The 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters
Need a quick pick-me-up? Try these smart strategies.
We’ve all been there: Your work day is going along just fine, and then—whether because it’s been a long day or you get a bit of news that bums you out—your mood takes a nosedive. You feel cruddy and find it hard to concentrate, get excited about what you’re working on, or to get anything done. It’s an extremely common situation and one that’s actually easy to turn around in most instances—if you know what steps to take.
While everyone has different reasons for feeling down and different boosters that they are likely to respond to, here are more than two dozen ways to quickly turn a bad mood around. Try these out and see what works for you. And for more stress-relief tips, check out the 32 Secrets of a Stress-Proof Life.
Accept Your Crappy Mood
The first thing to do when you’re feeling bad? Don’t feel bad about it. “Everyone gets down,” says Allison Kanter Agliata, a licensed psychologist and executive leadership coach. “It is a normal feeling to experience and you have to have a few lows in order to enjoy your highs. Rather than avoid it, try to sit in it and figure out the cause of your bad mood. Take time to reflect and examine the areas of your life that need improvement so you have a better understanding of what is impacting your feelings.” And if that doesn’t work, try out the Best Way to Keep Calm When You Want to Totally Lose It.
Phone a Friend
Give a friend or family member a call just to see how they’re doing or talk about your day. Hearing a voice on the other line is a great way to push yourself into a better state of mind. Sometimes, just a quick text can be enough to get you back on track.
Go Be Social
“People who often turn down social opportunities because they ‘don’t feel like it’ are letting their mood affect their behavior,” says Agliata. “But behavior can actually influence your mood if you force yourself to get out there. Remember that time your friends had to drag you out and you ended up having fun?”
Talk to a Stranger
“Talking to strangers is scientifically proven to enhance mood, increase happiness and pay it forward: the joy of connection is contagious,” explains Jennie Ann Freiman, founder and product developer at Oobroo. “Humans are social animals in need of human engagement, the kind that’s lost with digital connections. The daily commute, grocery shopping or walking the dog are great opportunities to bank new perspectives, fresh ideas and network, all of which pay dividends to mood.” And if you’re feeling a bit shy, here’s the Best Way to Make New Friends.
Do Some Mindful Breathing
Jennifer Winsor, a lifestyle expert with wellness blog Waves and WIllows suggests stopping for a minute and doing some deep breathing, following the mindful breathing example:
“Find a quiet space and get comfortably seated (if possible),” she says. “Close your eyes, take a deep inhale and a slow exhale and observe how your body is feeling. Try to consciously relax your shoulders and any other areas where you are feeling tension. Continue to take deep inhalations, holding each one momentarily and then long, slow exhalations.”
Finally, she suggests you continue to observe and be mindful of the positive changes in your body and release of tension and stress that is occurring. Being mindful of your breathing is also one of the 10 Best Non-Exercise Stress Busters.
It’s so simple, you’d think it couldn’t work as well as it does. “Research has shown that when we smile, whether it’s a fake smile or one that’s the real deal, our brain releases feel good endorphins throughout our bodies,” says Winsor. “Use your body’s automatic response to your advantage and trick your brain into making yourself feel happier. It might feel awkward at first, but try putting on a big, huge smile and see for yourself the way your mood is instantly boosted.” And for more feel-good tips, check out these 70 Genius Tricks to Get Instantly Happy.
Start the Day with a Grin
Just as you should do a little stretching and exercising in the morning, Winsor suggests beginning your day in the right place emotionally by doing some smile stretches. “Start the day off with some big grins first thing in the morning and you’ll give yourself a positive energy boost and start the day feeling energized,” as she puts it.
Step Away from the Screen
Blake Snow, author of Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting points to the fact that we often don’t realize how much we make ourselves miserable by staring at a computer screen or phone.
“The latest research demonstratively shows that excessive internetting, smartphoning, and social media make us miserable,” he says. “This is largely because online is mostly simulated and illusionary and therefore incapable of meeting our mostly offline social and physiological needs. But also because bottomless internetting causes dopamine loops, which keeps us searching and searching instead of creating and connecting with meaningful things. When I’m feeling down, I always refresh my offline endeavors. In the last nine years since setting strict boundaries on my technology use, this has rarely failed me.”
Take a Walk
“There ís a lot of value to a walk, fresh air, and sunshine,” says Carol Michaels, fitness trainer. “The sunshine stimulates the production of vitamin D which improves mood. It also helps your body manage stress. Taking a walk gets your body moving without the pressure of fitness performance.”
She suggests walking for 20-30 minutes during the day, but even a quick walk around the block can make a big impact on your well-being.
“[Stretches] help you get your blood flowing to your muscles,” explains Michaels. “This releases those endorphins mentioned earlier. Stretching and yoga also helps you become mindful and focused. It pulls you into the moment. Instead of worrying about tomorrow or regretting yesterday, you’re in the present moment. You can feel calm, in control, and centered.”
“Running is a fantastic calorie burner and it’s great for improving your fitness. It’s also something that almost everyone can do,” says Michaels. “It doesn’t have to be about performance, speed and distance. You can simply embrace the sport as a fitness jogger. The health benefits are the same. If you’re new to running, combine it with periods of walking. The goal is to help boost your mental and physical health.”
“I have never finished doing a yoga class or my own yoga practice and felt worse than before,” says Shawn Radcliffe, a yoga teacher and health writer. “Like other forms of exercise, yoga boosts endorphins. Mediation and the mindfulness associated with yoga also have proven benefits for improving mood. The trick, though, is getting motivated to step onto the mat or meditation cushion when you are already feeling down.”
Cut Out Some Tasks
A major source of anxiety and stress for the average person in these days of constant demands and distractions is the impulse to multitask. But while juggling a number of projects may make you think you’re getting plenty done in the moment, in fact it’s more likely just draining you.
“Multitasking has become the norm which has led to people feeling exhausted without also accomplished much,” explains Joe Bates, a brain expert and author of Making Your Brain Hum: 12 Weeks to a Smarter You. “Why? Because their focus is split out on too many things to do one thing excellently. Mediocrity or ‘just getting by’ feelings an begin leading to feeling overwhelmed.”
He suggests instead to choose to think about not doing something. “Athletes know this well,” he says. “In order to gain strength or muscle tissue, they must rest to rebuild. When you choose to set aside time to rest or have meditation (sitting still), think of this as an action plan of a ‘workout’ or Rx to thrive. You are doing something.“
Think About What’s Good
The value of gratitude is well known and when you’re feeling drained or down during the day, it’s one of the most effective ways to turn a bad mood around. Cara Maksimow, therapist and author, calls this filling your “BAG”:
“Refill your BAG with the bright spots of your day by answering these three questions and don’t forget to ask yourself why each is important to you:
- B- What was the Best & Brightest part of my day?
- A- What did I Accomplish today?
- G- What am I Grateful for? Why is it important?”
Do this and you’re likely to start feeling better in short order.
Take a Nap
The mental (and physical) health benefits of taking a brief power nap in the afternoon have been widely supported by science. If you’re feeling drained, a 10-minute rest is usually enough to recharge your batteries and help you feel much better the rest of the day.
Take a Shower
A quick shower can give you a mental restart to your day and have you feeling like you’ve begun a new day, washing away some of the frustrations you’re feeling. The feeling of warm water on your face can quickly put you into a good mood.
Give Yourself a Burst of Cold
While a warm shower offers plenty of benefits, a burst of cold can work in its own way. Milana Perepyolkina, author of Gypsy Energy Secrets, puts it this way: “No snow? Pour some very cold water into a bucket and step in it for a few seconds. Not at home? Open the faucet with cold water and keep your hands under water for a few seconds. Splash some of that water on your face. You will feel refreshed, energized, and in a better mood.”
Put on Some Music
To change your mood, sometimes you just need to change your soundtrack. Put on a favorite album or song—something high energy that’s going to get you bobbing your head at your desk.
Your diet can have a huge impact on your mood. Elizabeth Trattner, who practices integrative medicine, points to numerous studies that show the connection between “good fats and moods.”
“In a large four-year prospective study of 10,000 individuals investigating the association between the Mediterranean diet and depression, researchers found a 42% reduction in the risk for depression in study participants with the highest level of adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet,” says Trattner. “Conversely, low intake of the prominent components of the Mediterranean diet, such as olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids, was associated with higher rates of depression in a study. So, when you started eating healthier fats your mood improves.”
Have a Green Drink
Few health foods deliver as much good stuff to your body as quickly as a green drink. Filled with fiber and all sorts of other beneficial vitamins and good stuff, one of these will boost your mood in a lasting way.
Do a Quick Exercise
The fastest way to deliver a burst of pleasure to your brain is with some quick physical exercise—and we’re not talking about a trip to the gym.
“I tell all my clients if you can do a quick 10 squats where ever you are; at your desk, at Starbucks waiting in line, or even in Target while you’re shopping—it will release dopamine and serotonin directly to your brain and you will instantly feel happier and be in a better mood,” says Cali Estes, an addiction therapist and founder of The Addictions Coach. “I find it to be the quickest, cheapest, and most effective way to get that serotonin dopamine boost naturally.”
Look at Nature
While a walk in the woods offers plenty of mental-health benefits, in the middle of a work day that might not be an easy option, logistically. Luckily, studies have found that simply looking out the window at natural surroundings, or even just looking at images of trees, can help relax you and put you in a better mood. So type “relaxing nature pictures” into Google and you’re going to notice a difference fast.
Get a Massage
Use your lunch break to go get a massage. Never underestimate the healing and emotionally enhancing power of touch, especially when it comes from someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.
“Imagine your hands are a tool for healing and tension-relieving,” says Marlene Caroselli, corporate trainer and author. “Breathe slowly and deeply as you massage yourself. As you inhale, feel your breath flowing directly to the tense places in your body. Try to ‘see’ your fatigue, soreness, discomfort, tension, and worry escaping through every pore.”
Drop Your Jaw
You might want to make sure no one is watching you when you do this one.
“Drop your jaw suddenly,” says Caroselli. “Breathe in as you do so. Shrug your shoulders and rotate them fully—back, front, up, down—in generous smooth circles as high, wide, and gorgeous as you can make them. Then bring your shoulders back to normal position.”
It might seem weird, but give it a try—bet you feel better afterwards. Going forward, make sure you avoid the 20 Mistakes That Will Only Compound Your Stress.
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