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Feeling a little blue? Getting out of a winter-induced funk can be a challenge, which is why we put together this list of unusual "therapies" to rejuvenate your spirit and soul.1. Tap into your creativity.
Creative arts therapies, like painting and drawing, have been shown to boost immunity in HIV/AIDS patients, and they've proven a positive outlet for patients in psychiatric rehab and adults dealing with bereavement. If it's good enough for professional therapy, it might just help you too. "A new hobby gives you something you can focus your energy on," says Raymond Crowel, PsyD, vice president of the National Mental Health Association. "It can also help inspire you and lift your sadness," he says. So, you're thinking, you're no Picasso. No problem! Put paintbrush to canvas and just go for it. No one has to see your handiwork; it's just for you, babe.2. Embrace your green thumb.
Gardening is a great way to combine a sense of control and calm. It takes your mind off of your woes and directs it toward something productive and beautiful. You don't have to have a huge plot of land, either; even the narrow strip of dirt bordering your apartment building will do. Or try container gardening -- just repotting your existing plants can bring out your nurturing instincts and give you a sense of accomplishment. If you're planting flowers, choose colors to create the right mood -- soothing pastels or celebratory reds and oranges. If you're partial to greenery, choose plants that have tranquil textures like ferns. You might even find that the regular task of watering can be a meditative act. Then, just sit back and watch your garden grow!3. Foster or adopt a pet.
"A lot of people recommend pets to help with depression," Dr. Crowel says. "It gives you something to focus your emotions on in a positive way," he says. Pets literally bring more life into your life and increase your energy. After all, who can be down about a few lousy pounds or a missed workout when you've got a happy-all-the-time fluffy creature anxiously awaiting you when you come home at night? Of course, getting a pet is a serious commitment, especially a dog or cat. Starting a fish aquarium is a lower-maintenance alternative, and studies have shown that the simple act of watching the fish swim around can have relaxing effects. If you're not sure about getting a pet full-time, volunteer with an animal shelter to foster a dog or cat that needs nurturing before it's ready for adoption.4. Have more sex.
Yes, you heard it here. Sex increases the release of endorphins -- the beneficial, pleasure-inducing chemical in your brain. Plus, it's just downright pleasurable, right? And from a therapy point of view, Dr. Crowel points out, "It helps keep you engaged with people you care about." Even if you're not feeling sexy these days, you might find reassurance and comfort just by cuddling with your special someone. And if that leads to something more, fantastic. Plus, did we mention that sex burns calories?5. Exercise.
Traditional exercise increases endorphins and energy levels too. What kind of exercise? It could be anything that gets you moving. "People don't have to think about changing their lives," Dr. Crowel says. Try a different sport like snowshoeing, which burns a surprising number of calories and adds the element of a new challenge. Try a long walk, a challenging yoga class, or just get back on that treadmill. "Start with small goals," Dr. Crowel suggests. Otherwise, you might feel like you've failed before you begin.6. Sample new music.
Do you feel like dancing when Madonna comes on? Do you get into your happy place when Bob Marley sings of love and peace? Excellent. Get yourself to the music store or get online and browse for music with similar upbeat rhythms. Try out a new artist or a new CD from an artist that makes you smile. "Playing music you like can be rewarding and can energize people," Dr. Crowel says. Just avoid anything too mellow or melancholy. We don't want any wallowing.7. Take some quiet time for you.
Maybe it's a morning ritual, like sipping your coffee and just gazing out the window, no TV, no talking. Or a walk in the park with no music, just the sounds around you. You could even try meditation for 10 minutes each day. Dr. Crowel recommends spending some time to get in touch with your thoughts. "Sit down with a pad and pen and take stock of how you want your life to go in the next year, or even in the next week," he says, stressing that these are things for you, not for anyone else. For instance, it might be simple, like reading that book you bought a year ago, or big, like talking to your boss about a raise or new assignment. If you don't know where to start, try jotting down the five things that have bothered you in your life and how you might change them. "It's a good process to get into to help organize your life," Dr. Crowel says. Just getting it down on paper will make you feel better.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, January 2006.