We are obsessed with being happy. Magazine headlines are always promising to tell us ‘how to become the happiest person you know’. The whole wellness industry is saturated with mood booster foods, juices and quick tips to keep us in a constant state of elation. Our Facebook feeds ooze news of other people’s constant joy. Do you know what the most successful song of 2014 was? Happy by Pharrell Williams, of course.

So it’s no wonder that when sadness, disappointment and loneliness set in, the feelings are deeply uncomfortable. No one taught us how to deal with these emotions at school. We live in a culture that conditions us to avoid such unpleasantness. As a result, we have become masters in dodging our own feelings. When it comes to numbing out and escaping ourselves, alcohol is a pretty efficient tool. There’s a reason why we call it ‘drowning our sorrows’.

When we stop drinking we lose our numbing shield (alcohol) and enter the rollercoaster world of real emotions. On the whole, this is a good thing. It makes the fun, happy times better, clearer and more joyful. There is a deep satisfaction in knowing that what you’re feeling is the truth; that your emotions have not been altered by a chemical substance. But sobriety can also bring those slightly less pleasant, squashed down emotions bubbling up to the surface.

So how do you ‘feel your feelings’ in early sobriety without spending a week in bed, crying? If you’re trying to calm your sober psyche, here are some healthier fixes:

1: Sleep
Naps are not just for babies. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, upset or just plain tired, make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night or take a power nap during the day. Studies show that a 20 minute nap can give you an energy boost and reduce stress. And there’s something about sleeping on an issue that puts everything into perspective when you wake up.

2: Exercise
This is about the saintliest kind of fix there is because it improves your mental health whilst getting you a killer body in the process. Even mild exercise makes a difference. If the idea of getting on the treadmill turns you off, then keep experimenting until you find something you really love. Weights, dance classes, walking, yoga and tai chi all hit the spot.

3: Talk
You know what they say about a problem shared? As drinkers, we tend to be very good at isolating. Whilst it might be tempting to hide at home with the phone off, you’ll feel better for spending time with people you like or talking to a friend.

4: Meditation
It will help you be calmer, happier and less emotional. Don’t dismiss meditation as something that’s just for hippies – it’s become very mainstream now. Think of it as a work out for the mind. If you treat your head right, everything else will follow.

5: Massage 
Human touch, in a context that is safe, friendly and professional, can be incredibly therapeutic and relaxing. But it does more than ease tired muscles and help you to relax – a study in the International Journal of Neuroscience found it can ease anxiety and depression too.

6: Laughter 
They say laughter is the best medicine.
It’s been scientifically proven that laughter can boost immune response, increase blood flow, lower blood sugar, and promote relaxation and sleep. Plus, you get the same benefits when you make other people laugh. So next time you’re feeling down, make time to hang out with your funniest friends, or stick on your favourite comedy box sets.

So there are six suggestions – but what works for you? Let me know what your healthy sober fixes are in the comments below 😇

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