To say 2020 has been a hard year is the understatement of the decade, and we’re only about halfway through. Countless people around the world are facing fear, uncertainty, disappointment, and loneliness on a daily basis, and it’s important to know that if you’re having these feelings, you are not alone. On lower days, which can occur with or without a global pandemic, there are steps you can take to lift your spirits beyond just another glass of wine.
We’ve rounded up 10 science-backed ways to help improve your mood when you’re feeling down. Some of these tips and tricks can lead to an instant boost, but others will help with lessening feelings of stress and anxiety longer term. So let’s get happy!
1. Head outdoors
I think we can all agree that staying cooped up indoors all day can lead to feeling anxious and unhappy. It comes as no surprise that a study by the University of Vermont found that those who lived in urban areas used happier words and were less negative on Twitter after a visit to a park than they were pre-visit. If you’re feeling down, try to get some fresh air and sunshine, even if that just means sitting on your patio for a little while.
2. Walk the right way
Since you’re planning on going outside anyways, try going for a nice stroll. A walk in the park can provide a mental boost, but when you’re on your walk, make sure you walk in a positive manner. Researchers found that walking as if you’re unhappy (slumped with little arm movement) can lead to experiencing a worse mood than if you walked in a happier style (upright and bouncing). Fake it and you will make it!
3. Surround yourself with positive friends
It would be unfair to expect your friends to look on the bright side all the time, but when you’re feeling down, spending time with a friend who tends to be more positive can be helpful. The University of Warwick found that you can pick up on the moods of your friends, and they can be somewhat contagious. Give your friend who tends to look on the bright side a call next time you need to gain some new perspective.
4. Eat healthy
While sticking to a healthy diet has more benefits than we can outline here, one we’ll focus on is the impact healthy food can have on your mood. After analyzing data from nearly 46,000 people, Dr Joseph Firth found that a healthy diet can lead to an improved mood and reduced depression symptoms. So for dinner tonight, try reaching for anything full of vitamins and antioxidants!
5. Be a well wisher
Take a note from that glass-half-full friend we were talking about earlier and be a positive influence in someone else’s life. Researchers at Iowa State University found that instead of trying to make ourselves feel better, we should focus on trying to make others feel better. They found that offering kindness to others can help reduce anxiety, improve happiness, and lead to stronger feelings of social connection. Send congratulatory cards when something good happens to a loved one, compliment a stranger’s shoes, or give a colleague a stellar recommendation on LinkedIn. These acts take just minutes, or even seconds to complete, and may lead to everyone feeling a bit happier.
6. Move your body
We can thank Elle Woods for this insightful gem, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Exercise is good for both your physical and mental health and can decrease feelings of tension, improve sleep, increase self-esteem, give a sense of control, and elevate your mood. That’s a lot of benefits for a quick run or gym session a few days a week!
7. Sleep On It
So this one is a bit of a Catch-22. Stress and anxiety can lead to insomnia, which in turn can cause feelings of depression and irritability. But getting a good night’s sleep can help alleviate those feelings. As tempting as it may be to zone out in front of Netflix for a few hours after a rough day, try to hit the hay early. That way, if you have trouble sleeping, you can hopefully squeeze in a few extra hours.
8. Discover your passion
Remember hobbies? It feels like they’re becoming less and less common, but that shouldn’t be the case. Hobbies can be fun, mentally stimulating, and lead to feeling accomplished, confident, and happier. So give one a try! Don’t know where to start? Here are 21 hobbies you can try at home today.
9. Find peace of mind
You’ve heard it before, but let’s talk about it once again: meditating has ample health benefits worth considering. Meditating, like all of these suggestions, can’t eradicate the roots of stress, but it can help manage the effects stress and anxiety have on your body. Finding a meditation practice that helps you focus your attention inward can lead to a state of deep relaxation, increased focus, and fewer nervous thoughts. It can take time to find the right fit, so don’t feel discouraged if it takes a few tries to get the hang of meditating. At the very least, setting aside 10 minutes a day to meditate will force you to focus on your breathing, which is also beneficial!
10. Stimulate the senses
Aromatherapy is famous for its mood-impacting abilities, so why not load up your diffuser with a relaxing scent? Or you can keep a handy rollerball blend of oils in your purse or at your desk for when you need a quick boost. Similar to scent, sound can also be impactful. Researchers at the University of Missouri found that upbeat music can positively affect our wellbeing, so crank up your favorite happy tunes and let the music do its thing!