Family & Education

11 Simple Ways to Lighten Up

BY Barbara Danza TIMEFebruary 20, 2020 PRINT

When was the last time you experienced a good, hearty belly-laugh? Have you been operating in “all work-no play” mode for too long? Maybe as the weeks of winter plod along, you’re feeling a bit blue?

Perhaps it’s time to lighten things up a tad. Here are 11 simple ways to lighten your mood, your heart, your outlook, and perhaps even your load.

Get Outside

Too many of us are spending more time than ever inside, sitting and staring at screens. The simplest way to brighten your mood is to step out into the sunshine. Take a walk around the block, around the town, through the woods, or along the water’s edge. Whatever environment you find yourself in, get out into it. The effects of nature on our well-being have been well-documented. If it’s cold, bundle up. If it’s raining (absent the risk of lightning) take an umbrella. Make getting outside part of your daily routine.

drinking water
Make sure you’re running on all cylinders by keeping your body properly hydrated. (Shutterstock)


Your body needs water, and it lets you know when it’s not getting enough in a number of ways. Lethargy and moodiness are sometimes such signals, but you may be too preoccupied to notice.

Make sure you’re running on all cylinders by keeping your body properly hydrated. For extra joy, add lemon or cucumber to your water or try a flavored sparkling water. Tea in the afternoon is lovely, too.


Before you go for a walk or head to the gym, you may not feel like it. You’ve got excuses at the ready explaining why you don’t have the time, energy, and circumstances to make it happen. You know, though, that once you get moving, and for a good while afterward, you feel great. Those endorphins kick in, boosting your mood, and you feel proud of overcoming your excuses. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, move your body.

Cue the Music

Create an emergency playlist that goes on when you’re feeling that grumpiness set in. Put all of your favorite jams on there—whether that’s Beethoven or Barry Manilow—no judgment here. Uplifting music can change your state quickly.

Let Go

If a sense of overwhelm is leading to anxiety, it’s time to reconsider your commitments. Perhaps you’ve overcommitted your time or overextended your resources. Re-examine your priorities, and let go. Renegotiate items on your calendar, cut or postpone items on your to-do list, and ask for help. We’ve all been there. When you face it, you’ll feel a lightness you’ll want to maintain.

Joke Around

When did everybody get so serious? Laughter may just be the best medicine. Dive into some stand-up comedy, silly entertainment, or some good, old-fashioned jokes. Did you hear the one about the guy who stole soap from the grocery store? He was trying to make a clean getaway. (Bahaha!)

Lighten up and laugh more.

Look Within

The real reasons you’re feeling a heavy burden may not actually be external circumstances, but an internal issue. Look within and ask yourself why. Why are you so stressed by these circumstances? Why are you afraid? Why are you worried? Why are you sad?

Dig deep then see if you can’t begin to reframe your emotions. Perhaps you’ll need to turn to experts or spiritual teachings for higher-level perspectives. Seeing things from a higher or broader perspective can allow us to be uplifted and enlightened.

Take a Break

We all need a break from time to time. If you’re just pushing yourself all of the time you’re likely not performing very well anyway, Breaks allow us to rejuvenate, recharge, and reset. Give yourself a break.


When was the last time you played? Einstein once said that “play is the highest form of research.” Hey, if it was OK for Einstein, it’s OK for you. Play with your kids, play a sport, play a board game, play with those old toys you’ve put into storage, play with Legos, play in the snow. It’s fun!

painting workshop
Doodle, paint, sew, build, write, make—do something to get those creative juices flowing. (Shutterstock)


Did you know that most adults don’t believe that they are creative, but most children do? I think it’s a question of courage. Give it a go—nobody’s looking.

Doodle, paint, sew, build, write, make—do something to get those creative juices flowing.


It’s been a long, winding road. You’ve probably got the pictures to prove it. Break out the photos and home videos and take a walk down memory lane. Share them with your loved ones. You’ll be giggling and sharing “Oh, remember when …” for a good long time.

We’re all so busy these days and the simple joys and beauty in life can elude us when we’re head-down working and checking boxes all of the time. Lighten things up. You’ll likely lighten things for those around you as you do.

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Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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