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There are often times when stress and life difficulties can seem to be getting the better of us. The more we try to sort things out, the more tired and frustrated we can become. Sometimes it can be useful to give yourself a break, go away and do something else. In fact, even when you are experiencing urgent stressors, sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to stop and do something relaxing, something meaningful, something pleasant or simply something different.

Depression saps the joy from life

You may be asking, “What is this fluff? How does some pointless pleasant activity contribute to wellbeing?”

Well, a common problem we find that people face is that when we’re feeling low, we don’t feel like doing anything. We “can’t be bothered,” we “don’t have the energy” for it, it seems “too hard.” People experiencing depression get this the worst: Some days, even getting out of bed seems like too much.

The thing is, it’s at these times that we most need to get out and do something from which we will come back (even if only slightly) refreshed, motivated, re-energised, or with a slightly changed perspective or mindset.

“Fake it till you make it”?

If you tend to wait until you “feel like it,” you need to ask yourself: What if you never do? A lot of the time you will find that motivation, energy and focus come to you after you have begun.

Ask yourself what you feel you can actually do in this moment. Aim for something small, and even then, try scaling it back a bit. So if you feel like you can go for a bike-ride today, ask yourself for how long. If your immediate thought is “half an hour,” try scaling it back to twenty minutes. The idea is to set yourself a goal that you are 100% sure to accomplish (and hopefully enjoy!), which will mean you are more likely to come away from the activity feeling pleased and relaxed.

Pleasant activities for self care
Do pleasant activities for self care

Another issue is that if we are feeling low or stressed out it can be pretty difficult to come up with ideas of things we might find enjoyable or relaxing. So we’ve tried to help by providing a list of possibilities below.

Some of these will work for you and some won’t. Some might seem particularly inappropriate to you personally! but have a read through and notice which ones jump out as things that have worked for you before, that you would like to give a try, or that you can see yourself feeling comfortable with.

A list of pleasant activities

  • Go to the movies.
  • Book in to see a play or production.
  • Go to the ocean, a river, or a lake.
  • Go for a walk, run, swim, or bicycle ride.
  • Take a walk in a nearby park.
  • Read a short story.
  • Pick up a pencil and paper and draw something.
  • Visit a fresh food or flower market.
  • Try a new recipe.
  • Choose a gift card for a special friend.
  • Go outside and look up at the stars or the clouds.
  • Wander in a book shop, antiques, or fishing & camping store.
  • Take a trip on bus, train, or ferry.
  • Take yourself out to lunch.
  • Visit a library.
  • Listen to some music, or go and see a live music event.
  • Do the washing up.
  • Contact a friend.
  • Take a dog for a walk or play with some animals.
  • Cook a favourite meal or snack.
  • Re-organise your files, cupboards, living space or shed.
  • Do a puzzle or brain-teaser.
  • Plan a trip or short break.
  • Watch your favourite TV program or movie.
  • Do some exercise.
  • Go bowling, golfing or fishing.
  • Sit and watch the sunrise or sunset.
  • Lie in the shade for a while.
  • Plan a career change.
  • Re-engage in an old favourite hobby.
  • Start a new hobby: Stamp or coin collecting, model building, painting, woodworking.
  • Recycle or donate some old items you don’t use anymore.
  • Plan an evening or barbeque with some old friends.
  • Think about your retirement, or what finishing your studies will be like.
  • Tick a couple of small items off your “to do list.”
  • Clean or work on your car or bike.
  • Repair some things around the house.
  • Do some gardening, or water and fertilise the plants.
  • Buy or sell some stocks or shares.
  • Fly a kite.
  • Go camping.
  • Sing.
  • Book in a day specifically for doing nothing.
  • Go sailing, kayaking or canoeing.
  • Try doodling or sketching whatever comes to mind.
  • Go for a drive (or ride) in the country.
  • Look up what social clubs are nearby.
  • Go bird-watching.
  • Play (or learn) a musical instrument.
  • Make a playlist or mix-tape that means something to you.
  • Go to a barber for a hair cut and shave.
  • Go for a bushwalk or hike.
  • Do some writing – journal, think-piece, article, story, poem.
  • Book in to the physio or massage therapist.
  • Go to the footy.
  • Send someone an e-mail.
  • Do some photography.
  • Spend some time with the kids (either yours or those close to you).
  • Go on a picnic.
  • Meditate.
  • Look up a suitable way to get active in your community.
  • Play a game on your phone or computer.
  • Take a look at an old photo album or journal.
  • Shoot some pool.
  • Find a local men’s shed.
  • Go to a local museum or art gallery.
  • Start an aquarium, garden, worm farm or compost.
  • Go to a martial arts class.
  • Re-arrange the furniture in your house.
  • Go rock climbing, or some other activity you’ve always wanted to try.

Try to mix life up a little, book in something pleasant to do every few days.

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