Everyone feels low sometimes. The lows people feel are often related to something bad happening at work or home or even just the general blahs. It’s the little things or even nothing at all that can bring about the blues every now and then. Sometimes those lows can seem continuous and even become a rut. When this happens frequently, things feel pointless and it’s hard to feel happy. If this becomes severe enough, it may be diagnosed as major depressive disorder.
But most people aren’t dealing with depression. Most people are dealing with the blue moods of everyday life. And if these lows are happening to you, you may want to create habits that fight the lows before they even occur. You can create a blues-beating schedule every day.
What Is a Blues-Beating Schedule?
A blues-beating schedule is a way of scheduling mood elevating habits into your daily life. Sometimes these are tiny things and sometimes they’re bigger, but they all work together to lift your mood. It’s important to realize that while a whole day is outlined below, you don’t need to do every activity in order to feel its effects. Even just adding one or two activities to your day can make a difference.
A Blues-Beating Schedule
(Note that times are approximate but used for illustration.)
7:00 a.m. – Wake-up and don’t hit the snooze button.
One of the things that can bring about a low mood is not sleeping well and one of the things you can do to improve your sleep is to wake up at the same time every morning. This means not hitting the snooze button and waking up at the same time every morning, even on the weekends. While this sounds difficult, over time it becomes easy. Doing this will help regulate your circadian rhythm – your sleep-wake cycle and improve your sleep at night. This improved sleep will make waking up easier. Try to make sure you have eight hours of time you can devote to sleep every night.
7:10 a.m. – Take a moment to breathe or even meditate.
Many people find that relaxation or breathing exercises in the morning can set the tone for the day. A short meditation – even just five minutes – can do this too. If you choose breathing exercises, place your hands on your belly. Make sure you stand up straight, feet firmly planted on the floor, and breathe slowly and as deeply as possible. If you’re doing it right, you should see your hands moving out and in as you inhale and exhale.
While you’re relaxing, breathing or meditating, try setting a positive thought for the day. It can be something you’d like to accomplish or just something that is generally positive. This can help put you in the right mindset to take on the day.
7:30 a.m. – Eat a healthy breakfast
We all know that our body runs on fuel and yet we often neglect to give it the fuel it needs to run well. But don’t worry, you don’t need to even turn on the stove to make this happen. If you’re not sure what to eat, try overnight oats to make your morning run smoothly and feel full for hours.
A basic recipe for overnight oats is the following.
Combine in a container with a sealable lid:
1/3 cup milk (non-dairy works, too)
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup yogurt of your choice
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
Put the lid on the container and shake to combine. Leave in the fridge for at least three hours before eating.
That’s just the basic recipe, it’s even better when you jazz it up with berries (frozen work well here as they are less expensive and thaw overnight) or even flax or chia seeds for extra texture, flavor and nutrients.
Note here that while a cup of coffee might be a great pick-me-up in the morning, having more than one or two cups can actually increase anxiety in a person.
Noon – Eat a healthy lunch.
Some people don’t take the time to eat a healthy lunch and that is a mistake. It’s hard for your body to maintain a good mood when it’s hungry all the time. Now is the perfect moment to take time away from your work and eat slowly and mindfully and enjoy every bite. Make sure to include protein in your luck and avoid processed foods and sugar, if you can, to avoid that midafternoon energy slump. You can also choose to chat with your coworkers now if that’s something you like to do. Adding a social component to your workday can also help beat a low mood.
12:30 p.m. Go for a walk.
After you’ve eaten your lunch don’t just go back to your desk, try going for a walk outside instead. Connecting with nature and getting some fresh air can go a long way to beating the blues and so can getting a little exercise. While a 30-minute walk may not feel like much, it’s infinitely better for your physical and mental health than being still or sitting all day. In fact, if you walk for 30 minutes a day, you’re much more likely to lose five pounds over the course of a year rather than gain them (as the average American often does). Yes, vigorous exercise is great for your mood too, but if that’s out-of-reach right now for any reason, a walk can do in its stead.
5:30 p.m. – Get social.
If you’ve spent all day with coworkers, clients, kids or solo, it’s time to make a social connection of your choosing. Phone a friend. Chat. Make plans for the weekend. Decide how you’re going to maintain or make new social connections. These connections can help defeat a low mood and deserve your attention on a daily basis.
6:30 p.m. – Eat a healthy dinner.
Now take the time to make and eat a healthy dinner. Make sure you’ve got lots of leafy greens on your plate. Also, this is the perfect time to make sure you’re eating your omega-3s. Omega-3s are fatty acids that are required by your brain and ensuring you eating enough of them can improve your mood. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water, fatty fish like salmon and as well as in nuts and seeds among other things.
Just like with lunch, try to mindfully eat. Don’t wolf down your food while zoning out in front of the TV – that will make it more likely that you’ll overeat. Rather, eat slowly and enjoy good conversation, if that’s available to you. Sometimes a good book can make great company at the table too.
10:00 p.m. Wind down.
Now it’s time to set the scene for a good night’s sleep. One way to increase the chances of a good night’s sleep is to develop a sleep routine. A sleep routine is simply activities that you repeatedly do at night before you go to bed. Developing a routine before bedtime trains your brain to sleep as part of the routine. It makes getting to sleep easier in the long run.
Your sleep routine should include getting away from all screens. The light coming from screens can activate the part of your brain that signals wakefulness and alertness. Reading a book with a task light is a perfect activity during this time.
Other things that could be part of a sleep routine might be taking your dog for a walk, practicing yoga, meditating, doing relaxation or deep breathing exercises, brushing and flossing your teeth, taking a shower, cleaning the kitchen, journaling, etc. Anything that is quiet and gentle is a good activity to choose. Some people also like to make note of three things for which they are grateful that day during this time. (You can do this in a journal specifically for that purpose, if you choose.)
11:00 p.m. Go to sleep.
Just like you need to wake up at the same time every day, you need to go to bed at the same time every night as well to get quality sleep. This benefits your circadian rhythm and mood. Other tips to get a good night’s sleep include:
- Make sure your bedroom is at a cool temperature.
- Make sure your bedroom is pitch black (or use a sleep mask).
- Avoid shift-work, if possible.
- Make sure your mattress, sheets and pillow are all comfortable.
Also, don’t use your bedroom for anything other than sleeping and sex (never work). This trains your brain to associate that room with sleep. This will help you get to sleep more easily when you lie down in bed.
Any time – Get help when you need it.
While it doesn’t need to be mapped to a specific time, make sure and reach out for help for a low mood if you need it. A blues-busting schedule is great, but it won’t help everyone, and if you find your mood is getting worse instead of better, it’s time to seek out the help of a professional. A medical doctor such as your family doctor, or a psychologist are great people to seek help from. Remember, it’s easier to fix a small problem than it is to fix a large, ongoing one, so get help sooner rather than later. Also, remember that it shows courage – not weakness – to acknowledge the need for help. We all need a helping hand sometimes and that’s okay.