A bad mood can color your whole day a dismal gray, and it can rub off on your partner, your kids, and your co-workers. Nobody wants to be Debbie Downer, but is it even possible to snap yourself out of a bad mood once you're mired? Happily, the answer is yes. Next time you're shooting daggers or down in the dumps, try one or more of these five proven mood lifters, and enjoy a happier, more optimistic day.
- Go for a walk. A little exercise can do wonders for your state of mind. According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise is as effective as medication for relieving depression in some people. Exercise also reduces blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to a sour mood.
- Express gratitude. There's nothing like a bit of gratitude to snap you out of a negative mindset. There you are, late for work because you ran out of gas, and it's pouring rain. Nothing is going right, and you're frustrated and angry. Who wouldn't be on the verge of losing it? But then you think about what you're grateful for: That you even have a job and a car. That you have a cell phone to call for help, and someone to call. When you think of it that way, you're pretty dang lucky, aren't you?
- Meditate. Meditation is becoming increasingly mainstream because of its excellent benefits. Meditation actually changes the physical structures in your brain, increasing the thickness of the area responsible for emotional regulation, learning, and memory and reducing the thickness of the region responsible for feelings of fear and anger. These changes begin to occur with just a couple of months of daily practice. Meanwhile, meditation reduces stress on the spot, and it leaves you feeling calmer and on a more even keel afterwards.
- Talk it out. Sometimes, you just want to throw yourself a pity party, and that's all well and good — it can be lovely to wallow in misery for a while. But when it's time to pull yourself out of it and get on with life, talking to your BFF can help you resolve issues and gain perspective. Make that phone call, or meet up for coffee, and by the time the conversation's over, you'll likely be feeling more like yourself.
- Watch funny cat videos. Or, if cats aren't your thing, anything funny will do. The simple act of smiling and laughing — even if they're fake — activates neuropeptides that fight stress, and they produce a release of dopamine and serotonin that improve your mood, according to an article published in the journal Psychological Reports. Make a point of smiling and laughing whenever you feel blue — as long as it's appropriate, of course — and chances are, your mood will improve, even if just a little bit.
It's true that you can exercise a considerable amount of control over your moods. With a little work and a lot of mindfulness, you can often turn negative feelings around and see a more positive side of things. But if you have a sad mood that persists, be sure to see your doctor. Depression is a real and serious — but highly treatable — illness, and cuddly cats probably won't cut it.