12 Easy Ways to Improve a Bad Mood

by Camilla Cheung on 6 February 2014 1 comment

Many things can cause or contribute to a bad mood, even if you're usually an optimistic person. Circumstances such as stress at work, a disagreement with a friend, or a difficult family situation can send your mood into a funk. Sometimes, you're just having a bad day and you need a little pick-me-up. If you feel like you woke up on the wrong side of bed, here are some ideas to quickly change your mood and get you feeling better about your day. (See also: Happiness Habits to Feel Better Now)

Note: If you think you may be suffering from depression or chronic anxiety, talk to your doctor.

1. Drink a Glass of Water

If you're feeling generally yucky — tired, cranky, and unable to focus — you may be suffering from dehydration. Studies show that even mild dehydration can bring on headaches, fatigue, and a low mood. So if you're feeling a little blah, try downing a glass of water (no, coffee doesn't count), and see if that helps. (See also: How to Deal With Migraine Headaches)

2. Get Outside

Being indoors all the time, especially with poor lighting conditions, can start to affect both your mood and your health. Research has shown that vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," is crucial for physical and mental health, and most Americans are deficient in this important nutrient. In a recent study, people who adopted an outdoor lifestyle showed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you're just having a bad day, getting outside in the sun can help to boost your mood.

3. Move Around

Have you ever noticed that at periods of heightened emotional stress, going for a run can help to calm you down and to stabilize your mood? Exercise releases endorphins (those feel-good brain chemicals), gets your mind off your problems, and gets your energy levels up if you're feeling down. If you're not particularly active, even a brisk walk or a few stretches can help to jump-start a better mood. (See also: 15 Ways to Exercise in Less Than 5 Minutes)

4. Listen to Music

Remember that scene in "Jerry Maguire" when Tom Cruise rocks out to Tom Petty's "Free Falling" in the car (right after he had been fired)? Studies show that listening to upbeat music can help to lift your mood. So crank up the tunes and focus on enjoying the positive music.

5. Change Your Colors

Did you know that the color of your room can affect your mood? Colors like blue and green, for example, are more soothing than energetic colors like yellow or red. In addition, studies show that light from the blue end of the spectrum (which is dominant in outdoor light) can improve focus and mood — a kind of light that we typically lack by being in a mostly indoors environment. If you want to feel more relaxed and cheerful in any given room, try bringing some green and blue color into the room, and invest in a blue-enriched light bulb (though don't use blue light in the evening as it can inhibit sleep).

6. Buy a Plant

Living plants can help improve both your mood and productivity — and they also filter the air around you. All great reasons to head to your local garden center and bring a few green plants indoors. (See also: Guide to Container Gardening)

7. Change Your Environment

Along the same lines as changing the colors in your vicinity is the idea of changing up your environment in general. Sometimes a change is all you need. Organize your desk, move your knick-knacks around, clean out the fridge, experiment with your furniture arrangement — the small changes you make, along with the burst of activity, could help perk up your mood. (See also: 25 Healthy Changes)

8. Think of a Happy Memory

Instead of dwelling on problems you can't fix, try thinking of a happy memory to improve your mood. Think of something that made you feel good about yourself or that makes life enjoyable. Perhaps it's a compliment someone gave you, or a great time with a circle of friends. Thinking about that on-top-of-the-world feeling you had can make you more confident and put you in a more positive frame of mind.

9. Have a Snack

Do you ever get cranky when you're hungry? If you notice you get into arguments easily when you're feeling peckish, make sure you eat before beginning a "discussion." Keep the snack healthy, like a banana with almond butter, or some cheese and a few slices of apple. Avoid sugar-laden snacks that will lead to a crash later and make you even crankier. (See also: 12 Healthy Snacks)

10. Meditate or Pray

Research shows that people who practice a daily spiritual routine tend to be happier, regardless of which religion or spirituality. Taking some time out to pray, meditate, or to simply refocus and re-center yourself can help to boost your mood.

11. Go to Bed Early

I experienced sleep deprivation firsthand as the mother of a newborn, and believe me, it was not a pretty sight. Even partial sleep deprivation, like when you get 4–5 hours of sleep a night, can lead to increased irritability, anxiety, sadness, and anger. Make sure you have established good sleep habits, such as sleeping at a regular time, avoiding electronics before bed, getting adequate light exposure during the day, etc… If you consistently have trouble sleeping, or feel excessively sleepy during the day, contact a health professional who may recommend a sleep study and/or other treatments.

12. Shop a Little

Recent research has shown that a little retail therapy actually can improve happiness. But before you splurge on the latest iPhone, consider this: spreading out small purchases over a longer period of time made people happier than splurging on something big. In addition, spending on experiences made people happier than buying physical items. Even thinking about the prospect of spending money on one of these experiences increased happiness. So if you're feeling down, buy yourself some flowers, sign up for a cooking class, or get your friends together to go to a movie.

How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling moody and down?

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Exercise! Nothing helps lift my mood like a good workout.