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Woman practicing mindfulness with gardening

17 (Small) Ways to Brighten Dark Days

Reading time | 4 mins
Sarah Bailey highlights 17 simple ways to brighten up your day when living with a chronic condition like depression.


When you’re living with a chronic condition, sometimes you just need one small thing to bring a bit of happiness into your day. Because certain days need it. You know the days: The ones where you aren’t necessarily overwhelmed, but feel like you need to do something extra to add a smile on your face.

So if like me, you’re living with a chronic condition like depression, and are in desperate need of a pick-me-up, I’ve put together 17 small ideas that work for me, and that I hope will make you feel better too.

Visit or phone a friend or family member

Sometimes just picking up the phone and spending a few minutes talking to someone you love can really brighten your day. In fact, studies have found a link between loneliness and depression and anxiety symptoms. Combat this by regularly checking in with loved ones.

Chat online

If you can’t face speaking to your friends and family over the phone, or don’t feel strong enough to leave the house, then try opening an online chat. You might just feel better for having a conversation with someone.

Try your hand at crafting

There are so many things you can do with crafting. There’s everything from adult colouring and painting, to working with clay and making jewellery. Unleashing your artistic side and bringing something to life can create an immense amount of joy.

Sing, sing, sing

Or, if you don’t want to sing, listen. Music can make you feel a whole host of emotions. In fact, a research review in Frontiers in Psychology found that people with mental health problems benefited from music therapy. So why not stick on your favourite music and sing and dance along!

Plant some flower beds

So much can be said about spending time in the great outdoors. Not only does fresh air and sunlight do wonders for one’s mood, but the exercise you get from gardening is beneficial too. And there is really something special when planting flowers or vegetables. Watching them grow right in front of your eyes can bring you joy for months.

Go for a walk

Sometimes getting out for a walk can be really refreshing. Whether you prefer to take on the world with your headphones in, or greet every person that passes by, pounding the pavements can really help to release the stresses of the day.

Watch a movie

I have a list of films that I know I can switch on when I’m not feeling my best. They’re really easy-to-watch, so I can just throw them on and enjoy them without having to think about what’s going on.

Write it down

I’ve never been much of a talker – especially when things get tough, I don’t like to talk. But writing things down can really help me to understand what is going on around me. So I write. It doesn’t matter whether you write a blog for the whole world to see, or write in a journal at home, it can all help.

Spend time with animals

Animals are amazing and they can really calm you. If you have a pet at home, take some time aside to sit down and stroke them every day. You may be amazed how much they ground you. 

Go to a museum

If you have a day to yourself, then why not head off to a museum? What better way to remind yourself that you are but a small cog in the much bigger machine that is life. As a bonus – a lot of them are free, so what are you waiting for!

Create a ‘happy’ box

This is something to do when you aren’t feeling bad and could do with something to keep yourself busy. Pull together some items that you love. It could be chocolate, a favourite book, a soft toy from childhood or some photographs. When you’re feeling down, reach for this box and be soothed by it.  

Play a game

Sometimes, all you need to do is play a good game. From playing solitaire by yourself, to board games with friends, there’s something to suit everyone.

Leave yourself a note

Get some sticky notes and leave yourself uplifting messages to come across later. Or even better, why not spread the joy and leave them for someone else to find?

Think positive

Stand in front of the mirror and say something nice about yourself or make a positive affirmation. We are so quick to think negative thoughts about ourselves, why not combat this by activity practicing the opposite? So write down some affirmations and say them out loud.

Wear bright colours

Do bright colours make you smile? Well, put together a bright outfit, or use some statement pieces to bring some colour into your outfit-of-the-day.

Say ‘thank you’ more

Has someone done something nice for you lately? Then why not drop them a text or phone call to say thank you. There is even research that links a strong gratitude practice with increased happiness. You might brighten your day as well as theirs.

Write a Letter

In a world full of emails, there’s nothing quite like getting a hand-written letter. So why not write a letter to a friend, or even take up a new hobby and find yourself a pen-pal. 

I hope these ideas help to bring a few smiles to your face, particularly on those days when you are unsure how to fill your time.

Remember, even though you live with a chronic condition, you should never feel alone with your thoughts and feelings. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, always reach out to someone and let them know.

NPS-IE-NP-00359 December 2021