Better LivingMood & Stress

Five Surefire Ways to Lighten Your Mood Now

Some days staying upbeat and positive can feel like an uphill struggle. Humans are sensitive creatures, so it’s no wonder a bad mood can sneak up on us so often – and it’s not uncommon or abnormal to let little things get us in a funk. A bad mood can be caused by anything: not feeling like you are accomplishing anything, not getting enough likes on a Facebook post, or even from guilt about forgetting a family or friend’s birthday. Perhaps you had a stressful day at work dealing with an overbearing boss, had a fight with a family member or friend, or just had an off day. Whatever the reason for your dark thoughts, there are definitely actions you can take to improve your mood. 

The good news is that life circumstances only account for 10 percent of our happiness – while 50 percent depends on genetics, and 40 percent can be controlled through our daily actions, thoughts, or what we consciously do to make ourselves happy, according to the University of California, Riverside happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky. 

That means that there are a number of proactive things you can do to put a smile back on your face when you start feeling yourself feeling down in the dumps. If you’re looking for quick ways to turn your frown upside down, here are five ways to improve your mood in just a few minutes. 

Unpack the Guilt 

Even feeling mildly guilty can have a tremendously negative impact on our mood. For example, if you forgot your friend’s birthday, you may still feel bad even though you apologized. The key to resolving guilty feelings is to atone for what you feel bad about through direct action. Of course, an apology is in order, but if you still feel down in the dumps afterward, take a couple of minutes to send them a funny e-card or buy them a small, thoughtful gift. They will appreciate your gesture, and you will feel better immediately. 

Tackle Your To-Do List 

When outstanding tasks and to-do lists are weighing in the back of your mind, nagging at you, they can really bring down your mood. In order to lighten your attitude, you don’t have to complete every single outstanding task on your list in order to relieve stress and make you feel more content. In fact, many studies have shown that just making an outline for how to tackle unpleasant tasks is enough to eliminate the mental nagging and raise your spirits in the short term. So, make a plan for how you’re going to accomplish each task, what timeline you have to work with, and what you’ll need. Set a reminder on your phone or put a post-it-note up somewhere you’ll likely see it often, such as the kitchen or bathroom. Just planning how and when you’ll do tasks can help you lighten the mood, and seeing a task list being whittled down will give you a sense of accomplishment. 

Take a Break from Brooding 

It’s easy to get stuck focusing on scenarios in our heads that played out days, weeks, months ago, and events that haven’t happened yet or may never happen. Sometimes it’s replaying a previous action we regret, other times it’s imagining worst-case scenarios. These obsessive ideas can create a sort of dread, and the more you entertain them, the stronger and more imbedded they can become. Having these dark thoughts on loop in the back of your mind can get overwhelming. Instead, use tried-and-true distraction techniques to banish that upsetting film from playing over and over. Take a short two-minute walk around the backyard, play a game on your phone, or bring out your crossword puzzle and a pencil. Distraction for even a couple minutes while playing Sudoku can disrupt disturbing thoughts and restore your mood. 

Cultivate Gratitude  

It’s very difficult to feel blue and feel blessed at the same time. When you actively look for things to be grateful for and practice genuine gratitude daily, it’s almost impossible not to feel happier. You’ll feel more satisfied as a whole and won’t have as much time to think about what you don’t have. Try writing down a list of the things you have to be grateful for. Your family, pets, children, work, or even favorite activities, such as painting or jogging are all things you may be grateful for. But, don’t stop there. Did you fully enjoy that PBJ sandwich at lunch? Is the sky especially blue today? Make a mental note to be grateful for at least one thing a day, no matter how small. Try to make a habit of finding gratitude in experiencing little things as well as the bigger things. 

Crank the Music 

According to recent research published by the University of Missouri, you can improve your mood and be happier immediately when cheery music is involved. Upbeat music can aid individuals to successfully improve their mood, according to the 2013 study’s author, Yuna Ferguson. Ferguson stresses that you should allow yourself to just enjoy the music in the moment, and not focus on overthinking whether you are “happy yet.” Focus on the music and how it makes you feel, and empty your mind of thought. You might even feel like dancing along with the music, and exercise is another tried-and-true method of relieving stress. So, if you’re feeling low, turn up the volume on your favorite jams. 

We all face stress that can make us feel gloomy once in a while. The key to getting back to your happy place is to be proactive when you first start to feel down. Try one or more of the suggestions offered above and you’ll soon find your frown is turning upside-down.


Carla Koning

Carla has a degree in Behavioral Psychology from UCLA and a deep passion about stress disorders and how they affect our lives. When not hanging out with her husband and 2 children, she spends her free time reading and researching the latest scientific discoveries of the human brain and is our resident contributor in this subject matter.

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