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Poll: What Comforts You?

When things are difficult–whatever that might mean to each person– some people eat. Others drink.  Some need a shoulder to cry on and some need a body to sleep with and some people pray and some people quit.

I lift and write and read.  I talk with my wife.  I write letters.  I play the guitar.

When things are dark, what comforts you? Where do you go for help?  This has been on my mind a lot this week.  I always like to know what works for other people.  If you’re comfortable doing so, I’d love to hear how you handle the lows.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kira January 9, 2010, 1:54 am

    Kind words … If I’m feeling low, I always feel better after saying something honest and kind … (online or offline, it doesn’t matter).


  • Sophia January 9, 2010, 2:21 am

    Taking books down from the shelves and reading through them. A sentence here, a paragraph there. And reading through my cookbooks.

  • Sue January 9, 2010, 5:59 am

    As a Care Giver for my demented mother, I sometimes find myself slipping down a slippery slope of self pity.

    The things I do are meditate, deep breathing exercises or I walk. I do yoga. I write. I create recipes and cook.

    I sit quietly and read the Care Giver’s Guide to Sanity that I had written for myself when I was in a positive mood.

    My guide helps me to remember what my dad always told me, “Susie, wait a minute things will change, nothing every stays the same.”

  • We Fly Spitfires January 9, 2010, 6:30 am

    My wife, always my wife. Just thinking about her when I’m stressing at work or feeling sad makes me happy.

    Soppy but true 🙂

  • Conor January 9, 2010, 6:35 am

    Hey Josh,

    Great blog and insights.

    I share similar methods to you. I write, sing, play guitar and read. If I’m really lost within myself, I seek out family and friends who get me and know what I need to surface again.

    Walks and meditation also help but I truly believe when we’re really in need of comfort, nothing beats a loving word or hand or look.


  • Greg January 9, 2010, 6:40 am

    When I was a teen, it was playing music. My parents could always tell when I was upset based on what I played. As a young adult, it became eating. Now its exercise and family.

    They are my bedrock.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 4:02 pm

      I listened to more Nirvana when I was a sad-sack teen than anything else. I was in love with being sad.

  • Kris Wragg January 9, 2010, 7:18 am

    The worst outlet I’ve come across is self harming, I know a few people that used to do it, and I even went through a phase myself (boy I was stupid in my teens!). It’s a really nasty thing and I’ve helped several friends through it in the past, its surprisingly common. My bet is everyone knows someone that has done it, even if that person has never admitted it!

    Nowadays I relax with movies and music that calm me a lot, for pent up frustration or anger I find kettlebells a good outlet.

    Also recently I’ve started bending steel, and I find that is a fantastic way to channel negative energy! Just bent some 3/16″ square steel today, it was hard and it made me happy when I did it 🙂

  • Nikki H. January 9, 2010, 8:01 am

    Music, for sure – playing or listening to it. Playing with my pets helps – animals are great comforters.

    I feel fortunate to be surrounded with kids all day long at my job. Being around small people who are excited about life and discovery – having conversations about the things they love – this always makes me feel better when things are crappy.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 4:01 pm

      What instrument do you play?

      • Nikki H. January 10, 2010, 8:08 am

        A little guitar, a little fiddle, a little keyboard, a little uke…I’m whatcha call a dilettante.

  • Laura Cococcia January 9, 2010, 8:03 am

    Making chocolate chip cookie while listening to music. Perhaps an odd combination for some, but it works for me.

  • Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave January 9, 2010, 8:10 am

    Like Sue, I was given the gift of being told to just wait. Change will happen. I’m also careful to put aside anything I’m working on that I want to keep–having destroyed pages, canvases, etc. in a moment of rage. Then I find some way to play. Splash-spattering paint on a piece of fairly good paper is always good, it even turns into a finished work. Even if it doesn’t–the fun is a release.

    • Heather January 9, 2010, 9:18 am


      Totally understand the trashing-everything-you’ve-made bit. Hate when that happens. Ever consider taking up boxing? Sometimes just punching round on a bag is good for keeping WIPs in-tact. Just a thought. . . .

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 4:01 pm

      I want that gift. I don’t like to be patient. I could change it, but I don’t.

  • Colleen January 9, 2010, 8:23 am

    Writing, especially structured writing. EG Haiku
    Singing mood-matching songs
    Lunch dates with people who do interesting work
    But what always works best for me is this:
    Helping someone else.

  • Todd January 9, 2010, 8:49 am

    I tend not to get bummed much. I rely heavily on my faith and my family. I find working out, reading and writing to be therapeutic. Occasionally, I like to take the hot rod to the drag strip. There’s something cathartic about roaring down a 1/4 mile at 100+ mph.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 4:00 pm

      I’ll have to take your word for it on the driving, for now. But yes on everything else!

  • Heather January 9, 2010, 9:15 am

    OK, here’s my list. It’s short, but there are explanations beside each one. I don’t get nearly as upset as I used to when i was younger. When i was a teenager, I used to drive. But that was when I was a kid. So here’s what I do now, and some of this is still a hold-over from when I was a kid:

    Dance–I took ballet, tap and jazz as a kid, and I like to get out and bust a move to get aggression out sometimes. I have an old Paula Abdul dance workout that I like to do because at the end of it I’m drenched in sweat and I have often forgotten what upset me in the first place.

    Lifting–Kettlebells are great therapy. So are push-ups, triceps dips, and seeing how many crunches you can do in a minute. When that isn’t enough (and when I’m not snowed in) I like to go for a walk, which usually turns into a run, which sometimes turns into a dance (there is an open-air theater stage at the park where I walk; it is amazing what a few grand jetes, pique turns and channes can do when you’re ticked off. Soundtrack by Mike Ness and the Stray Cats is helpful as well, which brings me to my next point).

    Music–Sometimes music you like that has nothing to do with what you’re ticked about can work wonders. I don’t necessarily get depressed anymore, because that just feels like the world coming down, and I hate it. But here lately I’ve been getting frustrated and ticked off, and this is what keeps me in check and calms me down.

    @ Todd–what kind of rod are you out there flying about in? I have a Vibe that starts shaking if she gets above 100. Got my eye on a Mustang with a sunroof, though. . . hope springs eternal. Now if it were only spring. . . . .

    Josh, this was a great post! DIG!

  • Ivan January 9, 2010, 10:27 am

    When things get bleak, I run. Somewhere along a 5-10K, I leave the bad stuff on the trail. It will catch up, eventually, but running literally lets me get some distance on whatever’s troubling me

    I also lift something heavy or read something safe and familiar, which tends to help some. And sleeping works wonders as well.

    All of the above, however effective, are only stop-gap measures. To really break me out of the bad cycles, I rely on my special someone to help me push through.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 3:59 pm

      Ivan, I think running might actually drive me from bleak to bleakest:)

      • Ivan January 10, 2010, 1:59 pm

        Yeah – it’s an acquired taste. 🙂

  • Robby G January 9, 2010, 11:11 am

    Listening to some music and drinking a beer seems to do the trick.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 3:58 pm

      All right, you too: What do you like to listen to? I’m always looking for new music recommendations.

  • Larissa January 9, 2010, 11:32 am

    Honestly, my first reaction when I am hurting, is to retreat. If I allowed myself, I could stay closed up for days. :/
    What I have learned to do is to choose to find joy, either present or past. I have to read through Scripture to read about God’s faithfulness and all that He has created, and, most importantly, the Sacrifice He made.
    When I meditate on these things, pray, then sing while at the piano, I am comforted and motivated to get past what is upsetting to me. Then I go out (or stay home) and serve others, ie, my family or community at my church.
    I do hope, though, that someday this will be my natural reaction. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 3:58 pm

      I’m sure it will if you do it often enough.

  • Niel January 9, 2010, 12:26 pm

    Music & reflecting on family always gives me warm feelings.

    That and overhead squatting or deadlifting.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 3:58 pm

      All right Niel, I’ll ask you too: any music recommends?

  • Tim King January 9, 2010, 12:39 pm

    I tend to take a day off to sink low. But always on the condition that I reengage with those around me afterward.


  • Dean Dwyer@QuitBit January 9, 2010, 12:55 pm

    It sometimes takes me a bit to catch myself in a low…it can be a cumulative effect. I try to do things when this happens. Watch comedies. Norman Cousins wrote a great book called “Anatomy of an Illness.” In it he cured himself of terminal illness by immersing himself in comedies and vitamin C.

    The other is http://www.TED.com. There are some great stories on there that just can’t help but get you inspired.


  • aubrey January 9, 2010, 1:58 pm

    I sit in a warm shower & pretend it’s a waterfall.
    I think it works for two reasons:
    1. You can’t be productive in any way while doing this (no technology, no reading, no calls) you re-focus on essentials
    2. I’ve got the Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis & the joints like to be warm

    if that’s not an option i tend to stew and burst out in “shiny happy fits of rage” (wouldn’t want you to think me too peaceful:)

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 3:57 pm

      This made me laugh. Lots of writing books say “take a shower” as a way of stirring up new ideas. I actually think it works, so showering s one of the few places where I’m absolutely focused:)

  • Michelle McGee January 9, 2010, 2:27 pm

    Words give me comfort. Whether they are my own that I am writing down in a journal or the words of someone else I find great comfort in their healing power. Words and music together are ideal. Great lyrics coupled with beautiful music can’t be beat. Always makes me feel better.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 3:56 pm

      Any music recommendations?

      • Michelle McGee January 9, 2010, 11:26 pm

        Oh man my taste is very eclectic. I learned to like all kinds of music when I managed a record (yes, real records) store in the 80’s and 90’s. So let’s see some of the things I listen to now are: The Avett Brothers, Bebel Gilberto (when I want to float away), Hurricane Bells, Amos Lee (when I want to relax this is an absolute must)and, of course, The Beatles (they gave me my name). These are the only ones that come straight to mind at this late hour. What music do you listen to? I’m always looking for new tunes too.

  • Daisy January 9, 2010, 3:02 pm

    Baking. Writing. Reading. Resting. Eating too much, but I’m working on funneling that energy in a different direction. My life is full of stressors; putting them in perspective helps a great deal.

  • Jessica Marie January 9, 2010, 3:56 pm

    I tend to bake or lay in my bed and read. My Mom always gets worried about me when I make cornbread, banana bread, and a cake all in one day. Oddly enough, this doesn’t extend to cooking; just baking. Also, if I have spend two days reading in my bed, there’s trouble.

  • Mary January 9, 2010, 6:21 pm

    I call my mom and talk to her and my sister if I can’t get my mom. I also like warm baths!

    I also wanted to tell you that reading your blog helps. My son, who is 9, has Tourette Syndrome. He has his good days and bad days with tics and I worry so much for him. Right now, it doesn’t seem to bother him, but knowing that others have dealt with it and are making it helps.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 9, 2010, 6:25 pm

      Mary, if I can ever help you or your little guy with anything, please say so.

      • Mary January 9, 2010, 6:32 pm

        Thanks Josh! His tics have calmed this week. The week before Christmas he was banging and swatting at things if he was near them. I was worried he would hurt his hands. I think it was the excitement of Christmas coming. He still has these “bang bang” tics as I call them, but they have calmed greatly.
        I hope you are doing well!
        thanks again!

  • floreta January 9, 2010, 6:55 pm

    i guess lately:
    learning to embrace impermanence. it can be both comforting and depressing. i try to meditate. write. journal. pray. tell myself everything will be ok and work out in the end.

  • Boris Bachmann January 9, 2010, 8:16 pm

    Comforts/escapes (there are many): training, reading, writing, sometimes work, sometimes food, usually caffeine, usually internet.

    I need less escaping and more genuine dealing – I think most of the above can be a tool for further self-knowledge, but, to be brutally honest, most of the time it’s an escape for me. I thought I had written a post at some point about training as meditation vs. training as escape, but maybe not… I’ll get on that at some point.

  • Andria January 9, 2010, 9:08 pm

    I used to retreat into books, but now I have a healthy appreciation of literature instead of just escaping reality. I had plenty of unhealthy coping mechanisms that either involved escaping or seeking external validation. Over the years, I have had to pick up “better” habits; I have had to learn how to pat myself on the back. The most fundamental thing I do is allow myself to sleep. Not unhealthy oversleeping, but I sink lower if I am not getting enough, and by enough, I actually need around 9 hours a night to feel decent. I also like to read random pages out of Buddhism-inclined self-help books here and there or otherwise allow myself some kind of new-agey indulgence. This isn’t all that common. I do profess to running – which also used to make me feel bleaker, but at some point I discovered that I have to meditate while I run, and it needs to be at least a good 45 minutes or more for me to benefit from a good endorphin rush. If it’s not running, it’s spinning, kickboxing (imagining image of big-bad meanies making my life hell connecting toe to face so that I can feel properly not-angry not-angsty normal)…strength training, plyometrics, et cetera, but I always have a mental list of things in mind that are bothering me, and I imagine that I am purging my woes with my sweat, and sometimes with the occasional unintentional regurgitation, due to my inability to regulate my body temperature. Other than that, I set a goal, because I know I need to focus on something, I pet my kitties, dote on my doggies, watch the simple and pure joy on their faces when I offer them a romp in the yard, a treat, or some catnip. And I remind myself that I’m really glad that I’m not a pit bull in an animal shelter. My chances of passing a temperament test would not be that awesome. I’m pretty sure they’d put me down. 🙂 Thanks for asking these questions. I enjoyed reading everyones’ responses.

  • Andria January 9, 2010, 9:31 pm

    I forgot to mention laughing at myself and eating healthy, clean, and organic.

  • Roxthefoxthebabygoldilocks January 10, 2010, 6:49 am

    Counsel from people outside my friends and family…My psychiatrist has helped me understand my anger, and right now we are exploring constructive ways to channel it. He helped me discover things about my compulsive self which has changed my behavior dramatically! It is helpful to visit Josh’s site and find strength from constructive people who struggle with really hard situations.

  • Joe DeGiorgio January 10, 2010, 7:50 pm

    Music is a big key for me: helps deal with times of loss, when
    I need to take out aggressions…something high energy will fill the bill there.

    It also helps to bring back memories of good times, and when things go right. Thinking of what has passed before that was positive in your life creates the belief it can always happen again!

  • Stephanie Smith January 12, 2010, 5:24 pm

    I find it interesting that no one said SLEEP. I tend to do this when things are really bad – you know, that feeling that you want to dig a hole, crawl in and pull the dirt in after you?
    Sleep is an escape -ususally when I am depressed.
    As for angry, I listen to music – just last night “Break Stuff” bt Limp Bizkit, fit my mood to a tee. Then I use the punching bag.
    Comfort is also the haven of my husband’s arms, the smell of my mom’s perfume and a great book. Reading is an escape of the best kind.

  • Elizabeth January 12, 2010, 10:16 pm

    What comforts me depends on my mood, if that makes sense. Anger – I used to throw things. Now, reading, music (again, depends on mood but ranges from classical (Baroque!) to Metallica), or surfing for a bit to escape.

  • Beth L. Gainer January 29, 2010, 11:11 pm

    Hi Josh,
    When I get medical scares from time to time, I cry, then deep breathe, and then think of my daughter. Hobbies that calm me are writing, oil painting, and playing some guitar. It always makes me feel better to help others and contribute to the world in some small way than dwell on my own problems.