5 Ways To Stay Optimistic & Productive While Unemployed


The economy is in the dumps, the unemployment rate seems to always be rising, and everything kind of sucks. It sucks even more if you’re unemployed, especially for a long period of time, which is becoming more and more common for people in the United States.

I’ve been unemployed for 7 months since my temporary tax season job ended, and I was unemployed for 6 months before that. Besides the financial worries and stress of a seemingly endless job hunt, involuntary unemployment can be unpleasant and extremely disheartening. A few months ago I read the following in Business Week:

Surveys by Mental Health America and other researchers have found that people affected by the lousy economy have a higher risk for mental illness, especially such conditions as depression and anxiety.

There is very little we as individuals can do to change the economic climate, but there are things we can do–which I try to do myself–to stay optimistic and active, despite being helplessly unemployed. Here are a few suggestions:

Get Out and Take a Walk

You may want to spend all day on the computer or looking through the classifieds for job leads, but it’s not good to become a shut-in. Just going outside and taking a walk every day can do wonders for your mood (there’s even studies to prove this). Walk to the library, to the corner store, or just around the block.

This is a simple way to get some fresh air and a change of scenery which doesn’t cost any money. You could even save money by walking somewhere you would normally drive. We don’t have a car since we live in the city, but I save what would be spent on bus fare by walking anywhere I need to go within two miles of my home. It’s good exercise and really helps to clear the mind.


Exercising is very important to overall health, and you should be doing it whether or not you’re working. If you’re not working, then you suddenly have a lot of free time and no good excuse not to exercise. When you exercise your body releases endorphins which improve your mood.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to exercise either. As mentioned above, you can walk for 30 minutes or ride a bike. Most public broadcasting and local cable channels have exercise shows on during the day. There’s also lots of free streaming yoga and exercise videos available online. Yoga requires very little equipment, and you can even do it on a rug if you don’t have a sticky mat.

Work on Hobbies

You can’t spend all of your time looking for jobs or you’ll lose your mind. With all of this new free time, it’s the perfect opportunity to take up a new hobby or rediscover old passions. Always wanted to draw or write a novel? How about scrapbooking all of your beloved family pictures? Now is the time to do it.

Some people even turn their hobbies into money making opportunities. My new hobby is entering sweepstakes, which can be lucrative. Many crafty unemployed people have made money selling through Etsy. Hobbies can keep you busy, help you be productive, and also create feelings of self-fulfillment.


When you’re jobless it’s easy to get down on yourself. Volunteering is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better while helping your community and other people. It gets you out of the house–without spending money–and gives you an opportunity to socialize. Volunteer experience is great for building resumes and sometimes leads to job opportunities. In the least, you’re helping out and networking with new people.

Hang Out With Friends

It’s easy to become a shut-in when you’re unemployed. I know I sometimes feel like I should constantly be looking for jobs and avoid going out to save money. Just hanging with friends can be a huge mood booster and take your mind off of the stress of the job hunt.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money either. Just have friends over to hang, plan a board game night or have a potluck. Attend a free movie screening or free museum days. Just get out of the house and have some fun.

These are just a few suggestions. What are other ways to stay optimistic and make good use of the extra free time unemployment brings?


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