There’s lots of little things you can do to boost your mood.
Today, as I walked to the organic foods store, a car drove by. I won’t go into detail as to the conduct of the three passengers in the car, but let’s just say that their behavior left much to be desired. Although I was in a good mood before they drove by—I had just spent an hour lifting weights at the gym, which is something I love to do—my mood quickly dropped.
- Another driver swerves and cuts ahead of you in traffic, and you barely have enough time to step on the brakes to avoid hitting them.
- Your boss scolds you in front of others for a mistake that resulted from her inability to communicate clearly.
- Your neighbor’s dog digs up your flower bed, again.
- You overhear two snippy co-workers gossiping about you.
- You’ve put on some weight and your so-called friend makes a comment along the lines of, “Goodness, you’ve been hitting the donuts pretty hard, haven’t you?”
Fortunately, for those times when the environment and other people seem to be conspiring against your mood, there are many ways to give yourself a mood boost. Below you’ll find 13 quick ways to improve your mood.
1. Think Fast
Accelerate your thinking – experiments conducted by Princeton University and Harvard University have shown that there’s a link between thought speed and mood. Slow thinking can lead to feelings of despondency and dejection, while fast thinking has joy-enhancing effects.
There are several theories as to why this is so:
- People associate fast thinking with happy moods, so if they’re thinking fast they trick their brains into believing that they must be happy.
- Thought speed may increase dopaminergic activity which is associated with experiences of reward and pleasure.
- Fast thoughts distract you from thinking about the person, event, or circumstance that made you feel bad in the first place.
In order to get yourself thinking fast, you can do any of the following:
- Give yourself a brainstorming task. For example, tell yourself that you have three minutes to come up with 100 possible titles for an eBook you’re thinking of writing.
- Watch a video in accelerated mode.
- Take out a book and speed read.
- If you have any poems memorized, recite the poem quickly in your heard.
The next time you feel your mood taking a nosedive, elicit fast thinking.
2. Make Yourself Smile
You may have read the following quote by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
James Laird, PhD, from Clark University in Massachusetts wholeheartedly agrees with Nhat Hanh. He’s spent his entire professional life studying the connection between behavior and feeling, and he argues that we can make ourselves happy just by smiling. Plus, he has research to back this up.
Dr. Laird conducted a study involving two groups of participants:
- One group of participants was told to smile.
- The other group was told to frown.
Afterwards, both groups were shown cartoons. The group that was asked to smile found the cartoons funnier than the frowners did. Dr. Laird wrote in his conclusions to the study that the simple act of smiling seems to activate happiness centers in the brain.
Smiling does all of the following:
- It activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress.
- The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins are released when a smile flashes across your face.
- Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as a mood lifter
So, the next time you need a quick mood lift, show off those pearly whites.
3. Have a Hearty Laugh
As I wrote in my post, How to Laugh More — 22 Ways to Bring More Laughter Into Your Life, laughing makes us feel good. It lowers stress hormones and elevates feel-good hormones. So, if you need a quick mood pick-me-up, do any of the following:
- Call someone who makes you laugh.
- Think back to the last time you laughed really hard–the memory is likely to trigger some chuckles.
- Try a laughter exercise. Quietly repeat the sounds “ho, ho, ho, ha, ha, ha, he, he,he, hee, hee, hee” as you carry out a habitual task, like showering, washing the dishes, or making coffee.
- Look for something funny on the internet. I happen to think the Scrap clips are hilarious:
The next time you need to improve your mood, laugh.
4. Indulge in Some Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate—which has a higher content of cocoa butter and less milk than other forms of chocolate—is not only delicious, but it will also help you to improve your mood. Here are three reasons why eating dark chocolate is so incredibly blissful:
- Chocolate is a source of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter of happiness and positive mood.
- Chocolate is the main food source of anandamide, a neurotransmitter which is very similar to the primary psychoactive component in marijuana.
- Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a compound which creates a brain buzz similar to being in love.
When you need a mood boost, dark chocolate is your friend.
5. Listen To An Upbeat Song
Recent research at the University of Missouri revealed that listening to upbeat music—while trying to feel happier—will improve your mood. This is evidence that trying to be happier and making a conscious effort to improve your mood really does work.
Create a soundtrack of your favorite upbeat feel-good songs. Then, the next time that you want to improve your mood, hold that intent while you listen to the soundtrack.
6. Sing Along
Don’t just listen to upbeat music. Make sure that you also sing along. Researchers have discovered that singing releases endorphins, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and elation. It also releases oxytocin, a hormone which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress.
Although the greatest benefits come from group singing, singing alone also works. The musical vibrations created by singing move through you, creating a soothing and calming effect.
7. Get Up and Boogie
Now take it one step further: as you listen to the music and sing along, get up and boogie. Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, Massachusetts explains that movement will release endorphins and elevate your mood.
It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. Just move. If you absolutely can’t get yourself to dance around, grab your iPod and go for a quick stroll.
8. Light a Vanilla Scented Candle
Certain scents can alter or heighten your mood. If you need a happiness boost, the smell of fresh vanilla beans will do the trick. A study published in the Proceedings of ISOT/JASTS 2004 found that taking a whiff of vanilla beans elevated participants’ feelings of joy and relaxation.
One way to fill the air around with this mood-enhancing smell is to light a vanilla scented candle.
Meditation is like taking a mini-retreat from the world, which is something you need when the world is getting you down.
In addition, meditating stimulates the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, releasing endorphins and increasing the production of serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin—all associated with relaxation and happiness.
If you need a little help, there are free apps that offer short meditations specifically designed for mood improvement. One of these is Stop, Breathe & Think, which will prompt you to check how you’re feeling and will then recommend three guided meditations– each one between five and 10 minutes long—for you to choose from.
10. Pet a Pooch
A study by the University of Missouri–Columbia showed that petting a dog for just 15 minutes brightens your mood. This is because petting your dog—or cat– releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. It also lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
All of this means that petting your pet will lower your blood pressure and evoke a sense of calmness, happiness, and well-being.
I don’t have pets, but I’m not shy about petting strangers’ dogs.
11. Eat a Banana
When you’re feeling down, make yourself a smoothie and add a banana, or just peel a banana and eat it. A banana can contain 10 milligrams of dopamine. Dopamine is our primary reward chemical, and since bananas give you extra dopamine, they’re one of those feel-good foods you should reach for when you need a mood boost.
12. Ask Yourself: “What’s Going Well?”
Dr. Martin Seligman is the founder of positive psychology—a branch of psychology that studies what makes people thrive. One of the tools that he recommends for increasing well-being is the “What Went Well” exercise. It consists of the following:
- Look back at the end of each day and find three things that went well.
- Reflect on them and even replay them in your mind.
- You want to revisit the good feelings brought on by those successes.
Do something similar when you need a quick mood boost. Even though something just went wrong which led you to feel bad, ask yourself: “What’s going well?” By thinking of what’s going well you’ll be counteracting the negative emotions which are bringing down your mood.
13. Have Some Green Tea
If something upsets you and you need to calm down fast, take out a teapot and brew yourself a cup of green tea. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a researcher, nutrition expert and author of “Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! “explains that sipping green tea will calm you down because it causes changes in body chemistry that relax, enhance the ability to think, and change mood.
So, which of these did I try after my unfortunate post-workout encounter? All of them. Did I feel better afterward? I most certainly did. Live your best life by using the 13 strategies explained above to improve your mood.
- How to Make Decisions Like Benjamin Franklin
- Three Effective Methods For Making Better Decisions
- 10 Things to Do When life Throws You a Curveball
- 21 Ways to Create and Maintain a Positive Attitude
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