12 Unexpected Pick-Me-Up Practices for When You’re Feeling Down

These techniques may sound silly, but they are surprisingly effective at pulling you out of a slump

Michele DeMarco, PhD
Published in
4 min readOct 1, 2021


Person standing on a street with an arrow pointed to a painted yellow and white smiley face.

It’s natural to have the blahs from time to time, but new data shows one of the most alarming signs yet of the toll on mental health exacted by Covid-19. Roughly half of adults in the U.S. said they felt “down, depressed, or hopeless” or had “little interest or pleasure in doing things” for several days in the past week. This is up 25% from 2014.

Another study of young Americans found that 68% had little energy; 59% had trouble with sleep; 52% found little pleasure in doing things; 49% had a poor appetite or were overeating; 48% had trouble concentrating; 32% were moving so slowly or were fidgety to the point that others notice; and 28% had had thoughts of self-harm. Not insignificant numbers for sure.

If you’re struggling with a bout of “pandemic blues” — or any other kind of low mood — here are some tips to get yourself back “up”:

Sensory stimulation: Anything that arouses your senses is a fast-track out of “darkness,” in large part because it helps to reset your autonomic nervous system.

  • Swing your arms across your body. Slap the opposite side on the upper arm. Doing this while walking around also helps. Fall into a rhythm for a few minutes.
  • Try the “Astronaut Walk,” a slow, intentional, exaggerated stomping on the ground. Initially, you may feel ridiculous, but within minutes you’ll likely feel much better.
  • Chew crunchy food or gum with verve. (See note above on feeling silly and better.)
  • Smell essential oils or anything with a potent smell. Smell is a fast track to stimulate the brain.
  • Rock in a rocking chair. (The health benefits of rocking — in addition to depression — are staggering. Give this article a read to learn more.)
  • Bounce on an exercise ball or trampoline. Not only is it fun, but bouncing also increases blood flow to muscles that haven’t been used, loosens the overused ones, and triggers the release of endorphins — your brain’s natural calming aid.
  • Use shakers or maracas. The sound and…



Michele DeMarco, PhD

Award-winning writer, therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher specializing in moral injury. I talk about the stuff many won’t. micheledemarco.com