Find a “Comfort Food” for Your Mind.

 

One common happiness question is: How do you give yourself a boost? If you’re feeling anxious, blue, angry, scared, what can you do to soothe yourself?

A few days ago, I posted 5 myths for fighting the blues. Okay, those don’t work very well. So what does?

One suggestion: find a “comfort food” for your mind. Know what you can do with your brain that will give yourself a comforting break from your worries, at least for a little while. By doing so, you’ll re-charge your battery, find it easier to stay calm and cheerful, find it easier to take action to remedy your situation—and you’ll sleep better. But this is easier said than done.

We all suffer from “negativity bias,” that is, we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. (What do you remember better, a compliment or a criticism?) Research shows one consequence of negativity bias is that when people’s thoughts wander, they tend to begin to brood. Anxious or angry thoughts capture our attention more effectively than happier thoughts.

So if you’re feeling blue, look for ways to pull your mind away from your worries onto positive topics. One great way is to watch a movie—not something upsetting!—or a favorite TV show. Don’t muddy the experience by trying to multi-task; if you’re paying bills or folding laundry, you’re not going to get the benefit of taking a break from your own thoughts to watch Shrek. Give yourself a proper vacation: sit down and enjoy what you’re doing.

My favorite activity is reading, and when I really need “comfort food” for my mind, I read children’s literature. I always re-read, too; when I’m upset, I want the comfort of knowing that I’ll love the book and that I won’t be upset by some unexpected plot twist. (For instance, I can’t bear any plot that includes unjust accusation. You wouldn’t believe how often unjust accusation pops up in books, movies, plays, and TV.) Just this weekend, I re-read Philip Pullman’s masterpiece, The Golden Compass, for the tenth or eleventh time, and it made me so happy.

I do find that some activities that are usually happiness-inducing don’t work very well when I’m preoccupied with bad thoughts. Listening to music, for example, is generally an extremely effective way to boost mood, but I find it too easy to start thinking about my worries when I’m listening; others might not have this problem. Similarly, although going for a walk usually cheers me up, it also gives me an excellent opportunity to brood if I’m in a brooding mood.

Cooking, cleaning, playing with your kids, playing video games, playing basketball—different people find different solutions. If you can find an activity that gives you exercise, gets you outside, or brings you in contact with other people, that’s especially effective.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, give yourself some mental comfort food. By giving yourself a break and a bit of comfort, you’ll make yourself feel better, and you’ll also equip yourself to deal more effectively with tough situations.

What mental comfort food works for you?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in—no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

  • Cjones

    I study French!

  • http://www.twitter.com/SketchingGirl Sketching Girl

    I love to watch movies and favourite TV series, they work very well at lifting my mind and helping me forget my worries.   At night I suffer with insomnia, and find the best thing is getting up to read a novel or graphic novel, it has to be happy though, something fun and not full of stress.  That usually helps! 

  • Mia

    Comfort food for the mind…Never before have i thought about it that way!Thank you for your recommendations Gretchen! I’ll try to follow them next time ima be on a negative mood! :)

  • sillybilly22

    Hmm in my opinion comfort food is called that for a reason-when your at that level when a pizza is looking appealing your not really considering alternatives lol

  • Still Valerie

    For me, one of my favourite mental comfort foods is playing with my dog. There’s no judgement and lots of unconditional love and licks! It’s also how I remind myself to live with abundance. I wrote about some other suggestions here. (http://thestillspot.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/what-will-you-do-to-feel-abundant-on-this-leap-year-day/)