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9 Easy Ways To Boost and Improve Your Mood

May 24, 2023 By Dominique Astorino
Man standing outdoors looking up and smiling

Clinical Editor: Andrew Bertagnolli, Ph.D.

Down in the dumps? We all find ourselves in a bad mood from time to time. With the virtually unavoidable stressors of modern life, mood struggles are incredibly common. While one in five people (at least) will struggle with some form of mood disorder, essentially everyone experiences stress or a bad mood at some point in life.

And it’s not ‘all in your head,’ — how you feel mentally can impact how you feel physically, and vice versa. So if you’re struggling with a bout of the blues, it’s good to have a tool kit to help you ‘bounce back’ and feel better quickly. Ready to let in some positivity? Here are few easy ways to boost your mood when you’re feeling down:

1. Get sunlight, stat

Humans need sunlight, plain and simple. Yet in a culture that is increasingly indoors, on a computer or phone, or at work, many of us aren’t getting as much sunshine as we need. In fact, nearly half of Americans are short on vitamin D, which can have a direct impact on your mood. Studies have found that exposure to sunlight triggers the release of feel-good hormone, serotonin, which is associated with better mood and life satisfaction. Conversely, lower levels of serotonin are associated with depression and anxiety. Likewise, exposure to natural sunlight helps regulate the body’s internal block or circadian rhythm, so a lack of sunshine can lead to sleep problems, which can in turn, further impact your mood. Getting outside for just a few minutes each day can go a long way in protecting your physical and mental health. Consider taking your coffee outside in the morning, eating lunch on your patio or balcony, or even simply working by a sunny window.

2. Take a quick walk around the block

It’s no secret that exercise supports good mental health. But you don’t need to start marathon training to see a difference. Several studies have found that walking can reduce stress and anxiety, lower the risk of depression, and boost mood and creativity levels. Even just a few minutes can make a difference. One 2018 study found that just 10 minutes of brisk walking led to an improvement in mood, while some psychologists suggest that a 10 minute walk may relieve anxiety and depression just as much as a 45 minute workout.

3. Unplug

Put your phone and computer away, and take some tech-free time to give your brain a little reboot. Sometimes just getting still and quiet is all you need! Increased screen time is associated with worse mood and mental state, so it’s important to give yourself breaks here and there. Need help setting boundaries? Here are a few ways to get started.

4. Take five minutes to stretch

Stress, anxiety, and depression can all lead to tension in the body. Stretching can help to untangle and relieve both your physical and mental tension — and can even increase your serotonin levels. And you don’t have to be super flexible to do this. Taking just a few minutes to do some simple stretching can be beneficial for your mind and body.

5. Create a feel good playlist

Music is incredibly therapeutic, and a well-known, well-studied mood booster. Find a pre-made playlist, or take a few minutes to assemble one with your favorite songs that put a smile on your face. Hit play, and let tension melt away. Sing along, smile, and immerse yourself in the rhythm. Bonus points if you dance — dance is another powerful remedy for depressive and anxious feelings.

6. Get on FaceTime

Humans are social creatures, and connecting with fellow humans is vital to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Call up your funniest, most optimistic and supportive friend and get a dose of human sunshine. Seeing a loved one’s face via video can go a step beyond a standard phone call.

It’s worth noting that choosing the right person is important — this needs to be your decidedly feel-good friend or family member, with whom you feel emotionally safe. In other words, a critical parent, judgmental friend, or anyone in your life who errs on the cynical side isn’t the person for the job at the moment.

7. Make yourself laugh

The old adage ‘laughter is the best medicine’ truly has some merit; laughter genuinely has a powerful effect on your psyche and physical wellbeing. If you’re in a bad mood, pause right now and put on your favorite comedy show, movie, or YouTube Channel. There are all sorts of stand-up comedy specials and podcasts to stream.

8. Reset with a hot shower

Warm temperatures can be therapeutic for a variety of mental health challenges, and the simple act of taking a shower can be as mentally cleansing as it is physically.

Carve out 30 minutes to take a ‘spa shower’ with some aromatherapy, feel-good music, and no screens to allow yourself a refresh. The time to yourself, in addition to the heat and water, is wonderful for your brain.

10. Create a joy list

Grab your journal, and write down a few things that bring you joy. What makes you happy? Consider scents, sounds, sights, sensations, foods, experiences, people, places, and things that bring you pleasure. Anything and everything goes. If it makes you happy, it makes the list!

This is a slightly varied take on making a gratitude list. You can also use this list to refer back to at a later date, to remember what makes you happy and spark some joy.

Keep in mind, this list can be helpful, but it’s not a cure-all. Sometimes, none of these tips will be enough to shake off a more challenging mental health season or struggle. This can feel incredibly frustrating, and even leave you feeling hopeless. It’s important to remember though that you’re not alone. If you’re feeling down for long periods of time or don’t quite feel like yourself, consider reaching our to your primary care provider. They will be able to work with you to develop a care plan tailored to your unique needs.
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Dominique Astorino

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.