When I left my husband a few years ago, it was the first time in a long time I had no family to run to. Years before, when my son went off to college, on the weekends I would scoop up my little dog, Chubby and head to my sister’s, a couple of hours away. This was no longer an option and I found myself lonely and scared in the face of stress and sadness.
As I said in the last chapter, the best way for me to change the conversation within me is to spend time out of my home. However, sometimes it’s not practical for me to go out. So here are the things I do when I’m at home and want to distract myself.
Bake. I’ve always enjoyed baking. It was something my son and I did together when he was young. Baking diverts the mind and curbs a ticking clock, with lasting results. I’m always watching my weight so I don’t eat much, if anything of what I produce. However, it’s a terrific opportunity for me to give back to my friends, who have been there for me. I drop off baked treats when they least expect it, as well as bring them to parties. I also bring my sweets to work, which my coworkers love! Does it make me feel great when they clamor for more? Guilty!
Cook. I recently realized eating a home cooked meal rather fast food or a pint of ice-cream (which I am wont to do!) has therapeutic value. Cooking is all-encompassing, distracting me from my troubles; plus, it provides an incredible sense of satisfaction to produce - and devour - a homemade meal. If you don’t live alone, it will make everyone in your household feel better to enjoy a home-cooked meal. They don’t call it “comfort food” for nothing!
Read or go online. I’m a news junkie, so I pretty much read all the time. If I’m sad I will go through scores of newspapers and magazines or go online until I find something that holds my interest. Sometimes I have to try very hard to immerse myself, but it works. If the news doesn’t do it for you, get lost in a good book. It’s the perfect escape.
Write. I’m a writer, so this is a natural default for me. But you don’t have to be a professional writer - simply start a journal. My one rule? Don’t write about bad experiences. Trust me, I’ve done that and it never helped me. Years later, when I read those sad journals they only made me feel sad again. What did help was keeping a journal of gratitude with daily notations. Also, my journal of the innocent and funny things my young son said. I love reading those journals.
Crafts, Art, Music. Knit, hook a rug, make jewelry, paint, learn an instrument. I am surely no artist, however, during one extremely busy time in my life, I started getting up around 5:30 am to work on clay sculptures, that grew out of working with Playdoh with my son. My art was micro clay vegetables. I completely immersed myself, blending the colors and working diligently to create tiny vegetables that looked real and they did! This was not only relaxing but gratifying to see what I was capable of. If you’re an artist, do what you do!
Exercise. As I mentioned in the last chapter, when I'm outside, bike riding is my favorite exercise! When I'm inside I love taking virtual exercise classes. They're fun and the benefits are immense. There are lots of online and TV courses to help you exercise right in your living room.
Meditate. This is something I started recently. I'm only sorry it took me this long to try it. The health benefits of meditation are well-documented and indisputable. Plus, it's a perfect at-home-and-alone endeavor.
Take a bubble bath - For me there is nothing more relaxing and freeing. Calgon take me away!
Start a side hustle. This is something I’ve done. A side hustle is something you’re interested in and pursue in your spare time, with little or no investment. Let me repeat that - little or no investment. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not a way to quit your job so you can do what you love.
I am not recommending anyone start a business. If you’re in a sad place in your life, starting a business could be a terrible idea. Focusing on something you’re passionate about, however, could bring you joy.
These are some distraction strategies I use when I'm sad. BTW, I also do these things when I’m happy. Think about what makes you happy, it will inevitably distract you.
Next we’ll talk about minutes of happiness.