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3 Tips for Finding Comfort Without Food

I recently saw an Instacart ad that reminded me why it can be so hard not to turn to food when you need comfort.

The ad starts with a text saying, “He broke up with me!”

Then a reply comes: “Forget him! I’m here for you.”

That’s a nice sentiment, but it turns out the reply wasn’t from a friend or family member, but rather from Instacart. The ad proceeds to show chocolate, ice cream, and another treat before saying, “Comfort Foods” and checking options for “Sweets” and “Snack.”

You couldn’t ask for a clearer reminder that the idea of comfort foods is embedded in our society. It’s also quite clear that those comfort foods don’t tend to be high in nutritional content.

Now, I’m not saying you should forgo having any comfort foods. After all, they’re comforting for a reason, and you may well choose to have them sometimes.

My concern is that you might feel like comfort foods are your only option – and that’s not true.

Even if you’re by yourself, you can find other means of comfort. Here are three ideas to get you started.

Comfort viewing

I first had the idea to replace comfort food with something else comforting about 20 years ago. At the time, my comfort foods were chicken tenders and curly fries from a nearby corner store, and on the day in question, I knew I was only thinking about those foods because I was sad.

So, instead of eating comfort food, I opted for “comfort viewing” – specifically Ghostbusters. In the years since, other comfort viewing has included episodes of Frasier and Scrubs, and movies like Galaxy Questand The Princess Bride.

What these all have in common is that I’ve already seen them and know I like them, they make me laugh, and they have happy endings. You might choose different things to view to cheer you up, but just make sure it’s something that lifts your spirits.

Comfort reading

Comfort viewing may have been the first time I articulated this concept, but I think I’ve been practicing comfort reading for almost my whole life.

For example, as a kid I became obsessed with the book The Cat That Clumped by Paul Annixter. It was about a cat who wanted to be a horse, and what could be better for a girl who loved cats and horses? I don’t even know how many times I read the story, but I always found comfort in it.

Other comfort books followed, ranging from things like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jane Austen novels, and the Chicks in Chainmail anthologies (they’re fantasy stories that don’t take themselves very seriously).

And that pattern of reading and re-reading stories continues even now. Most of the time I like new stories, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I want the comfort of familiar stories and known endings.

Comfort music

Another great option is music. And clearly, this has been a source of comfort for people for millennia, whether it be listening to soothing music, singing along to your favorite songs, playing an instrument, or even writing a song.

The other great thing about music is that it doesn’t take long to shift your mood. Even listening to or singing along to one song can make you feel better.

For me, comfort music is usually something I can sing along with and that makes me feel happier. This includes songs like Rattlin’ Bog by Schooner Fare, It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)by REM, Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls, and Try Everything by Shakira.

You’ll have your own favorites, of course. Just remember it helps to know them early on, so you don’t have to think about it too much when you’re feeling down and are looking for comfort.

Find your own comfort options

These are just a few ideas. You can also think about dance or other types of movement… gardening… cooking… writing… and so much more.

So remember, while you don’t have to avoid comfort foods, you also don’t have to rely only on comfort foods. You can find comfort in so many other ways.

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