You wake up some days and want to go right back to sleep. Maybe it’s because you had a bad dream, or perhaps you’re stressed about a potential confrontation in your day. Maybe you had a fight with your loved one and went to sleep angry. Whatever the reason, there’s a multitude of ways to improve your mood.
Researcher Roy Baumeister believes that people use up their willpower avoiding temptation, which can lead to a brain drain that leaves you irritable and moody. That can create feelings of anger and lead you down a one-way street to Depressionville. There’s evidence to back this up, as a study published in the 2009 Journal of Neuroscience found that bad moods lead to a type of tunnel vision that actually narrows your field of vision. So not only are you mentally stuck in a rut, your eyes will literally take in less of your surroundings. If you’re in a good mood, however, your view widens to take in more of the world around you. Others, like psychologist Guy Winch, believe a bad mood can be caused by nearly anything negative you encounter from guilt to a build up of tasks to accomplish.
As you’ve probably noticed we’re sort of obsessed with helping ourselves change the way we look and feel to achieve a balanced and happy life. In part, this is because science has shown that only a small portion of our happiness is predetermined by genetics and circumstance, while up to 40 percent of our happiness is controlled by how we think and act on a daily basis.
We’ve already explored some simple tricks to make your overall life happier, but what do you do when you wake up in a bad mood? Or after you’ve had an argument with a parent? How can you instantly turn your mood around and get your day back on track? Here are five quick and easy ways to turn your frown upside down.
GO FOR A WALK
The winter months can lead to depression, but so can being cooped up inside a sweltering house all day. The solution to both those problems is getting outside. People who get more light exposure during the day have fewer sleep problems and less depression. Physical exercise, even a quick walk around the block, encourages the release of hormones and neurochemicals that naturally boost your mood. Jack Raglin, Ph.D., who specializes in mental health and exercise, recommends doing activities that match your mood instead of forcing yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone. If you can’t bring yourself to take a long walk, perhaps convince yourself to go outside to check the mail and water some plants, or take a walk to the store to buy yourself a treat.
CLEAN-UP AFTER YOURSELF
A cluttered home or bedroom can lead to feelings of disorganization and a sense that life is out of control. It’s a reminder of all the little things you should be doing, but aren’t, like cleaning up after yourself, dusting and making your bed. The easiest way to combat these feelings is to do something about them. We’re not talking about deep cleaning your entire house either, simply tidying up can ease your mind with the illusion of order.
LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE UPBEAT ALBUM
Upbeat music has been shown to improve your mood, according to a study by Yuna Ferguson published in 2013 by the University of Missouri. The key to music therapy is to distract yourself and not focus on the goal of “getting happy,” but instead relax and allow the songs to work their magic. Something familiar, or even better one of your favorites, can increase your enjoyment and make it easier to sing along, thereby distracting you from your dark thoughts.
MAKE SOME ART
Art therapy has grown in popularity over the years, thanks in part to an extensive amount of research in the field. The Center For Neurological And Neurodevelopmental Health reports that art can help reactivate the pleasure centers in the brain by engaging senses, which causes the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters like dopamine. Pride in your artistic creation can boost your self-esteem and sense of self-worth, which reinforces confidence. It can also be an outlet to relieve stress or tension, which is why researchers now suggest coloring as a therapeutic activity for children as well as adults. Groundbreaking research in 2005 proved anxiety levels dropped when subjects colored mandalas, which are round frames with geometric patterns inside. Simply doodling, though, had no effect in reducing the other subjects’ stress levels. That’s because coloring, like meditation, allows our brains to focus on only the moment, instead of racing through a variety of anxiety-inducing thoughts.
Every so often the only option we have left to turn our day around and fight off sadness is to spend a little money on a treat. You could eat a few pieces of dark chocolate, which has been shown to lower stress hormones in your bloodstream. Another option is to curl up with a nice cup of hot or iced green tea, which contains theanine, a natural substance that’s been shown to have a calming effect on your body. If food and drinks aren’t your thing maybe it’s time to get that haircut you’ve been saving up for or the mani/pedi you’ve been putting off. Ice cream is one of our go-to treats for the saddest of days, but maybe you’re more into taking a weekend getaway somewhere tropical to boost your mood.
The important thing to remember when you’re hit with a bought of undeniable sadness is that you’re not alone and there are a ton of options to combat those feelings. Start small and work up to trying them all in a row whenever you feel dark thoughts encroaching on an otherwise pleasant day.