Thoughts from a 20-something stumbling through adulthood

9 ways to feel better that aren’t food 

Think about the last time you indulged (or over-indulged) on food or drink. 

Really think about it. 

Were you doing it because you were happy or sad? To celebrate or commiserate? Had you had a bad day at work, or maybe an uncomfortable conversation with a friend or family member? Or maybe you were just bored and needed something to pass the time.

Chances are, hunger wasn’t the driving force. 

If it was, we would have no problem sticking to our healthy eating goals. But when emotions (and just LIFE in general) come into the equation, the craving for desserts, fast food, alcohol and over-eating often wins out. 

One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself this month is how much I use food and drink as a crutch. To celebrate, to make myself feel better, to let loose after a hard day at work, etc. 

I know I’m not alone in this. If you struggle with eating and drinking to deal with emotion, here are nine alternatives to hitting the drive-thru or the corner bakery. 

1. Take a long, hot bath. Add some salts, bubbles or a bath bomb to feel even more relaxed, and consider playing your favorite podcast or type of music as well. 

2. Go on a walk. Take someone you love along with you, or just enjoy the “me” time. Listen to your favorite podcast or playlist, or just enjoy the sounds of the outdoors. (When was the last time you really listened to birds?) Walking is SO easy (all you need is yourself!) and has been proven to improve your mood, make you more creative, trim your waistline and decrease your risk of chronic disease. What’s not to like? 

3. Cook a healthy meal. Okay, so this kind of involves food, but since it’s not the deep-fried kind, you get a pass. Cooking at home saves money, helps you bond with your loved ones, slashes calories and also gives you a feeling of accomplishment that Chinese take-out simply can’t. (And I love Chinese take-out, believe me.) Check out some of my favorite, EASY recipes here, here and here

2/3 of this plate came out of a bag, and that is okay.

4. Indulge in your favorite spa treatment. Whether you’re into massages, facials, manicures or all of the above, let someone take care of you for a little while. And it doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Nationwide outlets like Massage Envy offer full-body stretch sessions for as little as $34 plus tip, and many nail salons offer a discount if you pay in cash. If you’re still not wild about the price, try a DIY solution with an at-home manicure kit or some essential oils from your local natural grocer. 

5. Call, text or FaceTime an old friend. As we grow up, so many of us lose contact with our friends from high school, college or our hometowns. (And chances are you’re feeling just a tiny bit guilty about one of them.)  Take a moment to send that person a quick message just to say hi. If you’re comfortable calling them (and you don’t think they would mind that either), even a 15 minute conversation will put a smile on your face and probably make their day as well.

6. Get moving in a way you actually LIKE. If you’re anything like me, you consider exercise as more of a “need to” than a “want to” activity. But when we’re so diligent about going to the gym or going for a run, we forget that working out is actually supposed to be FUN. Whether it’s boxing, yoga, swimming, canoeing, or just dancing around your living room – take 30 minutes (or more!) to get your body moving in a way that is just for fun. 

Yoga in a Major League Baseball stadium definitely goes into the “like” category.

7. Do something you used to love as a kid. Did you love painting, baking, riding bikes or playing video games as a child? Chances are, “adult you” will still enjoy those activities. If nothing else, it will remind you of a time when things were more simple and carefree, and it might even turn into a new hobby!

8. Find a baby or a dog, and just be in their presence. There’s just something about babies and dogs (or cats, if that’s more your thing) that makes your problems seem less urgent. They are such a great reminder of the whimsy and unconditional love that life should contain. If you don’t have a pet, head to one of those places that lets you play with the puppies before you buy. Or better yet – volunteer at an animal shelter. And if you know anyone with a small child, I guarantee they won’t mind a free babysitter for an hour. 

Dogs are great listeners. Especially when you’re really stressed at work and can NOT handle another difficult project. Dogs just get it.

9. Read that book, magazine or article you’ve been putting off. How many articles do you have in your “saved” category on Facebook? Or on your blog feed? Or sitting in your bookshelf the old fashioned way? Find a comfy chair, put the phone on silent and spend some time with words. Chances are, it will be more effective than scanning Netflix for the thousandth time. 

Did I miss anything that you find particularly calming? Please let me know in the comments section!

Have a great start to your week,

-L