bursts of wonderful dopamine. It inspired me to start my own happy list: fresh mulch, old dogs, vintage gasoline pumps. The process has forced me to acknowledge each happy feeling in my everyday life, thus enhancing those feelings.
9. Go grocery shopping
In normal times, I love getting spruced up in my Monday best to wander the aisles, read labels, and track down the ingredients for an inventive dinner for one. To be honest, I just love to shop, and food purchases are always justified.
I do, however, realize that grocery shopping has become a high-stress activity for some people right now, so if the thought makes you anxious, go ahead and skip this one.
10. Make an appointment
Sometimes, just making an effort for yourself can change your perspective. If completing this list has brought you any insight into what’s hurting you, whether it’s loneliness, physical pain, or feeling depressed, take the final step and schedule an appointment for whatever you need. Make a date to hang out with a friend, call your doctor, or find a mental health professional. Write the date in your calendar and know that you’re on your way to doing just fine.