Do you ever have days where you just get up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing seems to go right? On days like that, it can seem impossible to turn things around. But if you know how to improve your mood, you can make even the worst day better. Whether you’re trying to make a bad day good or a good day better, these are some great ways to lift your mood.
Count Your Blessings
Being grateful even when things are difficult may sound cliché, but gratitude has been shown to have a very powerful effect on our moods—and our lives. Robert Emmons of U.C. Davis has been studying gratitude for years, and he’s found that keeping a gratitude journal brings a host of physical, psychological, and social benefits. People who are grateful have stronger immune systems and fewer aches and pains, and are also more optimistic and sleep better. They also experience more pleasure, are friendlier, and don’t feel lonely as often.
Whether you keep a formal journal or simply stop for a moment to make a mental list, gratitude can be a powerful mood enhancer.
How can breathing lift your mood? After all, we breathe all day long, and we still can get stressed. The answer comes in paying attention to our breathing—and sometimes in changing how we breathe. Focusing on your breathing can be a powerful way to reduce stress. Notice the feeling of the air as you breathe it in and out, and the way your body moves as you breathe.
As you breathe in, let your abdomen expand. Focus on breathing deeply, instead of taking the shallow breaths that we often take when we’re stressed. If you practice deep, mindful abdominal breathing, it can help to enhance your mood and relax you.
Do Something Nice for Others
There are few feelings better than doing something altruistic for someone else. Whether you volunteer as part of an official organization or simply find opportunities to serve on your own, doing something for others can help you stop focusing on the things that seem wrong in your lives and be aware of how much you truly have to be grateful for. And we’ve already seen that gratitude is a great way to lift your mood.
Service doesn’t have to take a long time, either. Shoveling a neighbor’s walk in the winter, writing a thank you letter to a favorite teacher, or simply playing with a child can all do good in the world while helping you be happier.
Smell a Lemon
It might sound strange, but the scent of lemon may be able to help you de-stress and improve your mood. Lemons contain a substance called linalool, and Japanese researchers have found that this compound may be able to help reduce stress. But lemons aren’t alone; other scents also seem to have mood enhancing properties. Orange, lavender, basil and juniper have also been shown to help reduce stress.
Get Outside and Enjoy the Sunlight
The modern lifestyle often means that people don’t get much sunlight. But according to Daniel Kripke of University of California, San Diego, “people who get more light exposure during the day have fewer sleep problems and less depression.” Whether you take a walk at lunch time or simply take a few minutes to lie on the grass and feel the sun, getting outside and into the natural light can really lift your mood.
Get Some Exercise
Often the biggest problem with our mood lies directly between our ears. Exercise can be a great way to lift your mood by helping your get out of your head and into your body. It can trigger hormones that lift mood, and it can help you burn off frustration.
If you’re feeling angry, anxious and overly energetic, you might try something a little higher intensity that requires you to focus on something besides your problems. If you’re feeling more subdued and depressed, allow yourself a less taxing workout. According to Jack Raglin of Indiana University, “even mild exercise, about 40% of your max heart rate, can lift your mood.” Whether you play a game of basketball, attend a spin class, or simply do a bit of gardening, getting physical can help you to let go of stress and feel happier.
Smile (AKA Fake it ‘til You Make It)
We typically think that being in a good mood makes us smile, but have you ever thought that it could go the other way too? Studies have shown that simply smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, can help you to reduce stress and genuinely feel happier. Smiling is one of the simplest ways to lift your mood quickly.
Unplug (Even if it’s just for a Moment)
A lot of us live our lives plugged into our computers, our MP3 players, our smartphones, our TVs. While this connectivity can be very enjoyable and entertaining, it can also become very stressful—without us even realizing it. Next time you’re feeling stressed, try unplugging for a minute or two. Let yourself breathe, think your own thoughts and just smile. It’ll get better!