15 Ways to Shake Things Up When Everything Sucks

15 Ways to Shake Things Up When Everything Sucks

Everything Sucks

It seems like everyday there is a new situation or event that sucks more than yesterday. Everything sucks from the pandemic, to too slow vaccination rates, the Delta variant, environmental disasters, global warming, and increasing depression rates. At the same time, there are still cute animal videos, children laughing and playing, and the world rolls on as if everything is fine (even though we know it is not).

This juxtaposition can be disorienting at times. It can feel like the whole world is ending in one moment, and then there is a cute TikTok video of baby birds and kittens playing together, and the world’s problems seem to wash away for an instant. Do they cancel each other out? Not really, because both are true and continue to exist simultaneously. Does it mean we don’t care about the state of the world if we spend an afternoon watching karaoke videos of our brother’s latest and greatest rendition of Eye of the Tiger? No, because our brains need breaks in order to function optimally, including the ability to see the everyday goodness and silliness going on in the world even when it feels bleak. But it’s equally important to acknowledge when it feels like everything sucks. Pretending that everything is fine is not helpful, and can sure make us feel a little bananas. And once we acknowledge it, we can do something about it.

When Everyday Feels the Same, We Can Feel Stuck

When feeling overworked and stressed out, it can be easy for the days to start blurring together. Every day can start to feel the same, which makes it easy for our brains to get into a rut of just going through the motions, and feeling stuck. Dr. Rick Hanson, a renowned neuropsychologist and expert on brain neuroplasticity and happiness, explains that our brains are designed to be more easily attracted to negative thoughts instead of positive thoughts due to the negativity bias. The negativity bias is an evolutionary mechanism that was originally designed to keep us alive. It was particularly helpful back when we had to remember that we didn’t like being chased by a tiger the first time around, especially since we almost died as a result. Our brains developed a way to easily make sure that we did not repeat a negative experience that could kill us. Thus was born the negativity bias. And since this bias originally helped ensure our survival, it can be quite strong and difficult to override during times of perceived threat (such as when we experience worry or anxiety), even in times when there is no actual threat present. To our brains, they feel like the same thing.

Fortunately, thanks to our brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity), the negativity bias is not a done deal. We still have the ability to change our thoughts, and even actively direct our thoughts to pay more attention to the good things we also have in life, however big or small. This helps to even out the thoughts in our brain a bit more, so that it does not get as easily stuck in the default setting of our negativity bias. Dr. Hanson also offers a free online course on his website that has some great tips for training your brain away from the negativity bias, and benefiting from our neuroplasticity more. Read on for some more ideas.

15 Quick and Easy Ways to Shake Things Up

1. Literally shake yourself

This is a real method used to reduce stress and anxiety. There are many ways to do this, including through Tai Chi or Qi Gong methods.

2. Watch short 30 second videos or TikToks of things you find cute, funny, or silly.

Now is not the time to binge-watch horror films. Watching something positive can temporarily distract your brain out of a rut, and give it a chance to reset.

3. Take a leap, and try something you’ve never done before to stretch your brain

Take an Improv class, learn to cook Thai food, join a rowing or running group, try clothes you’ve never worn before, learn how to finally Salsa dance etc.

4. Volunteer or give back (if you have the energy)

Help register people to vote online, donate money to disaster relief, drop off food donations, offer to watch your sister’s kids for the afternoon.

5. Take a cozy, guilt-free nap.

6. Make a meal you have never made before

Either copy one from a restaurant you like, or find recipes through Google that have your favorite foods in them.

7. Consider learning another language

Have you always wanted to learn Italian so you could sing Opera in the shower? Today it’s very easy to connect to resources that can teach you new languages. Try downloading the free Duolingo app to get started.

8. Research finding a mental health therapist

Therapy can do a lot to help get you out of a deep rut. Many therapists now offer telehealth visits where you can do the appointments in the comfort of your own home in your pj’s.

9. Plan a road trip

To somewhere you have never been before. Enlist a friend to go with you.

10. Walk in a different direction

Than you normally do for a walk.

11. Explore new music and podcasts

You’ve been meaning to try.

12. Call a friend or family member

You haven’t spoken to in a while.

13. Learn how to meditate (even just a few minutes has been shown to have benefits)

There are many meditation centers that offer free Zoom classes now. Do a Google search for your local (or national, or international!) meditation center and see if they are offering any classes or group meditations. Mindful Leader currently offers free 30 minute group meditations 24 hours a day, Monday-Friday where you can meditate live with people all over the world.

14. Find one thing you are really genuinely glad to have

From a functioning toilet to a good-fitting pair of shoes, and give it a couple of minute’s attention. Dr. Hanson has multiple three-minute free meditation exercises called “Just One Thing” that can help ground us in the here and now, and counter the negativity bias.

15. Tapping

Yes, you can try tap dancing if that sounds fun, but there is also a tapping exercise that comes from the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). There is a great handout on the American Holistic Nurses Association website about tapping, as well as other great self-care resources.

Maybe none of these ideas will be exactly what you are looking for, but hopefully, they will give you a jumping-off point to come up with your own ideas to shake things up when it feels like everything sucks. Eliciting the services of a good mental health therapist can also do wonders in helping cope with stress and exploring new ways of doing things, especially when you are feeling particularly stuck.

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