IMG_6719[1]When life doesn’t go the way you hope, it’s easier to fall apart than to try and hold it all together. A loved one dies. A dream crumbles. Work overwhelms.

What do you do? Who do you turn to?

When my husband, Dana, and I tied the knot two weeks after my college graduation he was still in school and working at a deli. I’d just been hired as a reporter, which was great. The problem was: we never saw each other.

Spending most my time alone in a tiny Topsham apartment far from friends, I grew depressed. One day I drew a line down the center of a piece of paper.

“Things that make my feel sad,” I wrote on the left. “Things that make me feel happy,” I wrote opposite. Then I listed everything I could from “watching TV” and “eating too much” on the sad side to “taking a walk” and “reading a book” on the other. Whenever I started to feel down, I picked something I knew would make me feel better.

It worked.

Two decades later, I’ve simplified my approach to three activities that make me feel better if I do them daily. It’s a practice I’m reestablishing to take care of myself after recently losing my mom. Here they are:

  1. Exercise – outside if possible. Don’t put a time-limit on it. Don’t punish yourself or even sweat if you don’t want to. Taking a restorative walk, ice-skating at a local pond or jogging at the gym when it’s too cold outside nearly always improves my mood. Studies back it up, showing that physical activity helps prevent mild depression.
  2. Talk to a friend – in person is best; but if that doesn’t work, call someone. Invite a neighbor for tea. Plan a weekend get-together. Whatever it takes, connect – particularly if you work alone as I do. Again, medical science concurs, showing people with strong social networks (the in person kind!) live longer and feel healthier.
  3. Pray. Working from home while raising five kids, it’s easy to let a day or two slip by without setting apart time to talk to God and read my Bible. Not an on-the-run kind of prayer, but a quiet, deep listening. Yet here’s what I know. The things that hurt me? The challenges I face? The needs I experience? God has the answers to them all. And he cares. Studies show prayer alleviates stress, and I personally know it works.


When my mom was sick, a doctor prescribed a pill for a painful condition they couldn’t identify. I felt led to pray. That night, she called to say the pain was nearly gone. The next day it was.

“But you took the pill, right?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I didn’t have to. You prayed, and God healed me.”

I was shocked – even though I was the one who’d prayed!

Treatment for serious medical conditions and chronic depression requires professional care. But if you simply need a daily boost, like me, I hope these activities will bless you. Do I make it through my list every day? Not quite, but it’s a helpful goal.

What helps you feel better?