Simple Ways to Improve Your Mood Fast

Simple Ways to Improve Your Mood Fast

When it comes to feeling good, humans are all about it pretty much all the time, in one way or another. We are fairly obsessed with making ourselves feel good and most of what we do is aimed at achieving it. And if we don't do a good job at it, we can often end up in a state of depression.

Depression is more common than you might think.

If you are a person who struggles with your day to day mood, with feeling enthused and gratified by your life, you are part of a growing group. There are many roots of mood disorders and depressions, but there are also some effective ways to do something about it. When it comes to dealing with this issue, there are your common methods everyone suggests like drugs, sleep, exercise, losing weight, sun, music, certain foods, etc. I think we all know a lot about these by now. I'd like to offer some ideas to help elevate your mood and disposition that are a bit more subtle but still very effective.

Improving your mood is easier than you might think.

Most of these suggestions are kind of intertwined and complement each other, so you'll likely sense a theme quickly.

1. Starting with the simplest: swap your lights out. Studies show that not only are compact fluorescent bulbs closer to natural sunlight, they have also have a similarly stronger effect on mood. Replace your old bulbs and the instant benefits may surprise you.

2. Smiling and acting happy. You hear this one all the time, but there is a good reason why. A study done at Clark University showed that the simple act of smiling by itself will change your biochemistry for the better. There have been lots of similar studies that concur: just smile and your brain will literally switch to happiness mode. So what this tells us is that the brain will follow the body's lead. You can reprogram yourself to be happy just by acting it out first. Smile first, then start to act happy and friendly. It'll do wonders for your state of mind in no time.

3. Be optimistic. This is really an extension of the previous approach. My grandfather used to tell me that it is ultimate hubris to think you can control the future, and worrying about what you cannot control makes no sense whatsoever. By now I am convinced he was spot on. The flipside of this logic is the future is full of possibilities for change and improvement and growth. Things can take care of themselves, and things can get better.

Even if a positive outlook is hard to muster in your current circumstances, plenty of science supports that your thoughts can influence your neurochemistry, and choosing to be optimistic has many immediate benefits. Just as smiling releases the right chemicals in the brain to promote pleasure, so too does the decision to see the glass half full (C. Peterson, L. Bossio. “Optimism and Physical Wellbeing.” American Psychological Association, 2001.) In fact, optimism is so powerful, a recent study correlating optimism and immune response among first-year law students, found a direct relationship between optimism and how well immune cells respond to invading bacteria or virii (cell-mediated immunity.)  Dr Peale had it right in the end -- positive thinking is indeed powerful.

It's a choice to see things as either looming gloomy or looking bright, no matter the specifics. So if one of those choices takes you in the right direction just by virtue of making it, then who would be foolish enough to choose the one that takes you nowhere good? Right?

In the immortal words of Monty Python, always look on the bright side of life.

4. Be generous. In the same spirit as the last two recommendations, there is strong evidence to show that focusing on the needs of others, doing good deeds, is a powerful way to raise your own mood and sense of self-worth. Society may have recognized and embraced the notion, but sometimes when a person is completely mired in their own unhappiness, they can forget the power of taking care of others. Not only does it take you out of your dark space, it also promotes "feel-good" neurotransmitter release in the brain.

By the way, generosity and gratitude are two sides of a coin, and both will do wonders for your self-esteem and your good mood, and one study even suggested they can make you live longer! (Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings From The Nun Study.)

5. Be social. Plenty of research backs up the idea that human companionship boosts mood. Spending time with friends will promote the release of those wonderful feel-good hormones oxytocin, serotonin, prolactin, and lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels (the stress hormone.) This effect also works with animals, which is why spending time with your pet fills you with joy.

Also, there is strong evidence that sharing our feelings with friends, no matter how dark, is very good for helping to release them and up your positivity level. Studies even show that face to face online chat (with the right people of course) can have similar positive effects. While you're at it, fixing your close relationships with people can also have a powerful impact on your sense of joy. One caveat though, make sure you spend time with positive and happy people as evidence shows this will increase your own levels (so stay away from grouches.)

6. Be creative. A number of studies have shown that participants who engaged in a creative form of expression of negative feelings (painting, writing, etc.) quickly became happier. I can tell you from personal experience that as a writer, I have coped with some very difficult times in my life by creating stories of fiction out of my inner turmoil. It is amazingly cathartic and quite quickly elevating. Having studied the lives of many artists, it is no stretch to say that the majority of them felt healed and uplifted by their art to various degrees.

7. Use color. I have a habit I've developed of dressing for my mood. If I feel stressed or down, I will grab one of my collection of brightly colored print shirts (think tropical but with style.) The bright colors alone have a positive impact on mood, and there's something about wearing them that makes me feel like the radiant source. One study at Vrije Universiteit showed that yellow and blue are the two most popular mood improving colors. I concur. I think it's the powder blue of the sky and the golden yellow from the sun that are the most uplifting.

8. Mental discipline. I have a whole post on this subject because I see it as so important. There are direct correlations between your level of focused attentiveness and your happiness. But more than just being focused, it helps to create a habit out of this discipline where every time you start to feel a negative pall or thoughts coming over you, you recognize the situation, change the heavy thoughts into little birds and see them fly out of your mind and attention. This single act can have a profound effect on your daily happiness. Therapists use this technique as part of cognitive therapy to train patients to replace destructive thoughts with constructive ones.

This also coincides with the therapeutic tenet that people who feel more in control of their lives are happier. I argue that a big part of control is simply being focused enough and mentally disciplined enough to know you can handle whatever comes your way. Either way, the benefits are real.

No matter what you end up doing to improve your mood, just remember that likely the most important thing of all is action. Choosing some course of action and moving forward with it, no matter if it is confusing, is still better than inaction. The worst thing to exacerbate low mood and depression is inactivity. So take some of these ideas, be heartened at the real science that supports their potential to help, and get to it.

Related Posts: 
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Depression? Anxiety? Phenylalanine May be the Answer
5-HTP - One of the Best Natural Mood Enhancers
St Johns Wort is the Happiness Herb
Mindful Focus is a Key to Happiness

Mood supplementReferences: (additional)

C Peterson, N Park, ES Kim (2012). "Can optimism decrease risk of illness and disease among the elderly." Aging Health 8 (1): 5–8.

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.



    • Avatar
      May 3, 2015

      Really excellent post. I thought it was much more succinct and helpful that a lot of suggestions and help I read around the place. Very good ideas and although I was not really looking for ways to improve my mood, I was so struck by some of these that I am going to embrace them. Well done. And thanks a bunch (can you see me being generous already? :)

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