“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” – Pema Chodron

So, what to do when life hands you an unexpected surprise? Not the good kind of surprise, like winning the lottery or finding your favorite T-shirt you thought was lost. The not-good kind of surprise. What is the best way to handle sorrow?

While doing a swan dive into a bottle of Merlot and/or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is extremely tempting, it’s not the Skeptical Yogi way. I’ve spent most of the day today thinking of positive ways to deal with loss, and I’ve decided to post them here, both as a blueprint for myself and for anyone out there who needs it.

1) Take some time to be with the sad feelings. It sucks, but it’s important. Masking them with alcohol or food or anything else doesn’t make them go away. Our feelings are what make us human, and it’s healthy to honor them, even when it’s not fun. But don’t get too caught up in this part, because then…

2) Get the hell out of the house. Allow yourself to dwell and feel miserable, but not for too long. I put an expiration date on my “Sad Bastard” phase. It’s important to allow yourself the Sad Bastard phase, but after a while, it stops being a phase and you become an actual Sad Bastard. After a crummy breakup a couple years ago, I decided (after the Sad Bastard phase) to become a “yes” person. I said yes to every single thing I was invited to for two weeks. In that two weeks, I had my fortune read by a psychic and met a fire-breathing clown named Colin, to name just two experiences. Also, I developed relationships that changed and enhanced my life forever.

3) Fake it till you make it:  Studies have shown that simply smiling (even if you’re faking it) can trick your brain into thinking it’s happy, so do something that makes you smile. This is what Will Farrell movies were created for.

4) Exercise. This is key. It’s a quick, easy mood booster that can even be free. It’s also a good way of working through residual emotions that tend to pop up.

5) Remember: This too shall pass. I’m usually a die-hard optimist, but during times like this, even I sometimes forget this one. Life is all about learning, but sometimes we can’t see the lessons right away. This sucks, but the universe is the ultimate teacher, if you have some patience and trust its wisdom.