5 Ways to Remain Upbeat in a Down Economy

Keeping a close network of friends is a good way to lift your spirits.
Keeping a close network of friends is a good way to lift your spirits.
Baymler/Getty Images

The economy's in the tank, you're worried about losing your job (or you may have already lost it) and money is tight. You'd like to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude, but just can't find the time, energy or emotional stability to keep wearing that happy face. Don't worry, it's perfectly natural to experience feelings of stress and tension, and there are many ways that, regardless of your situation, you can remain upbeat, even if you've been sporting a permanent scowl since the economy started heading south. Over the next few pages, we'll examine a few sure-fire ways to keep you smiling through whatever economic misfortunes may fall your way. More importantly, we'll not only tell you how to better handle your financial troubles, we'll also show you how to change them and get your finances back where they need to be.

Does balancing a checkbook sound like some sort of lame magic trick to you? If so, click over to the next page to learn how to keep your financial rabbit safely stashed in your hat.

Stick to a Budget

You know the old, familiar saying "money can't buy happiness"? Well, that may be true, but the stress that comes with money troubles can certainly bring about unhappiness. Poorly managed finances can have a disastrous effect, not only on one's bank account, but also on a person's frame of mind and even relationships. Arguments over money and finances have long been cited as the leading cause of divorce in the United States [source: CNN].

The good news is that, in many cases, economic woes can be avoided by making a very simple thing: a budget. Sure, it may sound easy. But many of us have difficulty doing it, even when the economy is soaring and finances are good.

Sitting down and examining the actual cost of your expenditures is often an eye-opening experience. Many people unconsciously fritter away large chunks of their income with needless purchases. Is it really necessary to buy a $4 cup of coffee every morning on the way to work? That's $20 a week, $80 a month, adding up to a total of $960 a year! For some people, that may be worth it, but for most, it's not.

If you sit down and logically look at your finances and determine where to cut back, where to splurge and where to save, you'll be better equipped, both emotionally and financially, to handle times of economic uncertainty. Whether you're rolling in riches or tightening your belt, making a budget and sticking to it is perhaps the most important thing you can do to remain upbeat and optimistic in any economic situation.

Make Yourself More Valuable
Cheer up and learn a new skill. It'll make you more valuable in the workplace.
Cheer up and learn a new skill. It'll make you more valuable in the workplace.
Tom Grill/Getty Images

It's not impossible to be optimistic and upbeat in a down economy, or even a bad situation; you just may have to work a little harder for it. The first step to a positive frame of mind, regardless of whether you're currently employed or not, is realizing that you can do more.

If you're employed, that may mean just taking a few extra steps to make sure you stay that way. With layoffs abounding and an ever-growing number of people looking for work, you want to do all you can to ensure that you're not the one who gets the axe. You could come in a few minutes early, stay a few minutes late, take on an extra assignment -- anything to increase your value in the workplace [source: AZ Star]. It will be much easier to maintain a positive frame of mind if you feel confident about your job security.

If you're currently looking for work, make yourself stand out from the crowd. Instead of sitting on the couch while you wait for a callback, learn a new skill to add to your resume and make yourself more marketable. Even if you just sit in front of the computer taking free tests to increase your typing speed, it can help. By proactively increasing your skill set, you not only make yourself more attractive to potential employers, you give your mind a reprieve from focusing on the negative aspects of your situation, making it much easier to remain upbeat and positive.

Know Your Worth

It's great to increase your value for current and potential employers, but to stay happy, you also have to know that you're more than what you do for a living. People's self-worth and confidence are often tied to their careers, so when some people lose their jobs they feel like they're losing a piece of themselves.

Jenny Ungless, owner of City Life Coaching, stresses the importance of being able to "switch off" from work. After all, it's hard to maintain an upbeat attitude if you can't sit back and appreciate the life you have outside of your job, even if your job is currently looking for work. To stay positive about your prospects, "switching off" is essential.

Fortunately, there are many options for those looking to reclaim their lives and identities from the often soul-crushing vacuum of work-related stress and despair. Try spending a few hours a week volunteering for a cause you feel passionately about, or join a local sports league. If charity or sports aren't your thing, try penning the next great bestseller or picking up a musical instrument. It doesn't really matter what you do (or how well you do it), the important thing is that you have something to look forward to that helps you forget your work-related troubles.

Still not sure you're equipped to beat the economic blues? Click over to the next page to learn a sure-fire way to get high on life.

Release Endorphins

The economy might be in the dumps, but there's an easy way to improve your mood that has nothing to do with mood-altering prescriptions. Endorphins are hormones that are naturally released by the body to help elevate a person's pain threshold. They also have a calming, even euphoric effect. The word "endorphin" actually means "the morphine within" [source: dictionary.com].

In one study, it was found that the endorphins released from just 45 minutes of exercise three times a week were as effective at improving mood and reducing depression as a prescription of Zoloft [source: Columbia.edu]. Best of all, WebMD cites several low-energy exercises that are good for releasing endorphins, such as:

  • Gardening
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Housework (vacuuming, mopping)
  • Bicycling
  • Yard work
  • Golf (sans the cart)

But let's face it, for some of us, the idea of golf without a cart is heresy, and the closest we get to a bike is when a motorcycle drives by. Fortunately for couch potatoes everywhere, the old adage is true: Laughter really is the best medicine. Laughing causes the body to release endorphins. In fact, even the anticipation of laughter can be beneficial. One study showed an increase in endorphin production in people who were simply looking forward to watching a funny video [source: WebMD].

Endorphins are not exclusively tied to laughter and exercise, however. Everything from viewing beautiful art to thinking positive thoughts can help you naturally and effectively stay in an upbeat, positive frame of mind.

Make Time For Yourself

It can often be difficult to maintain a stable, upbeat attitude, especially in a down economy. There's nothing wrong with striving for a positive piece of mind, but you also have to know when to relax. Between working (or, for increasing numbers of us, searching for work), maintaining relationships, managing finances and everything else most of us try to juggle in our lives, it can be pretty easy to get stressed-out and overwhelmed.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself and your state of mind is to just do whatever you want. Turn off your Blackberry and spend some time with your family, or catch up with a friend over coffee. Remember to take time out for yourself. Find a quiet corner and read a book or get up early and take a walk alone. To remain upbeat you have to be happy, and in order to be happy you have to find a balance in your life that includes time for friends, family and, most importantly, you.


Why It Feels So Good To Be Scared

Why It Feels So Good To Be Scared

It's already a scary world. Why do we seek to experience more fear? Find out some of the science behind fear at HowStuffWorks.

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